Monday, December 1, 2008

Topic: Essay Exams for Writing Courses

10-second review: Topics can include quotations, general issues and personal opinion. Responses must be “shaped.”

Title: “Who Writes These Questions, Anyway?” J O White. College Composition and Communication (May 1988), 230-235. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Example of the format for an essay exam for writing courses:

Quote: “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants; the other is getting it.”

.Explain the meaning of the quotation.

.Describe a situation from your own life or another’s which would illustrate the quotation.

.Comment on the writer’s insight into human nature.

Comment: I’m not sure I agree with the “shaping” suggested by the author. The first two directions are clear and then the third changes the purpose of the essay. Most students, I am guessing, would follow the suggested responses in order, which would rob their essays of unity. I think I would insert the following instructions before listing the suggested responses: “In responding to this quotation, consider the following:” Thus the students can take any direction they choose in writing the essay. RayS.

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