Monday, December 30, 2013

Information Pyramids

As you organize information within your paragraph (and longer writing), you can choose which way makes the most sense to organize your message.

Sometimes a chronologiical or step-by-step listing is best.
Other times there is no clear first or last, and you need to find other ways to sort.

Generally, the topic sentence is first in the paragraph, and it is a broad statement that all other information falls under. However, there can be cases where we want to start with a single, powerful, fact, and and then expand from that to more general information.  We call these kinds of information presentation designs "pyramids" or "information triangles."

Idea Webs

This is a clip from the book by  Jill Singleton
Writers At Work: The Paragraph
Cambridge University Press
(Sample chapter online.)

Note:  Idea Webs are also called "mind maps".

January 2: The Process Approach (and more)

First: your assignment during the New Year's break was to write a first draft of a paragraph concerning "Tea Time" with Pamela (Pam) and Mitch the handyman.

We start from a few ideas about our topic. What ideas did you have at the beginning?

Brainstorming - more ideas:
Idea Webs -

How did those ideas fit into your first draft paragraph?
Information pyramids -

I'm pushing you on writing, and your peer editing should be a little less than kind. Really, you are helping your friend when you are less than kind.  We call this "tough love".  See it here:

If you want a grammar checker in MSWord, here's how to set it up.

The Process Approach
Another version.

There are many opinions about how to do the Process Approach to Writing. Because you are lower-skilled in English and this is a writing class, I'm pushing you to write from the beginning, not to spend too much time with notes. So my version includes more rewrites.

0.  Collect ideas about your topic. (brainstorming, idea webs, research, etc)  Which seems more interesting and useful?

1. Write ideas in narrative. (something like a paragraph)    [REVIEW]

2. Reconsider ideas, re-sort the order?  Re-write.   [REVIEW]

3. Develop further, re-write. (add more content)   [REVIEW]

4. Corrections, re-write for a "Final Draft"   [REVIEW]

5. Make it "perfect" as a FINAL SUBMISSION    [SUBMIT]

The REVIEW could be by yourself, or with a peer, or even by asking a teacher or someone to look at it for you.  Usually native-speakers do the review after the first draft (step 1) by themselves.  We often think that if you can just "step away" from the writing for a day or or so, you will come back to it "with fresh eyes" and can see yourself how to make improvements.

As you develop skills you can reduce the number of re-writes. Some people write very excellent first drafts!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Monday Dec 30: Preparing to write

So you need to write a paragraph (or more). What do you do?

First, understand the concept of what a paragraph should be. In different styles (or genres) of writing, a paragraph can be different things. Here we will describe two conceptualizations. In academic writing, a paragraph is generally 5~7 sentences, around 100~200 words, discussing a single, narow, idea. In business or journalism, there is much more flexibility about length, but still one idea. The difference is in how fully that idea should be developed.

We usually start from one of two directions. In a writing class, you might have been assigned a topic sentence. In other cases, you probably have more freedom.

The Topic Sentence
A topic sentence usually comes at the beginning of a paragraph; that is, it is usually the first sentence in a formal academic paragraph. Not only is a topic sentence the first sentence of a paragraph, but, more importantly, it is the most general sentence in a paragraph. What does "most general" mean?  It means that there are not many details in the sentence, but that the sentence introduces an overall idea that you want to discuss later in the paragraph.

For example, suppose that you want to write a paragraph about the natural landmarks of your hometown. The first part of your paragraph might look like this:

        My hometown is famous for several amazing natural features.  First, it is noted for the Wheaton River, which is very wide and beautiful. Also, on the other side of the town is Wheaton Hill, which is unusual because it is very steep.

Getting started on your paragraph
Before you start writing a paragraph, you need to decide two things. What are you writing about? What do you want to say? The purpose of any paragraph is to express an idea. Most paragraphs consist of a few related sentences.

You can write a successful paragraph by starting off with a plan. The key to doing a successful paragraph is to break down the writing into short, simple steps.

Six Prewriting Steps
1. Think carefully about what you are going to write (the subject of your paragraph). One popular way to to create pre-writing ideas is to ask yourself questions about your subject. Ask yourself: What question am I going to answer in this paragraph? How can I best answer this question? What is the most important part of my answer? What do I know about this subject? How does this subject relate to me? What do I like or dislike about this subject? What words best describe it? How can I make an introductory sentence from the most important part of my answer? What facts or ideas can I use to support my introductory sentence? How can I make this paragraph interesting? Do I need more facts on this topic? Where can I find more facts on this topic?

Write only a word or phrase in response to each question

2. Pre-writing for your paragraph
Begin by brainstorming. Brainstorming doesn't involve writing complete sentences or paragraphs. Brainstorming involves coming up with ideas using words or short phrases.

3. Write down your own ideas
Ask yourself: What else do I want to say about this topic? Why should people be interested in this topic? Why is this topic important?

4. Collect facts related to your paragraph topic
Look for and write down facts that will help you to answer your question.

5. Find the main idea of your paragraph
Choose the most important point you are going to present. If you cannot decide which point is the most important, just choose one point and stick  to it throughout your paragraph.

6. Organize your facts and ideas in a way that develops your main idea
Once you have chosen the most important point of your paragraph, you must find the best way to tell your reader about it. Look at the facts you have  written. Look at your own ideas on the topic. Decide which facts and ideas will best support the main idea of your paragraph. Once you have chosen the facts and ideas you plan to use, ask yourself which order to put them in the paragraph. Write down your own note set that you can use to guide yourself as you write your paragraph.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 2: Communication

It's a writing class.  So, "What's the point?"  You will write to improve your writing.  Learn by doing.

Writing is a form of communication. As with all forms of communication, never lose sight of your target. You can think of this as "form over function."  No, wait. That's backwards. Unfortunately, this is how many learners of English are taught to write. Forms.  In our class, we focus on function.

The purpose of communication is to communicate. Seems pretty obvious, right? Content--the message--is more important than delivery. However, we must remember that delivery (grammar, style, presentation) affects how the message is understood. And delivery can affect how people think about the message. Do you want to sound like an uneducated mountain-boy, or a university-educated businessman (or woman)?

Vocabulary is important. Unlike reading, where you should NOT spend all your time in the dictionary, with writing you might spend a lot of time deciding which word is best. A dictionary, as well as a thesaurus, can be very helpful. Sure, use a bilingual dictionary to help you get started, but be sure to consult a good English-English dictionary, to make sure words mean what you want them to mean.

We use rules to string words together. Syntax includes what you usually think of as grammar. Syntax is the rules and principles that govern the sentence structure. We can also talk about genre and style and... well, we won't go too far concerning those in this class. We will be working at the sentence and paragraph level. Our target, ultimately, is the full essay or business message (Email, Fax, Written Letter or Contract, Press Release, Speech, etc.).

The "Process Approach" to writing will be our methodology. This means we do not focus on the final product so much as the road to getting there.  There can be many paths, we will try a few. But you should know now, you will write and re-write and write again, some things you will write FIVE time (and I will check to make sure you do!). You will help check your classmates' work, and you will get a grade on how you do editing. So... you CAN do things with your computer in class, but it's actually easier for Everyone if you do in a notebook.  Because you will need to send me your file (by email) before class, or give me a printout in class, and bring your computer to class every day.

We use colored pens (green, purple or red, and a yellow hi-liter) to do peer-editing.  Peer-editing is when we look at our classmate's paper to help them write better, and also teach ourselves.

Today's paragraph (after reading comments) is to rewrite one of yesterday's three paragraphs.

Weekend homework:  Write a paragraph that begins with
"I hate this class because..."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 1: The Introduction

This blogger page will serve as our textbook for the writing portion of your English House program withj Prof. Robert Dickey..

Included here will will be texts, links to webpages, and images.

Our focus in this class will be the paragraph. Great paragraphs are an essential element of successful writing (both in English and Korean!). Depending on our success, we may move on to different types of essays and business written communications.

During the first day of class you will show a bit of your current skills by writing three paragraphs:
  • a brief introduction of yourself
  • a short history of your schooling
  • your winter plans
 A key to successful paragraphs is having a clear idea what you want to write, and starting with a good topic sentence.

Some of the websites we will be working from (we will certainly add to this list during our time together!)

Tips-O-Matic - Paragraphs
Writing.Com - How to write a good paragraph
UIUC - Basic paragraph structure
How to write a paragraph - Ten quick tips to improve your writing
How to write a - How to write a paragraph
Paragraph - How to write a paragraph

If you are working with computers, you might find this grammar checker useful. We will also talk about other tools you probably have on your computer.

You will need a composition book for this class (B5 size, 32 or more pages is best - 16 sheets of paper equals 32 pages). Or you can use a computer and send me an email BEFORE MIDNIGHT the day before each class AND bring the computer to class. Please don't confuse things by using notebook sometimes and computer sometimes. Your final grade depends on your writing submissions. You will write in class, and you will have frequent homework writing assignments.

My email for this class is

If you want to communicate with me, send me a text message or Kakao (I will give that info in class).  I might not check email if you don't also send me a message.