Writing In-Class Essays:
TOW: Think, Organize, Write
Most students hate in-class writing assignments, and English teachers argue about their value. We will be doing them for five reasons:
2. You will have to write in-class essays and essay exams in other courses, so you need the practice.
3. Once you do a few, you may be surprised both at how well you do and at how much easier it will be to write major papers.
4. There are a few things about them that I may be able to teach you.
5. Some of the teachers who are arguing, particularly those who teach part-time and hold other jobs, have noted that "in the real world," people do not have the time to brainstorm, outline, draft, revise, and edit. Real writing, they claim, is often much more like the writing of in-class essays.
TOW is an acronym for "Think, Organize, Write." Many students have told me that writing TOW at the top of the page helps them handle in-class writing, not just in my class, but also in many others. The idea is to Think first (Brainstorm), then Organize (Outline), then Write (Draft). Organized drafts are what is expected in in-class writing. If you have time, you should go back and revise, crossing-out and/or inserting words or sentences. Use arrows to show sentences or paragraphs that you want to move. If you still have time, you should attempt to edit. Doing so shows that you care.
1. Read the question carefully.
1. Does the question imply an organization to the answer? Explain the
causes of the Civil War. (Organization = list of causes.)
1. Turn the question into a thesis. "There were four major causes of
the Civil War."
A few students outsmart themselves by writing
in-class essays that are too complex, too sophisticated. Particularly in
the case of in-class writing, it is important to remember to KEEP
SIMPLE BECAUSE THE INSTRUCTOR IS STUPID!
Consider what happens to your essays. The instructor takes them home. Instructors
have lives. They have homes, families, hobbies. They also now have a set
of in-class essays to read and grade. I have suggested above what the instructors
are probably going to be looking for when they read those essays. They
are going to read those essays as quickly as possible. If you get fancy,
by hiding your thesis, by going off on tangents, by getting creative and
sophisticated, the instructor may well miss what you are doing. They simply
do not expect such things and are not looking for them. Psychologists have
shown that we (humans) see what we are looking for. If the instructor misses
what you are doing, who will suffer? Do yourself a favor, KISS.
(These are optional)