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Anyone want to critique an essay?

re: Anyone want to critique an essay?

continued from end of page 1 of thread....

This will be long. Sorry. And probably my final input unless you ask for more information from me. writing is a process and so is editing and coaching.

Like I said, I tend to start with macro stuff. So even these editorial comments will not address transitional words. As much as possible I have used your son’s original words. Like I said, it’s not bad. And I’m not that great of a writer. So filter for that.

Things to Consider to work on (although it doesn’t have to all be done in one setting)

1. Practice for an introduction. Use the link I gave earlier for specifics.
For this essay, I’d suggest using the surprising statement as the hook – maybe even the one with the carrots might lead in nicely.
Believe or Not, carrots might be a good snack before you head out to watch the meteor shower.
(now add something in there before the thesis sentence to connect it.)

2. Thesis sentence.
Then go into thesis sentence such as this sentence based on his final sentence in the original post and from my understanding of what he seems to want to write about:
Understanding how the eye adjusts to changing amounts of light can guide you in selecting proper timing to view, proper equipment to bring, and which snacks to eat to help you get the most out of your observation session.

3. What to remove: example I’d skip the sentence with pupils. Not the topic and not a way to start a topic sentence about dark adaptation either.

4. Could moving around explanation and example work to get the reader through the journey and feel the flow better?

Dark adaptation is the process where the eye adjusts to decreasing amounts of light. The actual process of dark adaptation is an intentional design feature. The eye contains two different light sensing cells, rods and cones. The cones are much less sensitive to light and are used during the day. The rods are much more sensitive to light and are used in the dark. The rods contain a chemical called rhodopsin that is light sensitive. When light hits this chemical, it causes the chemical to be destroyed, which then sends signals to the brain. The chemical is constantly being renewed, but in high illumination, light will hit the rods faster than the chemical can be replaced, thus, in bright places the eye will become relatively insensitive. However, in the dark, much less light will strike the chemical, causing the rhodopsin to build up. Because rhodopsin is light sensitive, you will be able to see better in the dark.

One example of dark adaptation is to walk from outside in bright light into a house when the lights are off. When you step into the house, there is a vast decrease in light. For the first minute or two, you will not be able to see anything. Then, slowly, you will start to see the outline of shapes and things, gradually becoming clearer until you can see reasonably well in the dark. We have called this dark adaptation experience "getting used to the dark" in the past.

(note: some people might prefer that section broken into two paragraphs like I did. Others have other opinions. Yes, I personally find the information about chemical a little distracting to the planning in the original essay, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used with revision. Can’t make every reader happy. The information is important to keep. If it were my children, I’d work on condensing that part. But your son worked hard on it.
The example with walking into the house then sets up nicely to tell the reader how this applies going from inside with light to outside without light with the topics of timing and equipment from thesis sentence.)

Dark adaptation is not a quick process. It may take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to dark adapt. So you will want to plan your viewing time knowing you won’t see every star visible for a while. Also, once you can see clearly, you will not want to spoil your adaptation by adding light sources. If you add light, the dark adaptation process has to start over again when the light is removed. This means make sure you don’t have to return to the house with the lights on to use the bathroom. So plan your timing for that as well.

(that’s just one example to expand and connect the ideas about bathroom usage. He is presuming the house is already lit. but what if you turn off the lights before you leave?? can’t you go back from something then???)

(Getting to the equipment section. That’s the red LED flashlight paragraph. This part, Erin, encourage him to expand and explain. Look at my questions and how I’m not connected yet as his reader)

However, if you do need a flashlight for brief moments use one with a red LED beam. The rods in your eyes are almost blind to red light. (really??? what did he really mean by that. stop lights are red and we see them? why does the red LED not ruin the dark adaptation??? Tell your reader something about that. I didn’t make the jump to hyperspace with him on that. doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Just means I didn’t follow it in the original version.

Now it’s time for that snack paragraph with the carrots. I did mention the part about take over the overdose. He might add in about the berries. introduce the concept with something like good nutrition plays a role in accelerating dark adaptation. (topic sentence there)

Then the conclusion. Those who are experts at teaching writing suggest the conclusion basically be “tell them what you just told them”. Repeat. Reflect. Blah. I am not good at writing these things and never found a way to teach it to my kids either. We really never did well with conclusions. It was more of a summary.

“So the next time you plan to head outside to view the stars, remember that your process of dark adaptation needs time to work. You’ll want to be ready to sit and wait and not be exposed to lights while waiting. Even having good nutrition with fruits and vegetables that day can have benefits to help your eyes adjust. These small actions will help you enjoy your experience. “

re: Anyone want to critique an essay?

Thank you for taking so much time, cbollin. I am digesting all the things you said, and I think I have a plan for some direction changes to take with his writing. Funny that you said your daughter was similar - she's an engineering type, right? This son is somewhat that type, too.

re: Anyone want to critique an essay?

yep. engineering (electrical) comp sci, and math triple major. and yet somehow by college freshman year she was able to get essays done and do very well in English comp 1 and 2, and other classes that require writing. Her entire homeschool life I felt inadequate to teach writing. I still do with younger. but that's whole other issue. (severe delays and disabilities in all language in case others wonder what I mean)

re: Anyone want to critique an essay?

I don't really critique my daughter's writing. I help her with grammar errors and give suggestions but try to let her develop her own writing voice and abilities at her own pace. I try to limit suggestions to just a few per paper so as not to frustrate her. I don't want writing to be this difficult experience where she feels like I am the expert and she is always getting tons of corrections. It would only make writing a frustrating experience for her. I want to build her confidence in her writing abilities while gently guiding her with writing handbooks or well written curriculum and suggestions here and there. This along with reading lots of great literature so that she is familiar with good writing is how we approach composition in our home school.

I think your son is off to a good start and will improve with practice over the next few years. I'm amazed at the difference in my daughter's essays from year to year. What have you used for essay instruction?

re: Anyone want to critique an essay?

I didn't read all of what Cbollin wrote. My opinion is that I would give this a B or C. Your son includes lots of good and helpful information, and explains the process of dark adaptation well. His body paragraphs are good. However, I feel the first three paragraphs should be combined into one or possibly two good introductory paragraphs, with a defined thesis statement. He HAS a thesis statement, (the last sentence of first paragraph) , but then it seems to jump back into more info that should be in the introductory paragraph(s) BEFORE the thesis statement. And his conclusion isn't a paragraph. An essay is supposed to be nearly summed up or tied together with all the previous information, reminding readers briefly of what tips he just gave to help with their nighttime viewing. His final sentence is fine; he just need to have it be the final sentence of a conclusion paragraph tying the whole essay together. I always tell my daughter that an essay paragraph must be 3-5 sentences minimum.

If this were my child I would suggest she leave out some of the scientific details of how the rods and cones work, or shorten them considerably, and instead work on combining the first three paragraphs into one or two introductory paragraphs. And I would suggest adding to the final sentence to sum up and tie together the body paragraphs to make it a final paragraph, not just one sentence. The reason I would suggest leaving out all the scientific details in the longest paragraph is that they are almost going off topic. The topic is how to help one's eyes adjust to nighttime viewing, not HOW the eyes adjust. That particular paragraph could be left out altogether, and not affect the purpose of the paper at all.

As someone else said, I try not to overwhelm my child with more than a couple of "criticisms" at a time. So, for this paper I would simply point out the long, scientific paragraph technically doesn't have anything to do with the actual purpose of the paper, help your son make one good introductory paragraph by combining the first 3 into just one, and say that he needs to add to the final sentence to make it a conclusion. Overall, though, he writes and explains his topic well. He just needs to basically organize his writing better. His 3 body paragraphs on HOW to help eyes adjust are well done. I would leave them alone. It is NOT a bad paper. It just needs a little more organization on the actual technicalities of an essay. :)

re: Anyone want to critique an essay?

Thanks. Those comments all make sense. This is helping me form a plan going forward in order to help him improve.

What have you used for essay instruction?

I haven't really used anything. *I* have read The Lively Art of Writing, Writing to the Point and a few other writing books. I own PIYH and other programs, but this child just does not seem to connect to writing curriculum. So, I showed him essay structure, and he just writes, with me giving tips every week, or a mini-lesson off the top of my head. So far that's the only thing that works for him.

re: Anyone want to critique an essay?


me again. blush.

I wanted to share this free online resource for basics of the structure of essay. check out lessons 1-5 of this (answer key is near end of document)


The grammar lessons are in a style to help improve an essay previously written. for example, you go back to this essay in a few weeks and edit/revise for some specific in grammar lesson.

But I think if he has a check list such as presented in lesson 5 of that pdf, it might be a good thing for him.

and if we had like buttons, I'd hit it on bec rockz's post. she said what I was trying to say and said it better.

One tip I use that I picked up from Andrew Pudewa (iew) is the idea of giving your student 2 or 3 options to pick from when they are stuck on how to improve a sentence. Sometimes hearing ideas will help with writer or edit block and see that more than one way will work (as melanie suggested with limits on how she coaches writing.) That's why I suggested one standard form with thesis. There are several exercises in the link I shared with picking out thesis statements and topic sentences. Gives something to base your own voice on.


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