Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Essay Paragraph Checklist as Easy as "E-I-E-I-O!"

I gave this guide to my workshop students, and I'm sharing it now, here, for those who teach and those who learn about writing!


Think of E I E I O (like the “Old MacDonald” song!) Use this to guide your editorial notes on your critique partner’s page.

Establish (topic/theme)
Illustrate (with quotation or example that fits established topic)
Explain (explain what the illustration shows)
Interpret (interpret why the illustration shows what it shows or is important)
Overall (overall, this paragraph has revealed that…)

1. Is the topic clearly ESTABLISHED, in specific words, as the opening line of the paragraph? 
If you answered YES, then write “clear and concise” beside that line.
If you answered NO, then write “clarify and cut,” and add your suggestions, if any, in the margin.

2.  Is the sentence that establishes the topic/theme followed by an apt verbal ILLUSTRATION, a.k.a. “concrete detail,” “example,” or quotation? 
If the illustration IS fitting, write “well-illustrated” beside that line.
If the illustration does NOT aptly support the opening line, annotate in the margin “find stronger example.” 
If the illustration could have been shorter, mark how you would cut it down to be most concise.

Also, is that illustration set up in context for a reader who might know nothing about the quoted or referenced literature?  Underline the transitional words that set up the illustration and put a smiley face beside them.
If the  “set up” needs improvement, or is absent, please note that in the margin and suggest ideas for a smooth set up.

3. Is the illustration followed by a commentary line to EXPLAIN what this particular illustration shows?
If YES, write “fine explanation” and a checkmark beside that line.
If the commentary line does not explain, or is absent, write “clear explanation needed here.”

4. Does the next commentary line INTERPRET the purpose of the words in the illustration on a deeper level, offering YOUR opinion (without saying, “I think” or “I feel that”) of why this example is important for the reading of the work?
If the line is a thought-provoking interpretation, draw a glowing light bulb beside it.
If the student writer has merely restated the previous explanation, without adding any depth, write “go deeper” beside that line. If the interpretation goes off-topic, write that in the margin.

5. Does the concluding line provide an OVERALL statement of what this paragraph has revealed, in a broader sense than the opening line?
If so, draw a smiley face beside it.
If it merely restates the established topic in slightly different words than the ones in the first sentence, then write “go broader” in the margin.