Response Using Personal Experience
So far we've explored our own ideas about education and created a class text that summarizes the readings we've discussed as a class. Now it's time for you to situate yourself within that class text: where do your ideas about education fall in relation to those of one of the authors we've read? For this essay, again aimed at an outside reader interested in what's going on in our class, you'll briefly recap the main ideas of one author's essay and then explain how (and why) those ideas are similar to and/or different from your own expectations or beliefs.
The key question you'll answer is "What are the main points of this writer's essay, and how do the author's ideas differ from yours?"
You're answering the key question for a reader you identify. You might choose an outside reader (say, an academic advisor) who wants to know how the class is coming along. S/he is interested in the kinds of essays you've been reading and in how you see them confirming and challenging your expectations. Or your outside reader might be a family member who knows less about the academic context of our class. Or you might write for a classmate whose ideas have consistently differed from yours in our class discussions. (Hint: it's always easier to write to someone who disagrees with you at least a little bit.)
Your goals: This is where you pull together all of the ideas about writing we've been exploring so far. Obviously your summary skills will come in handy. You'll also want to think about questions like these:
Strategies for completing the essay include these:
- What will my audience be most interested in hearing?
- What level of detail will my audience need to understand my points?
- What kind of organization will be most useful for my reader?
- How can I use my personal experience to support an idea, rather than as an end in itself?
- Summarize the essay accurately, using any of the strategies we've been working on in class. Be sure to focus your summary on the author's ideas more than the events that occur in the text; this will make it easier for you to agree or disagree in your response.
- Select an idea or two that interests you for the response. Decide whether your initial expectations or ideas on this subject were confirmed or challenged by the essay (or both).
- Do some freewriting about why this might be the case. What in your experience has led you to feel this way or expect what you did from the author? What in the author's background (or in the essay itself) might explain differences? Then, choose a focus that will best help your reader understand, reading your response, how and why your ideas are similar to and different from those expressed in the essay.
- Develop that similarity and/or difference using concrete examples from your personal experience. Think about the level of detail your audience will need.
- When you have a draft you're happy with, try to put it away for a day or two, to get some distance from it.
- Revise and rewrite your draft based on comments in peer workshop or anything new you notice.