English 1 Paper 1: Summary and Analysis Based on Personal Experience

Draft #1 due + 3 copies for peer review:

Final paper + all drafts and peer response sheets due in folder:

Length: 750 to 1,000 words (3 to 4 pages)

Weight: 15%

In this assignment you will respond to the reading assignments by analyzing your own experience in light of the readings. In order to write this sort of paper, you must accomplish two tasks:

Here is your chance to write about what you know best and to connect your own experience to issues raised in the readings. You must use the readings to support your arguments, summarizing relevant portions of the readings, quoting from them and directly referring to them.

1. Write a well-organized, well-developed essay in which you discuss how a person’s background, and the various elements of his or her identity, affect his/her development as a student. You may use Rose, Rodriguez, Kingston, Malcolm X, Anyon and/or the Sadkers to support your points. You should also support your arguments with personal experience; here you’ll want to insure that this evidence is as specific and detailed as possible.

Since there are various elements that make up a person’s "background" and "identity," and since this paper is meant to be relatively short, you’ll need to choose what elements you will want to focus on in this essay. Background could include family, neighborhood, social/economic class, gender, race, and culture. You will want to think about which elements of your background you feel have had a greater impact upon your development and success as a student than others.

2. In "The Achievement of Desire," Richard Rodriguez suggests that in order to succeed in school and to become more "successful" than his immigrant parents, he had to distance himself from his family and his home culture. As a "scholarship boy," he admits that he could never forget "that his academic success distances him from a life he loved, even from his own memory of himself" (64). Maxine Hong Kingston similarly struggles with the conflict between Chinese cultural values and American cultural values. She retreats into silence when she discovers that American schools expect her to speak up and assert herself, violating Chinese cultural and gender norms.

To what extent do you agree with Rodriguez’s argument that in order to succeed in the American educational system (and by implication mainstream American culture), students from diverse backgrounds must give up cultural and home values? Write a well-organized, well-developed essay, using Rodriguez and/or Kingston to support your arguments. You should draw upon your own experience to respond to this question; this evidence should be as specific and detailed as possible.

3. Rose, Anyon and the Sadkers discuss the role teachers play in a student’s intellectual development. Rose writes affectionately and appreciatively of how Jack MacFarland changed his life. Anyon and the Sadkers suggest that certain teaching methods can predetermine students’ futures, limiting or expanding their career opportunities and preparing them to occupy certain social positions.

Write about a particular teacher who has had a profound effect on your own life and analyze why this teacher affected you as he or she did. How did this person structure classes, present information, evaluate your performance in the class, and respond to you personally? What were these person’s educational goals? What might other teachers learn from this teacher’s approach that might significantly improve students’ educational experiences? You should use Rose and/or the Sadkers to support your claims.

Audience: Assume your audience for this paper is other students in the class who have done the same readings as you have and are interested in what you have to say. They do not want to read a paper that sounds like a chapter from a sociology textbook. Use Mike Rose, Richard Rodriguez, and Maxine Hong Kingston as models of writers who are not afraid to use particular experiences from their lives to make their points or to let their voices come through in their writing.

Process Hints: Choose a topic that looks interesting to you and about which you know you have something to say. Look over the suggestions in The Bedford Handbook for ways to explore your topic (1b, pp. 18-26). List, cluster, freewrite, pose questions, talk to friends, use journal writes to begin thinking of ideas. I’ll discuss thesis statements and how to develop them by using examples and details before you write your final draft.

Grading Criteria: 1. Strong thesis

2. Specific development to support thesis. (Use of examples and specific details to back up your assertions and to keep your audience interested in what you are saying.)

3. Clear and careful analysis — not just storytelling.

4. Clear organization

5. Correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.

Note: See English Department Grading Standards for a more explicit and detailed definition of criteria.

Note to Instructors: Here you begin to experience first-hand the sad truth that no English 1 anthology is perfect. Reading Our Histories, Understanding Our Cultures does not contain any examples of the personal essay, which we also call the "analysis based on personal experience." For those of us who like to assign a first essay with a personal slant, we must look elsewhere for models to show our students. So, we have compiled a list of essays (all of which can be found in Rereading America) that work well to teach students to take a position on a question by analyzing relevant details of their personal experience.

To use this option for Paper 1, in the unit leading up to the writing of the paper, you will be assigning for reading and discussion some or all* of the following essays:

Richard Rodriguez, "The Achievement of Desire"

Malcolm X, "Learning to Read"

Maxine Hong Kingston, "Silence"

Mike Rose, "I Just Wanna Be Average"

Jean Anyon, ""Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work"

*As you will probably discuss in 392, "less is more." Keep in mind the following: You're striving to teach students to perform careful and thorough analysis of the professional author's message, purpose, style. You are not striving for "coverage" of a certain number of readings each quarter. Students object, also, to reading a great deal of material that isn't covered in class. Note, too, that you will have to change the wording in the paper topics to reflect what your students actually read and discussed with you before they began writing their papers.

Since this is the first paper assignment, and these will be the first readings your students will do, it will take a bit of prior planning and organization to use this Paper 1 option. Make sure your students know on the first day that they have to buy copies of the Rodriguez, Malcolm X, Rose, Anyon, and Kingston (the Sadker essay is in ROH). Any combination of these essays can be produced in a reader that they can buy from Navin's Copy Shop. We will give you the master copy for that reader; you will choose which ones your students will be working with, and then you will take your group of readings to Navin's and have Navin's make your reader and sell it to your students. Navin's usually asks for two or three days to get your reader ready for your students to purchase, but in the beginning of the quarter, it could take longer, so plan accordingly. If you want to minimize asking your students to purchase outside readings, another essay in ROH that would work well with this assignment is "What High School Is," by Theodore Sizer because, while Sizer has not presented a personal narrative, he has followed a "composite" student through a day in high school and he does try to present the experience from the point of view of the student.

Also, if you choose this paper assignment, do all your work at once and preview the other optional readings for Papers 2, 3, and 4. That way, you will only have to do the Navin's procedure once.