Hamburger Writing Paper

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Think of the introduction and conclusion as the bun, with the "meat" of your argument in between. Before you can begin writing, you'll need to choose a topic for your essay, ideally one that you're already interested in.

The introduction is where you'll state your thesis, while the conclusion sums up your case. The body of your essay, where you'll present facts to support your position, must be much more substantial, usually three paragraphs. Nothing is harder than trying to write about something you don't care about.

Think about an issue that most people can relate to, such as: "Technology is changing our lives." Once you've selected your topic and thesis, it's time to create a roadmap for your essay that will guide you from the introduction to conclusion.

This map, called an outline, serves as a diagram for writing each paragraph of the essay, listing the three or four most important ideas that you want to convey.

Students are fully aware of that rhetorical effect.

The rhetoric scholar Kathleen Blake Yancey refers to that tactic as “the schmooze factor.” Much like that person at a party who, in the moment, radiates charm (likely because of how they make you feel), the narrative of progress has a hypnotic tug.I’ve tried to train myself to also think about the garbage disposal aftertaste that lingers for days after I eat a Big Mac, as well as the specific way that burger drains energy instead of creating it.It’s easier said than done, but I’m trying to train myself to see the narrative of progress in the same way.I also don’t obfuscate what I want students to take away from that process, routinely discussing how they can use the analytical habits of mind required to examine the ways in which various writing modes function to successfully navigate unfamiliar rhetorical situations.Emmons also argues that it’s important for students to critique the concepts and curriculum of a given class.Of course there are students who still navigate the cover letter by pinpointing what I want to hear with the prowess of an MMA fighter finding pressure points, saying something like, “Now I understand how to take apart and examine any writing mode and then use it myself.” Even still, it’s a large improvement from the narrative of progress. Every time I pass a Mc Donald’s, though, I get a craving for a Big Mac.More specifically, I get a craving for that first bite of a Big Mac, the one that makes my neurotransmitters hum.In efforts to get students to take ownership of the rhetorical strategies taught in the English composition classroom, teachers have long used the portfolio framework, which entails a recursive revision process of various writing projects as well as a cover letter, in which the student reflects upon what they’ve learned.As the writing teacher Kimberly Emmons points out in her essay, “Rethinking Genres of Reflection: Student Portfolio Letters and the Narrative of Progress,” however, students often approach the cover letter—which many teachers see as being at least equal to a major essay assignment—by deploying what Emmons calls “the narrative of progress.” In essence, the narrative of progress is a vague statement of (often drastic) improvement that has no real substance (and questionable value).As empty as the narrative of progress seems, I wouldn’t believe a teacher who claims that they’ve never felt gratified by such statements. To witness, firsthand, students’ intellectual progress and play a small role in it.Coming from one of my students, those sentiments locate some idealistic node in my brain and make it buzz.


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