Lots of nice ideas here, but let’s look at the essay–no facts or quotes until that third paragraph–let’s work on that moving forward–when you make a statement of fact, we need a citation–right away. Now, let’s focus moving forward on the quotes—the

I’m working on a Writing exercise and need support.

2.Read Freneau, Poems (Links to an external site.) and/or listen Indian Burying Ground (Links to an external site.).


Welcome, Everyone. I am glad you are here in this class. Together, we will explore and discover the foundations of American literature. Along the way, you’ll likely learn a lot about our nation’s history and the key cultural ideas and themes that dominate these early pieces of literature.

As you are likely aware, there is no textbook for this class; instead, you are learning with the ideas that have been provided as part of the shareware movement. These sources are out of copyright protection, of course, as they are, well, old! But we are also living in a time when teachers and thinkers and scholars from around the world can gather together via the internet and share unique ideas and resources that are only a click away.

In each week’s readings, you will notice there’s an overview, a list of outcomes, and series of links to our readings (often in written and auditory form) and additional resources. Those are your tools for this class. Therefore, you may not use or cite sources outside those provided in this class class for your weekly discussions and midterm and final written exams.

How can we be so sure that you won’t need any more information? Well, the main goal of this course is to offer some tools to help you read and understand the assigned literature, and from there, you’ll be asked to write essays that express your reaction and opinion on key themes in the weekly readings.

To accomplish this goal, we’ll use one basic format for structuring paragraphs. We call that format the paragraph plan, and it contains three basic elements

main idea (also called the topic sentence of a paragraph–each paragraph has only one main idea in academic writing)

cited evidence (quotes from the literature and/or facts cited from the additional resources–not: all evidence must be cited in MLA format)

analysis (where you explain for the reader how and why the main idea and cited evidence fit together to support your over-arching thesis, the point you’ll argue in answer to each of our questions and essays in the class.

I realize this concept for writing paragraphs may be new to many of you, and that’s ok. We’ll learn to master this format together. In fact, you won’t even use the format until week 2, and that week 2 discussion is only worth 2 points. In week 3, after you’ve had feedback from me on your week 2 work, the discussion is worth 4 points, and weeks 4 and 5 are also worth 4 points. In week 6, you will write your midterm essays, and each is worth 10 points. The same rules apply for those essays–no materials outside the class, and all facts and quotes must be cited in full MLA format. But by the midterm, you’ll have practiced the format many times and grown in your knowledge and understanding of the literature and this writing format. By the end of the course, weeks 7, 8, and 9, you will be very experienced in this format and should find that the process is actually faster and more efficient than the academic writing process you used before this class.

So how do you get started in mastering this process?

You may have noticed that all of your discussion and essay questions for the entire term are already posted. They are there for a reason. At the beginning of class, print or write down each question–all of them–all the way through the final exam. Keep that list of questions at hand as you read and take notes. When something occurs to you for one of the questions, jot it down. This method saves time over the course, but it also allows you to learn the material and spot key themes and quotes on your own terms. That’s a powerful learning process, and it’s one we want to mine fully during our time together.

Once you have all of the questions ready to go, the next step involves taking notes. As you are reading, jot down any key quotes or ideas that pop out to you.


Once you have finished reading, return to your notes. Pull out any key quotes or facts you found that relate to the discussion questions and plug them into our paragraph plan

main idea

cited evidence (plug in quotes here)


Now, at this point, you may note have the main ideas or analysis in sight. That’s ok. The point is that you have read, taken notes, and completed a key step in the process–pulling out key quotes. The next time you return to your work for this class, you will be poised and ready for the next step–filling out the rest of the paragraph plan for 2-3 body paragraphs for the weekly discussions and maybe 3-5 body paragraphs for the midterm and final exam essays.

Once you have the evidence in place, use the question you are writing about to guide your critical thinking process through filling out the rest of the body paragraph–main idea and analysis. You may discover that not all quotes work or that you need more evidence or that you want to reorganize quotes. That’s great. Making changes are all signs of an active and engaged critical learning process.

With the body paragraphs fairly well sketched out, you are ready to move to the introduction and the conclusion. The introduction should start broad and narrow to a thesis statement, and that thesis statement shows the reader your over-arching point, or the theme that your body paragraphs will outline and evidence. Thus, you want to make sure your thesis foreshadows the main ideas that your body paragraphs will evidence.

For the conclusion, you’ll want to restated what you just evidenced in those body paragraphs, then maybe look ahead and offer a closing point or an idea for moving forward.

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