Friday, August 20, 2010

Sentences to Paragraphs: More English 100 Exercises

Because one sentence does not an essay make, the gaps between sentences require connective tissue, ligature, flex.

Since each sentence is a lonely one, you will need to make it friends.

If you hatch a few sentences in a row, you can grow a paragraph. That paragraph will cackle, or crackle.

Thus, sentences are to paragraphs as words are to sentences.

Nevertheless, the mere use of a transition word will not get you from here to there on the turnpike of ideas.

Therefore, your linkages must make a higher sense/sentence than words alone provide.

On the one hand, sentences; on the other hand, a fully fleshed out idea.

Hence, you will find that a paragraph requires not simply a statement, but also evidence of that statement's innate goodness.

In other words, line your sentences up in a row like ducks, or bowling pins.

For the most part, the art of linking ideas on the micro-level (the sentence or paragraph) will provide you a model for creating larger arguments.

Instead of counting on ideas to descend from the sky onto your shoulders, shoulder the burden of rubbing words together until a spark appears; then blow on the spark until your idea illuminates itself. Campground songs will follow.


In small groups, link your sentences together (the ones you wrote about photographs you took of the neighborhood you live in), using some of the following words or phrases:

--if . . . when
--on the contrary/on the other hand
--whether or not
--[your word or phrase here]

Now act out the transitions in your sentences for the class. This will require you to collaborate with another student or two. You'll have 10 minutes or so to figure out what movements to use to enact the movements of your sentences as they move forward and then bind together like strands of DNA or like adoptive parents meeting their children for the first time.


Thought problem: What is the purpose of a paragraph? What does a paragraph do? How does it work? To what purpose do we write paragraphs?

Write three paragraphs about your photographs (you can take new ones, if you wish). Your paragraphs need to be at least four sentences long. Use three of these structures:

--Start from a main idea you have about the photograph and use details to illustrate it. Let's say you've taken the photograph of a church and someone tells you that the church used to be the local mom and pop store. Make a statement about your neighborhood (its ethnic shifts, its economic ones), and go from there.

--Start from a detail and move to a main idea. Usually we are attracted less by a grand panorama than by a telling detail within it. Start by sharing that moment with your reader, then cast your zoom lens outward.

--Assume that someone has just criticized your photograph. They might have criticized its composition or something about its content. While responding to their criticism, you must present their point of view fairly. Or assume that someone has criticized an aspect of your neighborhood represented in your photographs (a new ditch, a new neon sign, new housing area, etc.)

--Compare and contrast two angles on the same image. Which one seems more striking, and why? Here you might compare the grand panorama to the detailed view. Perhaps they are both striking, but in different ways; you can go there, too.

--Use your photograph to make an assertion about contemporary Hawai`i (a small one, as you have only one paragraph). What issues/conflicts/arguments are raised by the image?

Discuss your paragraphs.

Now you will be ready to think about making larger arguments, those that use words to make sentences, sentences to make paragraphs, paragraphs to make essays. Before you move on to an essay, do the following. Conjure up in your mind the vision of a five-paragraph essay. Meditate on it for a good minute or two. Now, take a piece of paper on which you imagine you have composed five perfectly engineered schematically organized paragraphs, and crumple it up. On the count of five, throw your paper ball across the room and bid it farewell.

This is college-level writing. No moa need da kine!

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