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   Student Writing
    (April 23, 2000

Anna, a Grade 10 student, successfully used the class notes to find content for her essay. What do you think of the content and size of her three body paragraphs?


Writing an Essay (Anna)

    An essay is an article, which expresses the writer's ideas on a chosen or given topic. When we study English in a high school, we should learn to write an essay. In order to write a good essay, it's important for students to know the structure of essay writings, the problems we often meet when we write, and how to improve our essay writing. 

     The first important thing we need to know is the formal structure of writing an essay. It includes an introduction, two or three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. So, usually we have four or five paragraphs in total. Each short essay contains about three to five hundred words. It is easy for us to draw a diagram of writing structure, but it is more difficult to write a good essay. 

     The next important thing we should know is that we have two big problems in writing an essay. One is language problems, which are made by our shortage of vocabulary and the translation of our thoughts from our first language to English. We often lose the meaning in the translation between the languages. For example, we could use our own language to express a very powerful meaning, but when we translate it in English it's very weak. The other problem is a cultural problem, since we come from a different country and are not familiar with the culture, customs, environment and political society here. Therefore, if the teacher gives us cultural topics, we won't understand well. As a result we can't write well. 

      The most important thing is how to improve our essay writing. We should try to think in English, read more novels or short stories, and care about the environment and people that surround us. We also should pay attention to news events every day through watching TV, listening to radio, or reading newspapers. Meanwhile, we should write a diary every day. When we have a good general knowledge, we'll feel it is easier to write an essay on any general topic. 

     We now know the formal structure of writing an essay, and the two big problems in our writing: language and culture. In order to improve our essay writing, we should write according to the formal structure, and keep reading and writing every day. As a result, we'll resolve the writing skill sooner. "Practice makes perfect."

Julia's Comment: According to Anna's arrangement, the body paragraphs are unbalanced. In her essay, she thinks the most important thing is how to improve essay writing. But what she actually emphasizes is two problems in essay writing. I think the most important thing in essay writing is how to overcome the problems in essay writing: shortage in vocabulary and culture difference. If you have rich vocabulary to express yourself and deep understanding to activities around you, I'm sure you have got the foundation to build a beautiful essay. Reading and writing are only methods to grasp vocabulary to know the culture. Structure is standard, it's easy to follow. If I were Anna, I would say, "The most important thing we should know. . .. .",and in the next paragraph, I would begin with, " The next step is to improve our essay writing. . . ."

Olga's Comment: In my opinion, Anna's essay is considerably substantial, clear and interesting. I completely agree with her point of view. The second body paragraph is a little longer because she inserted two ideas in it, but I don't think that something is wrong with that. I read it three times and didn't get tired.

Jin's Comment: The body paragraphs are unequal. The second one is definitely longer, and it drags the readers to pay more attention to it, but they are all important. Maybe Anna's point is just focusing on the problems.

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