An essay is a meaning-making piece of writing in which a writer seeks to make sense of the world by exploring some particular problem or phenomenon, often through the lens of some particular idea. The essayist tries to make connections among ideas and experiences to create knowledge.
As you read your peer’s Big D Discourse drafts, write comments to help the writer improve these global dimensions of their writing:
- How well does the opening of the essay work to introduce readers to a fairly narrow question or problem to be solved and to initiate a line of exploration?
- In more fluent openings, the reader will be able to easily identify which of the four approaches (defined in the prompt) the writers is taking in his or her essay.
- Novice openings might seem overly general, simply mentioning one or more concepts without setting up a question or problem.
- Peer reviews can help writers by summarizing the writer’s approach and paraphrasing the questions or problems driving the writer’s paper, or suggesting one of the four approaches to the writer. Peer reviewers can also help by pointing out sentences and paragraphs that might cause trouble for a high school reader unfamiliar with the concept of Discourse.
- To what degree does the writer briefly and appropriately introduce Gee’s and Delpit’s texts in a way that sets up their approach to the paper?
- More fluent papers will focus readers on the particular aspect of Gee’s and Delpit’s texts that establish their approach to the paper fairly quickly.
- Novice papers may spend too much space summarizing Gee’s theory without seeming to have a point.
- Peer reviewers can help by suggesting cuts, or providing bits of language to help the writer get to the point.
- To what degree does the paper go beyond the gist and engage specific passages and scenes from the texts?
- In more fluent papers, writers will use Barclay’s Formula, TRIAC, signal phrases, voice markers and parenthetical citation to paraphrase/quote, explain, analyze, interpret and connect specific passages to one another and their argument.
- In more novice papers, writers may point to ideas in overly general paraphrase, without making much use of the quoted or paraphrased ideas, with the result that the controlling ideas of the paper are not advanced.
- Peer reviewers can help by pointing to missing TRIAC or Barlcay’s Formula elements, or by pointing out sentences and paragraphs that might cause trouble for a high school reader unfamiliar with the concept of Discourse.
- To what degree is the writer clear about his or her perspective or point of view on the unexpected ways literacy shapes our lives beyond our abilities to read and write?
- In more fluent papers, the writer will be clearly driving the argument, using sources to a) introduce new concepts, b) to grapple with arguments, and maybe c) to shift the conversation out of its track. Signs of fluency include use of voice markers to signal the writer’s point of view on quoted or paraphrased passages, explicit use of the They Say/I Say organizational pattern, and robust analysis, conclusion, and connecting moves in the TRIAC and Barclay’s Formula paragraph structures.
- In novice papers, writer’s may not use voice markers or signal phrases, resulting in “dropped” or “hit-and-run” quotes. In general, the writer’s voice and perspective takes a back seat to Gee’s and Delpit’s ideas and assertions.
- Peer reviewers can help by pointing to missing TRIAC or Barclay’s elements in source-based paragraphs, suggesting claim-based topic sentences for paragraphs that present evidence without making a point, prompting the writer to bring his or her viewpoint to the fore, encouraging the writer to use sources to introduce new concepts, grapple with arguments, or to shift the conversation, and suggesting signal phrases and voice markers.
- To what degree does the paper focus on answering its driving questions about literacy rather than interpreting the film?
- In more fluent papers, the writer will test his or her ideas about literacy using specific scenes from the film as a simulated case. The topic sentences and claims of most paragraphs will be about the challenges and rewards of acquiring secondary Discourses.
- In more novice papers, the writer will summarize or explain the film, only occasionally and briefly connecting the film to questions about the challenges and rewards of acquiring secondary Discourses.
- Peer reviewers can help by pointing to places in the paper where topic sentences about Discourse could be added, and suggesting bits of language the writer might use to bring the focus back to Discourse.
- How well does the writer draw conclusions about the unexpected ways literacies shape human lives?
- In more fluent papers, writers will have fairly specific and easily findable answers to the questions they set out to answer in the beginning of the paper. In even more fluent papers, writers will move beyond their film to speculate about how their answers help us understand something about how literacy really works in the world beyond the film.
- In more novice papers, writers may have overly general or hard-to-find answers to the questions, or answers may remain implicit or undeveloped. Conclusions about literacy may be limited to the world of the film.
- Peer reviewers can help by pointing to and summarizing the writer’s conclusions, helping the writer develop or extend his or her conclusions, or challenging conclusions the peer review believes are not supported by the evidence presented by the writer. Peer reviewers can also suggest conclusions that they themselves see in the paper being reviewed, but that haven’t yet been developed by the writer.
A good comment will:
- Be generous and considerate in tone;
- Describe what you see or think as a reader, leading to a diagnosis of a problem or description of an improvement to be made;
- Suggest a specific strategy for improvement;
- Provide additional insight by: asking leading questions, providing further detail, suggesting specific materials for inclusion, or engaging in dialogue with the writer.
- Indicate whether this is a high-, medium-, or low-priority issue.
Aim for no more than two comments per page.
In an end comment, write some sentences that give the writer an idea of your overall impression or general effect of the paper. If you can, explain the central insight you have gotten from the paper as a careful reader. Make suggestions about what improvements the writer should prioritize as s/he continues to develop his or her paper’s argument in global revision.