We workshopped essay 2 today in composition, and I was a bit less than enthused about the level of participation. I think I spent a bit too much time on the first portion of the workshop, in which I asked students to read their drafts to their peer reviewer, who was to mark out with simple checks and crosses places that seemed especially interesting/significant or confusing for some reason. Many students didn’t seem to take this seriously, though as I read through their drafts, it was very clear that a bit more attention to the words that were actually on the page could have been in order–dropped words, confusing syntax, unvaried sentence structure, and so on. I think this process is a good way for students to begin to develop an ear for strong prose; however, perhaps the mechanism needs more thought. It was a bit difficult to hear a single voice above the fray–though the hum of voices was good to hear.
After this first workshopping section, we moved on to considering the thesis statement as a backbone for the entirety of the essay; working with a student’s sample thesis, we considered its strengths and weaknesses, tweaking the language for flexible precision without generalization or too-rigid, unsupportable claims. Then, we broke it down into its composite parts, considering what was the more basic, foundational information necessary to establish before anything else can happen. I had students work with their own theses, breaking them down into parts, and then logically outlining what the thesis required; ideally, these parts should reflect the organization of the essay, so I asked students to consider the topic sentences in the draft and evaluate their strength and appropriateness in regards to that thesis. I’d like to have spent much more time on this portion of the workshopping process, but it was good that we were able to get our feet wet. This is a technique we’ll be using throughout the term, so there’ll be plenty of time!