While participating in Sophomore English in the 2015-16 school year, I have noticed a growth in my writing, speeches, and in analysis of others writings. As I look back on the year and revisit old pieces along with notes I had to say about my writing, there were a lot of changes made throughout the year- some more than others. While taking a look at physical writing, speeches and my analysis of others writings, there were several objectives that I have noticeably grown in. There are eight major objectives including: creative writing, academic writing, big vs. small revisions, close reading and analysis, grammar and conventions, holistic reading and application, author’s craft and style and finally, speaking and presenting.
Breaking down three pieces written at different points in the year, I saw that there was not only a growth in my creative writing, but also in my grammar and conventions. I built up my word choice and ideas as the year went along while also further developing my grammar/conventions, my technical writing- making sure my dialogue flowed better, having the same tense throughout the paper and even excluding dead verbs when needed. At the beginning of the year, we started off by writing a suspense piece, trying to incorporate a little bit of fear in our writing. I chose to write a piece titled “French Class” about two girls who get trapped at school with a suspicious new teacher. I had the ability to put a story on paper, but it wasn’t the best piece ever. There were quite a few things I struggled with right away but over the year I have made noticeable development in those areas. One of the things that needed the most work right from the beginning of the year was my verb tense. Throughout the paper I would constantly be changing tenses, never really sticking with just one. I also had some problems with dialogue, whenever someone would talk it seemed forced. I didn’t create a natural flow for dialogue, it broke up the piece too much. One other thing I struggled with was telling the reader what was happening in stead of showing them. I would use phrases like “Adriana had blonde hair” when I could have been using more descriptions like “The golden strands of Adriana’s hair bounced off her shoulders.”
Later on in the year we were given a choice writing assignment and I chose to write another suspense style story titled, “The Nametag.” This time it was about a man who had an unexpected encounter after taking a jog in the park. In the time I spent looking back on this piece, I kept in mind the problems I had encountered during my first suspense writing of the year. I did a lot better with verb tenses in this piece, there was only one or two times that I added in a tense that didn’t belong. My dialogue was also improved in this piece because most of it consisted of dialogue. I didn’t have to write in forced conversations, they just flowed in naturally. There were times where they were needed to make sense of everything. One thing that I didn’t quite fix yet was my descriptions. At this point I was still telling the reader what was happening instead of showing them. There was a time that I said “I see a red car screech up” when I could have said something like, “The fiery red car bolts across the street, coming to a screeching halt.”
Towards the end of the year, we wrote one last piece and this was a special piece about an adversity that we’ve faced somewhere in our lives. I chose to write about club volleyball tryouts, the piece titled, “Playing to Prove them Wrong.” There is a clear development in the verb tense, I did a lot better sticking to just one tense. I made sure to double check this when editing my paper because I knew that I struggled in the past. Dialogue wasn’t a focus in this piece, however there were several lines of it involved. I made sure to fully introduce conversations and avoided unneeded ones. There were times where I even put in a conversation that took place inside my own head. At the beginning of the year, whenever I wrote these types of conversations they always came out wrong, now they flow a whole lot smoother. The last portion of writing that I looked at with all of these pieces was description and this writing gave me a lot more opportunities to practice just that. Throughout the piece, I use words and phrases like “heart racing” “I stumbled” and “gasping for air” to get my ideas across in a more entertaining way.
Another one of the main focuses in sophomore year was speeches and looking back there has been an obvious development made in my speech writing and even presenting. The first speech of the year was an introductory speech. I did a good job writing my outline, making sure to have more of a bullet pointed style. There were pros and cons to this, it prevented me from reading right off my outline but at the same time it didn’t provide me with a lot of information as a backup. On the actual presentation side of things, I did ok for the first speech. At this point I needed to work on not pacing around when I talk and slowing down to make sure the audience can fully connect all the ideas that I am putting forward. One other thing that I made note of to fix was my confidence level. In order to keep the audience engaged I need to know what I’m talking about, or at least sound like it.
As the year progressed, we presented several other speeches but the one that shows my growth the most is my informative speech about the effect technology has on the human brain. My outline of this speech consisted of both a bullet-pointed style and longer lines of factual information, it was a good mix so I wasn’t just reading off my paper or stumbling around for information. During this presentation I still paced around a bit, but I also had good movements that backed up the words I was saying. I was complete with all of my thoughts and made sure to clearly incorporate the audience when given the chance. After writing this speech, we transformed it into essay formatting and even though it was one of our first pieces, it really showed my growth as an academic writer. I made sure to have plenty of information to back me up but at the same time it wasn’t so information heavy that it didn’t make sense. I started the piece not knowing really how to write an academic research paper, then coming out I was left with the skills set to write several more papers through the year. One thing I really excelled at was making a clear connection to the audience. I made sure they saw the importance of technology in today’s world and then found solid facts to back me up.
This year we also learned the difference between close reading and analysis, and holistic reading and application. Close reading and analysis means digging deeper into the actual text, looking further than just the top coat to find the true meaning. I showed growth in this particular objective through the piece titled, “Hiding in Plain Sight.” We took time in class to take a look at Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and as we moved through the book I progressively found stronger quotes along with thinking about what those quotes really actually mean. I specifically found two quotes about leadership, one from Act 1 and another from Act 2. I ended up interpreting them completely different because of how much development I underwent reading the book. Moving to holistic reading and application, the meaning of this objective is taking the big picture from the text and seeing how it applies to life today. To show my growth in this I chose to look back at my literary analysis essay titled, “Conflicts of the American Dream.” From my initial outline to my final draft, there were many noticeable changes made. To start with, in my outline I just tried to get the ideas that I understood from the literature down on paper. In doing so, I would just write down whatever came to mind and that didn’t always make sense. Also in some of my earlier drafts, I didn’t always have the evidence from different literature to back up my ideas, so I was kind of just going in circles with what I was saying. As time went on, my final draft’s quality was much better. My ideas actually made sense and they flowed in a way that the reader could actually understand. While working with the same piece over and over, my ideas were fully able to develop and I was given the chance to look back at the literature several times to make sure that I came out with the most accurate representation of what I thought the text was saying. Eventually I came to the conclusion that people have to deal with different conflicts if they have any kind of dream in their life. Its part of what a dream is, it would be a reality instead of a dream if conflicts weren’t involved.
Another objective that goes along with the previous two is the author’s craft or style. This was more or less how I personally reacted to the specific ideas that the author brought to the surface. The piece I picked to show my growth in this was my analysis of “Touch the Top of the World.” Initially reading the book, I just wrote down quotes that seemed important and those that related to adversity but as the book went on I started noticing that these quotes about adversity were what made Erik Weihenmayer memorable as an author and even as a climber, as he shares about his own adversity. In his book he talks a lot about the adversities he faced being blind but a continuous theme I noticed was that most, if not all of the important things he had to say about his adversity could also be applied in everyday life. One specific example of this is that if you want something in life, it’s not just going to come to you, you actually have to work hard for it. “I didn’t want to have an easy excuse for backing down…It’s not that I wanted to impress people. I climbed because each time I was able to go one step further, that was one step further than I knew was possible. And when I got to wherever I was heading, I found myself in a place that, at one time, only existed in my imagination” (Weihenmayer page 238).
The last objective I took a look at was big vs small revisions. To do this I used my most recent piece, “Thunderstorms.” It is a creative piece, focusing on what storms really are and how they desire to be remembered. My first draft of this piece was no where near what the final draft is- so I made a big revision in that instance. I deleted my whole first idea which was a spin off of cloudy with a chance of meatballs, and then moved to a dramatic presentation of thunderstorms. I had to chance the complete structure and overall feel of the piece. While making these big revisions, I also had to make some small ones. There were some parts in the story that were lacking excitement, so I added words and phrases like “boom” “crash down” or “jolt across the sky” to allow for more of a picture. These little word changes made the piece just that much better, even though it was just a small revision.
Overall my writing, speaking, and analyzing has tremendously changed throughout the school year. I was really able to dig deeper and understand the amount of growing I have done this year, especially when keeping in mind the different objectives we used to analyzed our writing. Seeing all the growth I have made this year, I am excited to see where I am headed in the years to come.