Throughout the school year, there were many assignments and classroom activities I did in English class. I found some of them more helpful than others, but what I can say is that through this class, I learned something new. My writing and reading skills grew in this class, even if it was just a little bit of growth.
Some essays I wrote in class showcased my growth in writing. One of my best essays that I wrote in this class was a descriptive essay. Through this essay, I demonstrated my strength in coming up with concrete descriptions instead of having an excess amount of abstract descriptions. I used imagery to appeal to the five senses and create more concrete images that readers can understand. In this descriptive essay, I wrote about my mother’s chili, and how this dish represented the love and care she put into everything she does, including cooking. I thoroughly described how my mother prepared the chili, such as the ingredients she used, the visuals of the chili, and the smoky smell of the spices being cooked in the pot. However, I could have related this imagery more to my mother’s caring nature, as I described it more like the main focus of the essay was my mother’s precision instead of the time and effort she invests.
Images (from left to right): http://www.gamezone.com/reviews/cooking_mama_cook_off_wii_review
Another essay that I wrote in class that I believe represents my strengths is the narrative essay we wrote in the beginning of the school year. The main plot of my essay was that my friend and i were walking through the Terror Tram at Universal Studios, expecting to be very scared, but we actually found the whole scene amusing. I believe my use of concrete descriptors when setting the scene of the story and writing about the visual appearances of the scary clowns was very well done. Something that I could’ve improved in my essay was the conclusion. I ended the essay on a cliffhanger, but I should’ve made the ending more clear and added some sort of thought to end off the story on an optimistic note.
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An essay that we did in class that I believe I can improve upon was the argumentative essay regarding whether school should start later or not. I could have explained my evidence better and connect it to my thesis more clearly. By not explaining my evidence properly, I made it look like I was contradicting myself, and I made the reader confused. I also could’ve changed my thesis or evidence altogether to improve the essay’s focus point overall.
A classroom activity that I found helped my writing was the slideshow after the Grapes of Wrath essay exam that was made to show the top five most common problems with our essays. This was helpful because I got to learn not only what I could’ve done better on my essay, but also what Mr. Ziebarth and the College Board looks for in our essays. Some aspects I might not have thought were important in our essays were actually vital to our overall grade. I was not aware of how specific we had to be when explaining our evidence; I could not just say something general about my evidence. I believe that the slideshow was so helpful and wished that it was shared with us on Canvas.
Another classroom activity that I found helpful was the Grapes of Wrath multiple choice questions that we created during class. Through this exercise, I realized what College Board might be thinking when creating multiple choice questions, and the types of trick answers that they might try to pull off as possible answer choices. It was actually quite difficult coming up with sample questions on the AP exam, so it helped me notice patterns as to the types of questions that are asked on the test and the main points of a passage that might be the focal point of test questions.
I also learned a lot from the books we read throughout the school year. By reading The House on Mango Street, I learned how to create a more appealing voice and narrator in my writing. I learned that colloquial writing can add more personality to my writing and make it more interesting. This is because the main character of the novel is a child that writes in a “childish” way, which makes the story more interesting.
By reading The Great Gatsby, I was able to take note of the importance of symbolism and motifs and motives, and I was able to take note of the different motives and personalities of different characters. This could help me when it comes to narratives or fiction writing, as my storytelling can become better by incorporating these ideas into my writing. There are many characters in the novel with different personalities and storylines, and they were very well incorporated into the plot.
While reading The Grapes of Wrath, I learned how diction is very important in creating a certain type of desired tone in one’s writing. Through certain word choices, I can create different moods depending on the plot and setting of the story trying to be conveyed. The concrete details in the novel, especially in the intercalary chapters makes the writing so much more rich in detail and imagery.
The Catcher in the Rye showed me that having a protagonist that is not perfect is okay. The main character, Holden, is an anti hero and he has many flaws, which makes the story more interesting. Throughout the story, Holden contradicts himself many times, which demonstrates his unreliability. He also has a lot of humor in his writing, and the repetition of certain words like “phony” and “sort of” add to the tone of Holden’s writing.
Focusing on English class in general, I believe the way I learned the best way to learn was through examples and thorough explanation. This helped me understand certain literary techniques and figurative language. This also helped me find ways to explain evidence more effectively in my essays.
I wish I had participated more in classroom discussions regarding the novels we were reading or SQUID post discussions we had in class. This could’ve given me a chance to see what others had to say in response to my own thoughts and advice Mr. Ziebarth could’ve given me to improve my analysis of the evidence.
Overall, I have grown as a critical thinker, a communicator, and a collaborator in this class. Through style analysis and evidence analysis in general, I learned to analyze evidence to apply to certain topics or motifs which helps me understand a novel on a deeper level. By improving my writing through various classroom assignments and essays, I have grown as a communicator. I have improved my communication through my writing. I have grown as a collaborator by working with different groups of people to complete various tasks, like slideshows and the zine project.
Answer to Catcher in the Rye Question
Q: How do Holden’s words reflect him, his life, and his relationships?
A: Holden’s use of language when interacting with others shows how pessimistic he is towards life because he believes adults are phony and fake. Holden claims that, “Mr. Haas was the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life… Old Haas went around shaking hands with everybody’s parents when they drove up to school. He’d be charming as hell and all. Except if some boy had little old funny-looking parents…. I mean if a boy’s mother was sort of fat or corny-looking or something, and if somebody’s father was one of those guys that wear those suits with very big shoulders and corny black-and-white shoes, then old Hans would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he’d go talk, for maybe a half an hour, with somebody else’s parents.” We know that Holden does not like authoritative figures because they come off as being phony. Mr. Hass acts differently to people depending on their appearance, which Holden disagrees with. This is one of the ways Holden views adults as being phony, since they are not willing to have conversations with everyone and they only want to talk to distinguished-looking people. Holden also has trouble talking with others, like Sally. When they are at the ice rink, Holden screams, “‘Why not? Why the hell not?’” and Sally responds, “‘Stop screaming at me, please.’” Holden says things without even realizing it, like when he is screaming at Sally. This reflects how unreliably Holden can be, at times, when he is narrating his story. This also shows how he does not like phony people like Sally and he has trouble being friends with others.