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Chapter 2. Active Writing
This chapter focuses on helping students choose good topics, generate and develop ideas,
and organize their material into logical and coherent structures. In addition, this chapter
provides discussion about purpose and audience—concepts that some students are not
often familiar with. We want students to realize that the point of good writing and clear
communication is to make a connection with an audience. Students will learn that,
contrary to popular belief, college writing is not intended as a solitary activity, and that,
ultimately, others can be influenced and spurred to action by the words we write.
We spend considerable time also on prewriting strategies. It is very important to give the
class lots of practice in producing their own prewriting efforts—lists, free association,
journal writing, subject maps. We have explored ways to loosen up ideas and to carry
them to some logical end point.
RELATED CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
• Prewriting Techniques: Since many students come to a beginning
composition class with a real fear of writing, it is a good idea to begin with
some in-class exercises that will help loosen them up and get the ideas
flowing. Try beginning with an easy, general topic—one that might lead to
a descriptive or narrative essay—such as “A Significant Moment” or “A
Learning Experience.” Next, ask students to meditate on a particular
event. Then ask them various questions that will help them get the heart of
the topic, such as, “Who was there? What happened? Why was it
significant? When did this happen? Where did it happen? Give them four
or five minutes to write on each question. Tell them not to censor
themselves, but to write whatever comes to mind. Soon students will find
that they have a page or more of raw material that they can then shape into
the beginnings of an essay.
EXERCISE, P. 34
Answers will vary.
1. BROAD TOPIC: Rock Concerts
MORE LIMITED: Buying Tickets to Concerts
STILL MORE LIMITED: Buying Tickets to a Concert Online
2. BROAD TOPIC: Modern American painters
MORE LIMITED: Art movements of Modern American painters
STILL MORE LIMITED: A specific Modern American painter
3. BROAD TOPIC: An Embarrassing Moment
MORE LIMITED: An Embarrassing Moment for a Politician
STILL MORE LIMITED: George Bush’s Speaking Blunders
4. BROAD TOPIC: The Bill of Rights
MORE LIMITED: An Amendment of the Bill of Rights
STILL MORE LIMITED: The Fourteenth Amendment
5. BROAD TOPIC: America’s Role in Afghanistan
MORE LIMITED: U.S. Military’s Role in Protecting Afghani Culture
STILL MORE LIMITED: U.S. Military’s Role in Protecting Museums/National
6. BROAD TOPIC: Deadbeat dads
MORE LIMITED: Deadbeat dads and child support
STILL MORE LIMITED: The courts attempt to get deadbeat dads to pay child
7. BROAD TOPIC: Olympic Games
MORE LIMITED: Protestors at Olympic Games
STILL MORE LIMITED: Protestors at Beijing Olympics
8. BROAD TOPIC: Women’s Magazines
MORE LIMITED: Advertising in Women’s Magazines
STILL MORE LIMITED: Sexually Explicit Advertising in Women’s Magazines
9. BROAD TOPIC: Domestic Violence
MORE LIMITED: Effects of Domestic Violence on children
STILL MORE LIMITED: Effects of Domestic Violence on Teenagers
10. BROAD TOPIC: Teenage rock stars
MORE LIMITED: Teenage rock stars who are popular
STILL MORE LIMITED: Male teenage rock stars who write their own songs
EXERCISE, PP. 35–36
Answers will vary. Examples for first two are provided here.
1. Topic: Charities
a. To research corruption in major charities.
b. To argue for the best charities for people who want to donate money.
c. To compare and contrast two similar charities.
d. To convince readers to look more critically at common charities.
2. Topic: Personal Finance
a. To learn how to balance a budget.
b. To convince readers to manage their credit wisely.
c. To compare and contrast different types of stocks.
d. To argue the best ways to save money.
Collaborative Learning, p. 36
Individual Group Response
EXERCISE, P. 44
1. Fousek’s subject map helped him organize his thoughts logically with one general
topic—friend—leading to several more specific ideas.
2. Fousek eliminated some important items from his first list to create a second, more
selective one. In his second list, he eliminated four features of the first list, the facts
that Jim: doesn’t take out garbage, slams doors, doesn’t replace paper, and leaves
towels on the bathroom floor. Fousek has dropped the details he feels are not
important in explaining Jim’s two most annoying shortcomings.
3. Fousek’s rough outline centers on the specific points on his list, “Not Closing.” First,
he states that he doesn’t like when Jim doesn’t close things, and then he goes on to
cite specific examples.
4. Fousek’s rough draft is more unified and more detailed. He draws on the outline for
major ideas, but he then adds details and sensory images not originally included in the
EXERCISE, P. 44-45
2. Remind students to review the prewriting techniques. You may want to model a
prewriting example on the overhead or chalkboard. Students like to see the
development of a topic from start to finish. You can even do this as a group activity,
asking students for their contributions as you go along.
Collaborative Learning, p. 45
Individual Group Response
EXERCISE, P. 45
As students begin to draft their essays, remind them to review the checklists provided in