Hi Dr. Louis!
Happy New Year! I have a question for you regarding expository writing.
In filling out the T-Chart for a body paragraph, how do you explain the difference between the commentary sentence and the concluding sentence? The ideas all come from the CM side of the chart. Is the concluding sentence more general?
Thanks for your advice.
Thank you for your astute question. You are correct about the Commentary (CM) and Concluding Sentence (CS) ideas coming from the CM side of the T-chart. And I love to watch students’ eyes beam when they realize that after they have brainstormed their commentary ideas, their body paragraph is all but done! In the past, they would fret over what to write. Now, their task is different: they must discern which of their multiple CM (green) thoughts fit best for the revised topic sentence (blue), the commentary (green), and the concluding sentence (blue).
I say to the students, “Pick up your blue pen! To revise your topic sentence, look at your commentary ideas. Do you see an overarching idea? Do you see something that sheds a true light on the idea you are trying to get across to your reader? Is there some word or phrase that has an umbrella effect? Now, revise your topic sentence.”
After they cross out what they have used to create their topic sentence (“When you use it, you lose it!”), I say, “Keep your blue pens in your hand. You have another blue sentence to write, don’t you?”
They reply, “Yes, our concluding sentence.”
“That’s right! You don’t want to give away all your good stuff, because that concluding sentence is important. It’s how you leave your reader. It’s how you as a writer — you as a thinker and productive, global citizen — make a difference. When Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society suggests that each student ‘add his own verse,’ this is what he is suggesting. There are moments in your writing that your input can help us say, ‘hmm, that’s an interesting idea.’ It’s possible. So, you want it to have impact. You want your reader to think, ‘Wow! That’s good!’ Look for your commentary ideas that could provide a sense of completion, a finished feeling. In other words, look for the green ideas on the right side of the T-Chart that consider the ‘big picture’ or ‘the human condition.’ What green thoughts (CMs) bring home the point you want to make and leave the reader smarter than when s/he started your paragraph!’
They write their concluding sentence, and I remind them to cross out what they used.
“Pick up your green pen! Now, look at what is remaining on the green side. Remember, you must make sure that your commentary sentence or sentences address every part of your concrete details, your evidence. So, if you have two CMs that reveal two examples about your topic, then your commentary must analyze both examples. Since the ratio is 2+:1 in expository (two or more sentences of CDs to one sentence of CMs), see how much concrete detail you have. If you wrote four or five sentences, then writing a couple of sentences of analysis is fine. Just make sure the analysis, the commentary, takes into consideration all of your evidence, not just part of it.
Ginger, that’s how I teach them how to produce writing with logic, organization, tone, and voice. And that’s how I teach them to discern between commentary and concluding sentence.
Thank you for your question.
Keep reading and writing!
Happy New Year,