Introduction and Topic Sentence
To introduce the terminology, Dr. Louis recommends that you download the two files and print them. As she works through the next several videos, students will copy the model body paragraph onto “expository paragraph form” and take notes on the “Expository Terminology” handout.
Dr. Louis begins with the importance of associating different colors with different functions of sentences in a body paragraph. Then, Dr. Louis discusses the importance of indenting. The main skill to learn in this video, however, is that an academic body paragraph begins with a topic sentence, the first sentence in a body paragraph. For literary analysis and personal narrative, the TS includes the subject of the paragraph and the writer’s opinion (commentary). For argumentation and expository/informational, the TS includes the subject of the paragraph, but, depending on the assignment, what follows might include something other than commentary. The TS does the same thing for a body paragraph that the thesis does for the whole essay.
Relevant Concrete Details
Also known as CD, specific details that form the backbone or core of your body paragraphs. Synonyms for concrete details include facts, specifics, examples, descriptions, illustrations, support, proof, evidence, quotations, paraphrasing, or plot references. A concrete detail is one complete sentence. Concrete details come from four places: “What I have read,” “What I have seen,” What I or someone has done; what I or someone has said. Just because someone says something does not make it a fact. What someone says may be used as evidence/concrete detail, but make sure that the evidence you select is relevant, specific, and appropriate to the task. Dr. Louis recommends that evidence be pulled from credible, reliable sources. Wikipedia is not acceptable, because anyone with an opinion can write in Wikipedia. Just because a person has an opinion does not make that person an expert. Be careful. Look in databases, such as Gale Research, Google Scholar, Newsela. Libraries have wonderful sources.
The last sentence in a body paragraph. For literary responses, the CS is all commentary; for expository and summary paragraphs, it depends on the assignment or purpose of the piece and may include concrete detail, such as: predictions, connections, inferences, clarifications, and evaluations. For argumentation, the CS is all CM. The writer synthesizes the thesis statement, TS, CDs, CM into a re-assertion of the position. Do not repeat key words from the paragraph. Rather, use synonyms. For advanced writers, the concluding sentence synthesizes the salient points of the paragraph while also providing a finished feeling to the body paragraph’s topic.
The Chunk and the Ratio
The Chunk: It is the smallest unified group of thoughts in a paragraph that combine CDs and CMs. The combination depends on the RATIO for each mode. A paragraph may have multiple “chunks.”
The Ratio of concrete detail (CD) to commentary (CM).
Typically, for Response to Literature, Fine Art interpretation, and/or Style Analysis, the ratio is (1:2+): one sentence of concrete detail plus two or more sentences of commentary equals one “chunk.” Typically, for Narrative, Persuasive, Argumentation, and/or Expository, the ratio is (2+:1): two or more sentences of concrete details plus one commentary sentence equals one “chunk.” For summary, typically (3+:0).
Remember — The Jane Schaffer Academic Writing Program has been a popular writing program because it helps students to understand the framework for writing academic paragraphs and essays. Much like a recipe for chefs or scales for aspiring musicians, the foundation is laid and then we train students to add their own spices or create their own rhythm. This program works for on-level students, pre-ap students, advanced placement students, special ed students, English language learners. Why? Because it is a guide. And young writers need a guide before they can become masters.
Deborah E. Louis, Ph.D.
Dr. Deborah E. Louis’ passion for educational excellence began as a classroom teacher. For sixteen years, Deborah taught On-level, Pre-AP®, and Advanced Placement® English Language Arts to secondary students of diverse ethnicities and learning styles. In 2010, Deborah purchased the Jane Schaffer Writing Program®, and along with her non-profit organization, Center for Educational ReVision (CerV®), her goal and that of her national team of experts is to provide the highest quality professional learning and mentoring to teachers in the areas of writing, advanced academics, high-stakes testing, and educational technology. Through webinars, workshops, job-embedded training, and teaching materials, Deborah strives to ReVision the educational system, combining traditional and flipped approaches to professional learning for teachers of grades K-12; and differentiating for Special Education, English Language Learners, and Gifted and Talented. Although her mission takes her all over the United States and abroad, Deborah lives in Dallas, Texas USA. She loves music, dancing, archetypal psychology, and continuous learning opportunities.
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Also known as a CM, one commentary equals one sentence. It is your opinion or comment about something; not concrete detail. Synonyms include opinion, insight, analysis, interpretation, inference, personal response, feelings, evaluation, explication, and reflection. Commentary comes from three places: my analytical mind; my heart and soul; my gut feelings/instincts/intuition . . . and a little wiggle!