Sunday, October 30, 2016

Notes on Essay Exam #2

On the whole, everyone improved on this second essay exam.

Again, the strongest papers kept their focus on the writer’s choices and were able to analyze a specific piece of text in depth, as well as relate that analysis to the larger events and themes of the novel. And in most cases, the weakest papers failed to relate the larger themes of the novel to any specific analysis of the passage. As you can see from the bar graph below, there were far fewer “weak papers” and many more “strong papers.”

I saw more evidence of planning, which seems to have helped. Thesis statements were better, but this is still an area we need to work on.

I used a different rubric this time. It’s a mash-up of a “Write-Traits” rubric with the AP grading scale. Even though there are six categories assessed, more weight is placed on the first two: idea development and organization. So, I’m still using the holistic scoring of the AP rubric, but I’m better able to identify—at least areas of —weaknesses and strengths. I also made more individual comments on the exams than I usually do. This method was much more time consuming, of course, so I can’t promise I will always score this way (maybe on every other exam).


·   The thesis statement is clear, focused, and compelling.

·   The analysis is insightful and reveals a deep understanding of the literary work.  

·   Relevant details, examples, and quotations from the work support each key idea.


·   The introduction is engaging and clearly presents the topic and literary work to be discussed.

·   The conclusion summarizes the analysis by drawing a conclusion or offering an observation.

·   Transitional words and phrases clearly show how ideas connect.

·   The organization is logical and follows essay form.


·   The tone and voice are appropriate for the purpose and audience.

·   The writing reflects active engagement with the topic.


·   Words are specific, accurate, and convey precise meaning.

·   Words and phrases convey an insightful understanding of the literary work.


·   Sentences vary in length and structure.

·   Sentence beginnings are varied.


·   Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are generally correct.

·   Grammar and usage are correct.

·   Paragraphing tends to be correct and reinforce the organization.

Here are some model thesis statements from some of your essays. I have color-coded the three essential elements of literary analysis addressed in each: What is the author doing? How does it work? Why does the author do it?

The doll represents the “ideal” person in the eyes of society (white, blue eyes, blond), and as a result, provokes a mixture of violent and longing reactions from the characters in the novel once they realize they do not have said “ideal” qualities. (Oscar Flores)

Despite the dolls conventional meaning of desire, love, and a memorable childhood moment, it instead represented the strict and unjust image of beauty most individuals developed as a result of life in a discriminatory society filled with hatred toward those with dark skin. (Alexis Serna)

Morrison uses dolls as a vessel to criticize the destructive nature of societal beauty standards; it is through these dolls that Morrison exemplifies the negative effect the standards presented the characters by not meeting the standard of beauty. (Leonel Granados)

The novel Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros depicts this theme of cultural identity by using the rebozo as a symbol of it. The rebozo allows us to understand how cultural identity is an essential part of our lives as it forms part of who we are because it explains our origins, a base to relate to others. (Pio Blanco)

Throughout the story, the rebozo presents itself whenever the subjects of identity, chastity, and Mexican American culture are formulated, as they are important subjects in both Lala’s and Soledad’s lives. (Alvaro Ruiz)

This image then transcends into the single swan feather representing transformation of ones identity, which is seen throughout the novel where the mothers are transforming their daughters from submissive Chinese women to strong, independent American women. (Ezra Cadena)