Personal letters- deconstructing

In class today we have started analysing personal letters in preparation for our upcoming assesment.

We started with a practice analysis, with the improbable scenario of describing an apple to an alien who has never seen one before.  By doing so, we found out that analysing means to ‘break down in order to bring out the essential elements or structure.’


Next, we did the same thing with some examples of personal letters.  Here are the features that we came up with.


“If a paragraph was a burger…”

Students in grade 8 created a visual burger metaphor to show their prior knowledge and understanding about paragraphs.  Specifically:

1) What are the different parts of a paragraph?
2) What is the function / importance of each of these parts?
3) How do all these parts ‘fit together’ to form a cohesive whole?

After reviewing some PIE/PEE strategy notes, students should look back at the burger metaphor and compare ideas.  Complete a short ‘I used to think… Now I think…” in the comments box below re: paragraph structure.



1. What is a paragraph?


  • are made up of sentences (usually more than one sentence? 5-6 sentences?are usually about one “topic”/”part”/”segment”/”scene”

  • start on a new line; first sentence is indented (5 spaces/TAB)

  • have sentences which have something in common (each sentence leads into the next sentence)

  • separate different ideas (by grouping related ideas together)

  • organize your writing

  • organize the structure of your writing

  • make it easier to read/look nicer

  • allow the reader to come up for air/surface/take a breath

 2. Are there different kinds of paragraphs?


  • different genres have different “paragraphs” (organizational structures) – poetry (stanzas), songs (verses), prose (paragraphs)

  • fiction vs. non-fiction (articles, essays!)

  • purpose: e.g. introduction, conclusion, body paragraphs, descriptive, expository, dialogue…etc.

  • short/long (depends on the genre)

  • contains quotations/doesn’t contain quotations

  • sentences? – many/few, long/short/(a mixture), etc.

 Go to the next page (below) to learn more about the difference between paragraphs in fiction and non-fiction AND to look at a sample paragraph.

3. What is the difference between paragraphs in fiction vs. non-fiction (essay)?



Non-Fiction (essays)


Many different sizes

Same size (except for introduction and conclusion)


Purpose: describe setting, describe character, dialogue, action

Purpose: information about a topic, factual evidence (examples/quotations), analysis/interpretation


Structure (when do we switch to a new paragraph?): small scene change, character-to-character dialogue, time moving on (actions, new things happening)…usually chronological

Structure: one paragraph = one main topic/subtopic, one example (quotation) and one interpretation.  Use the PEA (Point, Example, Analysis) structure.

Writing Essay Paragraphs

Point – introductory sentence, topic statement, what you think about the topic, setting up your example…

Illustration / Example – quotation (PAGE NUMBER). Introduce with a COLON!!!

Explanation / Analysis – explaining the quotation – explaining the writer’s techniques/choices – prove your point

Throughout the novel, Michael is portrayed as a lonely and depressed young man.  His isolation is so obvious that it is recognized by his teacher, Mrs. Dando, who tries, although in vain, to cheer him up: “She took a fruit gum out of her pocket and held it out to me. A fruit gum. It was what she gave the new kids when they were sad or something” (12).  In this quotation, David Almond introduces the minor character of Mrs. Dando to demonstrate the visibility of Michael’s loneliness and unhappiness.  The fact that she gives Michael a fruit gum shows us that she is a kind person who is worried about him.  On the other hand, because this novel is narrated in first-person, through Michael’s character, we can clearly see that he finds this gesture shallow and meaningless.  His repetition of “a fruit gum” seems to imply a mocking tone and his recognition that she gives fruit gums to “new kids” who are “sad or something” shows that he does not appreciate what she is doing, because it does not help him deal with his problems.  What Michael is actually seeking is a close friend that he can talk to about the serious problems involving his sister and family.



Reading Journals

Reading journals contain short responses to stories you are reading at the moment.  They are a great way to develop a variety of reading skills.

• To help you capture your developing responses as a reader
• To help you understand what you are reading
• To show how you are improving as a reader

What you could write about (pick one or two per entry):
Speculations about how the story might develop (what will happen next?)
Accounts of things that have happened to you that you are reminded of by events in the book
Reflections on things in the book that really strike you
Reactions to characters and what they do
Comments on how the author is telling the story
Connections to other books, films, plays or poems that you have read
Questions you think of as you are reading
Inferences about the underlying messages of the text
Identification of the author’s purpose, important details, main ideas and themes
Evaluations and opinions about the text

When you could write a response:
• At the beginning of a book
• As you are reading
• After an interesting part of a story
• At the end of a book (definitely!)

Text types – some basic examples

I came across this Prezi when browsing for online resources about text types.  I think it is nicely put-together, and it might be a good place to start looking for ideas if you are given an opportunity for a ‘free choice’ assignment.  (For example, Written task 1 in SL and HL Language and Literature classes).

If you happen to come across more detailed or nuanced resources about text types, I would appreciate the links!

(Sorry – still learning how to embed things like Prezi!)  Maybe this app will help?
[gigya src=”” allowfullscreen=”true” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”550″ height=”400″ bgcolor=”#ffffff” flashvars=”prezi_id=udkzscyxpkyt&lock_to_path=1&color=ffffff&autoplay=no&autohide_ctrls=0″ ]

Schools of literary criticism

While it may not be that useful at the moment, the following site will definitely come in handy when we begin to look at literature later this year.

There are also handy guides on reading, analysing and writing poetry.  Also, there is a section on subject-specific writing that may come in handy for other subjects.

Have a look when you get some time.  I hope it comes in handy later this year!


Learning how to learn: one stop resource!

Looking to learn some useful techniques on how to manage your time?  How about some tips on research?  Or maybe you need some help with reading and writing?

Whatever it is you are looking to improve, you can find it at the following site.  It really is a great collection that addresses many approaches to learning.

Check it out, and let me know if you find any part of the site particularly helpful in the comments below.