Friday, February 6, 2009

What is a Paragraph?

I know that you folks know what a paragraph is. However, you still need to know what are my expectations of your discussion posts. Below, I clearly lay out these expectations along with the rubric under which your work will be evaluated. I look forward to reading your posts.

A paragraph is, first and foremost, a unit of thought. You are telling me what you think about a particular topic. In this case you are responding to a question prompt. Therefore, the first sentence should introduce your thought as clearly as possible. I should be able to tell by the first sentence what that paragraph will express to me. Ideally, your first sentence should state a claim. The following sentences should draw evidence from the book, film, or document to support your claim. They should convince me that what you say is supported by the assigned sources. Be sure to use at least one keyword (evidence) from each of the assigned sources. Then completely identify that keyword in terms of "Who, What, When, Where, and So What? (how is that keyword related to the historical problem we are discussing?" The concluding sentence should answer the question, “So what?” How has this paragraph responded to the historical problem we are discussing? How has it added depth or breadth to our understanding of the topic? How am I a smarter or better-informed person for having read this paragraph? Very few paragraphs answer all these questions, but you should try to accomplish at least one of them. That is the ideal and the basic structure. Remember, I want to know what you really think; not what you think I want you to think. Have fun, and speak your mind! It’s easy when you actually believe what you are writing.

Grading—paragraphs will be graded on the following:
1. Structure/organization, does the paragraph function as a unit of thought (does it have a topic sentence that states a claim, which is then supported by a body of evidence that is carefully explained and then brought together in a conclusion sentence)?
2. Evidence, does the paragraph draw specific references from all the assigned sources as evidence to support the claim(s) made in your paragraph?
3. Analysis, does the paragraph explain logically how the evidence presented supports the claims made (are all the keywords fully identified?
4. Proofreading, the paragraph should be free of grammatical errors and misspellings.

A paragraph that meets all the above criteria will receive an A (95); a paragraph that meets three of these criteria will receive a B (85); a paragraph that meets two of these criteria will receive a C (75); a paragraph that meets one of these criteria will receive a D (65); a paragraph that meets none of these criteria will receive an F. Good luck, and have fun.

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