Writing a literature essay
Writing a literature essay on examination requires many skills you need to carefully plan and construct an argument justify your argument by proving evidence (at times m the form of quotes), and formulate a logical conclusion.
Some tips before you begin:
- Focus on the question word and the task you are asked to do brainstorm around the question word/task
- Plan your argument by listing the points you would like to make. This will focus your ideas in paragraphs.
- Write a rough draft
- Reread the essay and edit if necessary
- Write the essay neatly
Some students who are reading works of literature in a foreign language will be working towards a written examination, usually involving essay writing. Sometimes the essays will need to be written in the target language.
Essay writing and examinations are frequently a lonely business. The element of competition and the awarding of marks compound this isolation. In our view, essay writing and marking need to be explored and shared so that the processes at work can be better understood.
Every literature essay is a form of communication between writer and reader. Poor marks indicate that the two of them are not in tune: the writer is not meeting the expectations of the reader. Clearly the teacher’s written comments or class discussion of an essay question will help students to understand what is expected of them but the teacher has many other helpful options available.
Asking students to set literature essay questions enables them to appreciate how the working of the question determines what will be relevant in the answer and also gives them a greater sensitivity to the sort of question that particular literary works seem to demand.
Exchanging essays and then marking and reporting on them, or even marking and commencing on their own essays, prior to handing them in to the teacher, can help students to develop greater awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses.
Brainstorming for the relevant content of a literature essay in groups prior to individual writing is another way of restoring a social dimension to the planning of essays.
With weaker groups, the teacher can supply a checklist of possible points for inclusion in an essay. Students can then be asked to prioritize the points and group them, having first deleted any that are considered irrelevant.
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