Some of the essays in this activity may contain
strong, adult language and content. Not to be
used with young students without prior review
and consideration of community values.

 Writers on Writing


Level B Research Module

You will spend three class periods reading, thinking and writing about writing and writers. You will begin with the words and thoughts of strong writers. You will scan dozens of essays until you find several worth your time and consideration. You will then read them carefully with one of the questions below in mind. Finally, you will write an essay of your own summarizing your thoughts and reactions.

Questions for the New York Times Articles
Writers on Writing

  1. Most of the authors in this collection are considered exemplary. Pick out three essays and read them to see what the label "exemplary" may mean and then compare and contrast your three authors with regard to the extent that each deserves the label. You will need to create a diagram with Inspiration™ that includes your criteria and then attach and list examples from their essays to support your analysis.
  2. The writing style of many of these authors would be considered "bold," even "brash" by some more traditional writers and thinkers. Read 3-4 essays with an eye toward finding the one with the boldest style and then identify and explain the half dozen most important special effects, powerful devices and persuasive elements employed by that writer. End by judging whether or not the author has gone too far - far enough to deserve the label "bombastic" or "brash."
  3. Because these essays are personal commentaries about writing, we cannot judge them for their truth, but we can ask if the writers have shared a view powerfully and passionately. Pick out two essays in order to compare and contrast them with regard to those elements. Which author does the better job of building a strong emotional connection with you, the reader? Why do you think this is true and how did she or he achieve this connection?
  4. After scanning 4-5 essays, pick out the one that you think has the most important weaknesses. First write a somewhat tough critical review as if writing for a journal (300 words). Then write a warm and supportive message suggesting improvements (300 words) as if the writer were your student.
  5. If you were picking 2-3 essays from this collection that would be most encouraging to a young and aspiring high school writer, which would you select and why?
  6. Which 2-3 essays were most revealing or startling to you and why?


Credits: The drawings, photographs and graphics are by Jamie McKenzie.

Copyright, 2002, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.
Copyright Policy:
This Research Module may be used by teachers and
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