Tag Archives: outline

Week 36 – A Pop Essay to Make You Foam at the Mouth


As the year is winding down, I’ve been wanting to assess my students on the writing process when left totally up to them.  I also wanted to know what they took from the movie “A Knight’s Tale” that we watched in class as part of our unit on the middle ages.  (We watched a safer, denuded, and cleaned up “airplane” version.)   So when they came back from recess, I said, “Okay, Pop Essay!  Get out binder paper and your notes.”


Using your notes and the True/False list you made while viewing the A Knight’s Tale, outline and write a first draft of an expository essay.  You have one class period only.

 Here is your prompt:  How historically accurate is the movie “A Knight’s Tale”?  Describe the most important moments that are accurate and explain why, and then describe the most interesting  moments that are inaccurate and explain why.  What conclusions can you draw about our popular notion of the middle ages based on the film?

Do your outline here.


The students never batted an eye.  They all got out paper and their notes, and we looked at the prompt.

We took a minute to “deconstruct” the prompt.  First I asked them where we would find our thesis statement.  We underlined the first question.  I explained that they would need to turn it into a statement, but clearly I need to go over it again because one student used the question as it was written.

Then we numbered the jobs that the prompt was asking to be answered.   We put a 1 at “describe” and drew an arrow to what we were to describe and circled it: the important moments.  Then we put a 1a at the word “why” to remind us to give examples and reasons.  Then we put a 2 at the second “describe” drew a circle around the words “interesting moments” and drew a squiggly line under the word “interesting” to make it clear that “important” and “interesting” are two different concepts.  Then we put a 2a at the word, “why”.

Then we looked at the last sentence, and students were relieved to see the word “conclusions”. They accurately connected the word to a conclusion paragraph.  You don’t need to do it that way, but it does make a nice way to wrap up your thoughts.

Then I introduced the idea of the magic number 3.  They need two sets of moments.  Emphasis on the plural.  I told them that it is always useful to pick three ideas to support their thesis.  This meant that with a topic sentence they would be looking at about seven sentences for their body paragraphs.  Each moment must be supported.  The three moments plus three examples plus one topic sentence equals about seven sentences.  That gave them an idea of the length of the paper.

I wanted them to give me strong outlines, and so I told them that they needed to make the outline specific enough that if they didn’t finish the paper, I could still give them credit based on what they were planning to say as shown in their outline.  One the other hand, I warned them that they didn’t want to make the outline so specific that they didn’t have time to write it.  Only one didn’t get to write.  But his outline is amazing.  (We’ll work on it.)  Some finished early.  I told them that in this case, they need to check that they were on topic, then do as much revision as possible before the essays are picked up.  They needed to think about legibility, grammar and mechanics, idea and content, organization, word choice, and voice.

It takes time to master timed writing. They should not beat themselves up because they didn’t finish, but to consider why they hadn’t.

Instead of posting several essays, I thought I could get more student’s work up if I cherry picked some paragraphs and moments that I found to be most interesting.

Here are some openings:

The movie “A Knight’s Tale” focuses on medieval times.  But is the movie accurate to history?  In this paper:  What is accurate?  What is inaccurate? and why?

How accurate is the movie “A Knight’s Tale”? This movie is about a squire, the helper of a knight, named William, and how he changed his stars.  Which means that he went from squire to knight.

Is “A Knight’s Tale” historically inaccurate? Or is it both?  Let us find out.

And some 1st body paragraphs:

This will be the accurate section of my paper.  Training daily is a huge part of a knight’s  life.  That is how they have lots of power to hold these huge swords (not always big swords, but heavy).  Courtly love is love in the nobility.  One of the rules is when you speak to your lover, you will foam at the mouth.  The Black Prince is a real character.  His real name is Prince Edward.  He is famous for his victories.  He does help other kings and, yes, he does tournaments.  There is still many more. 

First of all, this movie had a lot of accuracies, some unexpected.  There was, in fact, daily training for all knights.  William wasn’t doing a lot of extra training. All the rules of jousting and the stuff that happened (including getting hurt) did happen.  This is important because it was actually unwarped despite how silly it sometimes seemed.  William also followed the rules of courtly love.  That is very important because to some people could see that it would be crazy how one would follow and constantly think about another.

Now I will describe a few accurate parts.  Most of the dances were accurate, but not all of them were.  This was important because William got closer to the girl he liked.  Only widows having men’s job (blacksmithing) was accurate.  William needed a good blacksmith.  People were hanged.  Roland uses this to show William what could happen to him.

First, I will discuss the accuracies of this movie. First on accuracies is Knights.  Knights had to have people pay them taxes so they can go to a tournament.  Also, in Europe, if you are not of noble birth, you cannot be a knight.  Next is Ulric von Lichtenstein.  Ulric was an actual character from history who was a knight.  Next is apprentices.  Most children were apprenticed around the age of 7.

And some 2nd body paragraphs (I didn’t give the whole paragraphs for some of these because there was a lot of repetition.)

This next paragraph is about how inaccurate it is.  They filled the lances with pasta.  The makers did that so they could have an effect.  The blacksmith put a Nike symbol on the armor.  First, they didn’t have Nike, and second the blacksmiths did not put a symbol on armor (as far as we know).  They did not know what people looked like back then.  For example, the Black Prince, we don’t know what he looks like.

Now I will explain three false moments.  One of them is that David Bowie did not exist then.  He was born very recently.  The outfits for women were very inaccurate. They looked like “Star Wars” clothes!  The lances broke.  They wouldn’t have been able to afford so many.

Next,  the inaccurate moments.  They had no trial for criminals.  When William got arrested, he went straight to public humiliation.  They also filled the lances with linguini.  I would not expect to see that in the middle ages, but it did add pop to the jousting.  Finally, the women used hair dye.  We know that women would dress their hair elaborately, but did not color their hair. 

Finally, roses were pink and white, not deep red.

They did not eat turkey legs.

First, in the middle ages, there was no hair dye and women would have worn their hair up and covered.  I know this because we have watched many middle ages documentaries and they said exactly that.

And for some conclusions:

Not thinking historically, this movie was funny and exciting.  If we had not learned about the middle ages, everyone in the class would think that the middle ages wasn’t all that bad.  They also would think most knights were mostly too snobby and proud to congratulate anyone else.  If everyone had thought these things, they would be totally wrong.

I learned that some movies are accurate and some aren’t.  Example, this one was more accurate.  I learned and saw some of the rules of courtly love. Like when the two lovers, William and Jocelyn, are talking and William is tripping over his words and you can hear him.

I am very pleased with the results.  The students’ voices come out loud and clear while strongly reflecting what we learned in class.  They also had little problem transferring the writing process to a quick essay test.  So, yay, yay, and yay.

So, here’s to Heath Ledger (god rest his soul), people having fun with History, and whoever created the essay.  Add them all up, and you get statements like “when you speak to your lover, you foam at the mouth.”


Week 32 – Student B’s Offering


I’ve uploaded more student papers.  This student wrote his compare and contrast paper on Sherlock Holmes and Scrooge.  It has the same rubric as before.

Let’s see what he’s done.

sherscrooge compare

And the contrast brainstorm:
sherscrooge contrast

Then the plot development chart. For some reason we are missing one of the plots.
sherscrooge plot chart

Then the outline. Notice that he has chosen to outline conclusion directly after introduction.
sherscrooge outline 1
sherscrooge outline 2
sherscrooge outline 3

Then the first draft:
sherscrooge 1st 1
sherscrooge 1st 2
sherscrooge 1st 3

Then the second draft:
sherscrooge 2nd 1
sherscrooge 2nd 2
And for some reason we are missing the final page…

Then the third draft:
sherscrooge 3rd 1
sherscrooge 3rd 2
sherscrooge 3rd 3

Then the Personal Skills Record:
sherscrooge PSR 1
sherscrooge PSR 2

Then the final draft:
sherscrooge 4th 1
sherscrooge 4th 2
sherscrooge 4th 3

And finally, the Rubric with the final grade:
sherscrooge final rubric

And there it is! A job well done. A paper I think most high school students would be proud of.

Week 31 – Student A’s Response: Final Draft!


You heard it, the culmination of over a month’s worth of work on the Humanities Paper: the hallowed Final Draft.  Let angels sing.

And here is it: You will see all the work shown in previous posts add up in this paper. Now, I want to say that this is a 5th/6th classroom. This student is a sixth grader, aged 11 or 12 for non-Americans.  As she grows and changes, and as she re-reads these books over time, she will gain more insight and understanding because that’s how life works. Do I agree with everything she said? No. Do I need to? No. What I want is for her to present her ideas and justify them, and that she does. Am I completely and totally proud of her and her work? You betcha!

A note. Any corrections students make when they proof their paper before they turn it in do not come off of their grade. You will see that Student A made a few slight changes right before handing it in.

Final 1 tree
Final 2 tree
Final 3 tree

And the final graded rubric is below. Notice that I do not write on a final draft. There is no need. Every document that she turned in is a working document, and should show signs of revision.  All information is conveyed on the rubric below.  Students are invited to take the graded rubrics home for “braggin’ rights,” but the stack of pages making up the final paper, goes into the student’s portfolio.  And on to next months paper…

Rubric tree

Week 31 – Student A’s Response: Outline


The Outline- This is where Student A picked up the ideas she wanted from her brainstorm and her plot development chart and put them in the order in which she wanted to present to her readers.  You may notice little green lines underlining certain ideas.  I did this to help the student to see places where her reader would have questions.  She answered the questions in the margins and went on to write her first draft.  Although I try to get students to not write complete sentences, sometimes they just can’t help it.

outline 1 tree
Outline 2 tree
Outline 3 tree

Week 8- The Power of Pothos: 6th Grade History Essays


Alexander History Essay Test Question:

In a four paragraph essay (Intro, 2 body, conclusion) brainstorm, outline, and draft (1st) this question:  Compare and contrast Alexander the Great and Iskander the Accursed.  Defend what made him great.  Explain what made him accursed.

Student 1- The Power of Pothos   (Pothos means an unquenchable yearning)

In this essay on Alexander the Great, I will question wether he is all that great or not.  I will pick out the important parts which make him who he is and what he did.

I will start with the things that made him a great and reasonable conqueror.  When he was young one of his great achievements was taming a wild horse, which he used for almost half of his life. I think this shows his self-bravery, throughout.  Later in his life as he rules most of Asia, he captures his enemy’s wife and children, but takes very good care of them, even if they are different from him.  He is also “great” for his intelligence in political strategy, for example when he fights one of his last battles with King Porrus, even though Porrus surrenders, Alexander is impressed with him and gives back his kingdom.  But possibly he did this to make a good ally.  It’s also very impressive that when in battle Alexander is always encouraging his men and does not take all the glory just because he is king.  Lastly, Alexander’s love for the arts and philosophy shows why he kept his powerful pothos.

Now I will explain what some cultures think of Alexander as a cursed king.  I think the over all terrible thing that happens is that his power corrupts him to even kill his own historian for giving him wisdom.  Second to that is his forgetfulness of the importance of the Persian palace as he burns it to ashes.  3rd to this is the massacres that he goes through with no explanation.  And fourth of all was what he left behind him, because after he died he left the countries he conquered in a world of unrest.

I left my reader off with lots to think about.  But overall I think that Alexander corrupted himself with the power he earned through all of his accomplishments.

Student 2- Essay Comparing and Contrasting Alexander of Macedon

This essay will mainly be around the question “Compare Alexander the Great to Iskander the Accursed”. They are both Alexander of Macedon, but two different points of views on him. I will compare them both, and contrast them both.
Now I will compare the two. He was both when he built roads, and killed the Persians and King Darius. He was also both because he was mortal. And his troops responses considered him to be both. And he was known almost all over the entire eastern side of the Earth for doing great things and terrible things.

Now I will state the differences between the two. He was great because he was very smart (politically). Another reason for him being great was how he was nice(ish) to his troops! He motivated and helped them (sometimes, only when Alex needed them to continue). And some people almost loved him for what he did! Now I will say some of the things that made him terrible. One thing that made him terrible (and probably the most obvious one to) is that he killed so many people that were innocent! And that made a lot of people hate him. Plus he was a terrible ruler!!
Well, time to wrap it all up. I think that there are two sides to every story. And to understand the story, you have to understand both sides. And my personal opinion on Alexander is that he was terrible! Mainly because, no one should want to kill so many people and no one should want to conquer so much land. Especially if you’re not prepared to deal with it.

Student 3- Great or Not so Great?

In this essay I will explain how Alexander of Macedon was Alexander the Great and how he was also Iskander the Accursed. During Alexander’s life the Greeks were pretty much the only people who thought that Alexander was great. The rest of the world thought he was accursed. Many people at this time were both great and bad. It was just the time period.

This paragraph will explain how Alexander of Macedon was Alexander the Great. A feat that made everyone around him impressed was when he tamed an “untamable” horse named Bucephalus. He also built large postal roads going through all of Macedonia once he conquered the Persians. Alexander unties the Gordian knot. The legend of the Gordian knot was whoever untied the knot would become the lord of Asia. Alexander also made Tyre become a peninsula as oppose to an island when he built the amazing Tyre causeway. Alexander also invaded Persia for revenge when the Persians burned down Athens. The Greeks were happy about this because they thought something like, “Yay! He’s gonna avenge us!” Last, another thing that made him great was when Alexander gave King Porus’s kingdom back.

This paragraph will explain how Alexander of Macedon was Iskander the Accursed. He became cruel by acts that drove him insane. The death of Hephaestion made him insane and I am also sure the death of his only son ever also drove him insane. Another thing that would make him insane is that he killed his second best friend (Hephaestion was his first best friend) Cleitus at a drunk party. Cleitus was a general. One thing more that would have made him psycho is when he became deathly sick which not only reminded him that he was mortal but he really wanted to die in battle. He also became more evil when Callisthenes says he needs to stay Greek. That made him really mad. He was additionally Iskander the Accursed when he persecuted the Zoroastrians. Another not to good deed was he was funding his campaign with slaves. It was pretty bad when he burned Persepolis on top of all that.

Overall, I think Alexander of Macedon was neither good nor bad because I do not think his deeds did much to me. I have shown how he is both good and bad so remember not to just say he was one side and one side only. The reason his deeds grew worse is because absolute power corrupts absolutely. Finally, the source of Alexander’s strength was he thought he was the son of Zeus which gave him mental power which gave him physical power in the body.

Student 4-  Accursed or Great?

Is Alexander the Great not so great?  Some call him Iskandar the Accursed.  He can be either but sometimes he is both.  For example, in the desert, his men gave him the last of the water in a helmet.  Instead of drinking it, or giving it to him men, he pours it on the ground.

Now, if we zoom in on Alexander’s bad side, one, too, can see the deaths caused by so called “Alexander the Great.”  The massacres he commits are too great a number to count all the lives dead by his hand.  But, I would estimate about… 450,000 innocents and enemies slain.  He was brutal and bloody, pushing people off of cliffs, some by opposition’s own free will.  He pushed his men too far over the limit of their abilities, killing without trial, and suspending freedom of speech.

Though, we do have to give him credit for the empires he conquered.  He was kind to his men by cheering them on to greater lengths.  Agreeing to turn away when he knew it was too far.  If he saw fit to reward, he does.  So brave, as to not turn back when he only had an army of three men with him against a few hundred.  His men truly loved him.

Now one can see the different views.  He funded him men, so they cound have less death in their army, but funded it with slavery, not so great.  One sees not he is both great and accursed.  What does, my friend, he seem to you?
It’s not a bad start.  –  Me