|Schreibprojekt 4: Meinung zu einem kontroversen Thema|
On Friday in class, you will be writing a short essay. Your assignment will be to take a stance (either for or against, or explaining your opinion on) a controversial topic revolving around one of the topics below. The questions you can choose from are the following:|
The following worksheet is designed to guide you in preparing vocabulary (to conserve in-class writing time) and in beginning to think about the topic you’re interested in. Hopefully you have a strong opinion about (at least) one of the topics listed above; as you read through this worksheet, you should make a decision as to which one you would like to write about. Friday in class, you may use this worksheet, your dictionary, and your textbook (if needed, generally most students don’t). Please do fill out this worksheet, at least partially: I’d like to look at it as I grade your essays (although it’s not officially a part of your grade).
I. Structure and Organization of the Essay
I assume that you all know how to write a well-structured expository essay, but I’d like to clarify what I’ll be looking for in your writing tomorrow. Apart from the purely German elements -- yes, grammar and style will be graded, though I’ll be fairly lenient on “nitpicky” grammar -- there are certain elements that your essay should contain. Please read over the following and be aware of these points when you begin to write.
First and foremost, you must state your position and opinion on the issue at hand, and give reasons for your opinion. Generally speaking, you should state your opinion (your thesis statement) early on in the essay, usually in the first few sentences (unless you have a very long introduction!). If possible, a “hook” or other good introductory comment is a nice addition; you could, for example, make a humorous, controversial, or attention-grabbing statement to introduce your opinion. The first paragraph should also provide a context for your discussion by introducing the topic, giving general background information as needed, and/or explaining your terminology and the situation you’re discussing.
The successive paragraphs (probably only 1-2 of them, considering the 50-minute class period) should explain the reasons for your opinion and present supporting arguments that justify your beliefs. Occasionally you may choose to cite counterarguments, i.e. positions opposed to your own, so that you may then dismantle or disprove them. Ideally, your arguments should progress logically from one to the next, so take some time to consider and plan your ideas before you begin writing. Of course this logical progression is harder to plan for when writing under a time deadline, but it’s good practice to see what you can accomplish. The most important thing in these paragraphs is clarity, logic, and reasoning: state your views clearly, define your terms, and beware of getting side-tracked onto tangents.
You should try to leave some time to write a short concluding paragraph (or at least a sentence or two). This conclusion should return you to your thesis (e.g. for or against the topic), but NOT simply leave it there. You can restate your opinion at this point if necessary, but you should also take a sentence or two to explain “who cares?” -- for example, why is this issue important, what impact does it have on the world, and what other issues are related to it.
Thus, the overall structure of your essay will probably look something like this:
(I realize that essay-writing is a skill that develops over time and with practice, and that individual style is very important. If you consider yourself to be a talented writer and prefer not to follow the structure as outlined here, that’s fine, but please make sure that your essay is effective, convincing, and solid in both content and form.)
II. Vocabulary and Content
You should now consider the type of vocabulary you will need to discuss your topic. There are certain standard words and phrases that are common in writing position statements; for your convenience, I’ve listed a few of them here. If others occur to you (think, perhaps of English essays you’ve written and what common phrases you’ve used), look them up now and add them here. Thus, for the introductory paragraph:
There are also specific words and phrases that deal with each of the three topics listed above. Please choose one topic now that you would like to write about, and make a list of words that you consider to be relevant. I’ve included a list here: of course you won’t need to use all of these words. Read through the list, highlighting those you think may be useful, and adding any of your own thoughts where needed.
Your additional vocabulary:
When considering the type of arguments you could use in your essay, you can prepare by thinking about the following questions. The following sections may help you come up with arguments and supporting statements for your stance, but be aware that you certainly don’t need to have ALL of these categories: two or three is plenty. I would like to see at least two separate “reasons” or “arguments” discussed in your essay -- one is not really enough to prove your point. More than two is great, but make sure that you devote enough time to at least two main points. Read through the sections below, and take some notes (in English or German) if any important thoughts occur to you.
Some arguments and reasons stem from personal experience. For example, in regard to the topics above: do you have gay or lesbian friends or relatives? Have you or your friends/relatives dealt with unwanted pregnancies or similar situations? Were you personally affected by the World Trade Center tragedy, or do you have friends/family in the Armed Forces? Think about the topic you’ve chosen, and write down any major personal experiences and/or vocabulary that you think may be useful.
Another important supporting point is factual information, such as current reports, statistics, laws, or evidence. Although you don’t need to research the current abortion rate in the U.S. or anything so detailed, do take a moment to write down some obvious factual information about your topic, such as common knowledge about the current situation, laws, or basic scientific research. For instance, is abortion legal in Wisconsin, or in your home state? Or: what is the current situation in Afghanistan? (On that note, I should mention that if there’s any late-breaking developments Friday morning, I certainly don’t expect you to try to incorporate them into your essay, although you can of course do so if you choose.)
Obviously, some of the reasons for your opinion may be based on philosophical or ideological beliefs. Consider questions like the following: are you religious? if so, what does your religion have to say about your topic? Are there political factors motivating your decision -- do you think of yourself as liberal, conservative, moderate, or neutral? Write down anything here that you believe falls into this category and is relevant.
Finally, don’t forget the possibility of counterarguments -- positions opposing your own. If you’d like to draw these into your essay, then write some information and vocabulary here. For instance, why are some people opposed to abortion or gay marriage, or what reasons do others have for wanting it prohibited? What would you say to these people? Why don’t you agree with them?
If you are up to it after all of that, here is a further list of miscellaneous vocabulary that may be used throughout your essay to tie your arguments together and to present your conclusions. Using this type of vocabulary to make your transitions and reasoning easier to follow can add a very nice “feel” or style to your writing, but is not 100% necessary. I would love to see some of these transitions in your writing on Friday, but again, I do know what it’s like to write under time pressure and would never require that you incorporate these rather advanced stylistic elements. But try, if you can! :) Feel free to add your own words here as well.
Congratulations! You should now be well-prepared for tomorrow’s essay. Don’t forget to bring this worksheet, your dictionary, and a clear head! (I’ll provide paper.) Viel Glück!