Tutor profile: Tabitha D.
Where do you start when beginning an essay?
Assuming you have your main topic and supporting ideas/points/evidence (depending on the type of essay you are writing) all ready to go, because you should have all this before you begin the writing process, you should start with an outline. Many students tend to grumble at the idea of an outline because it can feel like extra work, but it is actually super helpful to at least rough-draft an outline before you begin your essay to simplify the organization process. Essays can feel daunting, especially to students who don't enjoy writing or who haven't written an essay before, so the easier you can make it on yourself the better off you will be in the end. I recommend a simple outline to A) help you remember to include all the pieces of the essay and B) help guide your writing so the essay doesn't feel so daunting. Instead, it breaks your essay up into smaller pieces that are easier to concentrate on when you focus in one at a time. The outline is as follows: Thesis/Main Idea - Supporting idea/Evidence #1 - Supporting idea/Evidence #2 - Supporting idea/Evidence #3 Counterclaim (If required/if writing an argumentative essay) Thesis/Main Idea Restated (RE-worded) Each piece of that list can begin with 1-2 sentences, and then you expand on each piece from there once you're prepared. Those sentences give you a simple base to build a paragraph from, which will end up forming your essay.
How do you figure out what the author's point was in a story?
The short answer: You guess. The long answer: Often readers will focus in on a particular part of the story when reading, and they believe that they discover the author's point in that part. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they are wrong. In truth, we often don't know what "the" point of any piece of literature is because authors tend not to tell us outright. What we can do, however, is guess using context clues (just like when we learn vocabulary). Your teacher most likely introduced this piece of literature to you in the context of when, where, and by whom it was written - this is important information! Your teacher is giving you the context clues toward the author's point by showing you where the author is coming from. In addition to this, you can identify themes within the story to help you mold what you see as the author's point. Are there themes about race, family, war? Is it a coming of age novel? Is it written like a fictional biography? All of these things can help lead you toward the author's main point. The real reason why your teacher wants you to be able to identify the main point is because they want you to be able to identify these clues to try to understand why the author felt this idea was so important that they committed themselves to writing it down. Guessing is okay, as long as you can present the clues that led you there.
How do you identify a theme in a novel or piece of literature?
When looking for a theme, students often confuse it for the main idea of a story/piece of literature. The difference is that the main idea is what the story is mostly about, but a theme is a lesson or moral in the story (and despite what many believe, one story can have several themes!). Using a popular example; You could say the main idea of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is that Harry becomes apart of a new world in which he discovers that he plays a very important role for its future safety. Unlike the main idea, a theme within the story might be "friendship and teamwork can overcome any obstacle," or it could be "good can conquer over evil, as long as you strive to do what is right."
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