Getting to Know You:  An assignment developed by Edie Parrot:            

The main purpose of this assignment is for you to introduce yourself to your classmates.  All students will write this paper or poem, and then one or two students will read their papers at the beginning of class each day.  In this essay students will present one incident, event, or experience which has changed their lives or made them into the people they have become.   I have included example of essays and poems that help to define the writer.

Choose an event, situation, or experience that has had a tremendous impact on your life.  Describe the event and then tell how the event has changed you.  The event / incident / experience which you describe may be a huge event such as the death of a loved one, or it may be a simple event such as a childhood play experience.  The only requirement is that the event must have changed you or changed your view of life in some way.  For obvious reasons, this paper/poem must be written in first-person point of view.                                                 

The tone of your paper may be serious, poignant, humorous, angry, etc.  Obviously, the event or experience and what you learned from the event or experience should dictate the tone of your paper.

Examples of Topics

*  the first day of school (elementary, middle, or high school)
*  a divorce or change in the family structure
*  a transfer to a new town, school, neighborhood
*  a memorable vacation
*  an award or achievement which impacted your life greatly
*  an important relationship which has changed you
*  a religious experience
*  a physical challenge
*  an illness or accident
*  an embarrassing event
*  an ambition or goal which you struggled to achieve (may be ongoing)

Please note that the event / incident / experience may have happened in one hour, or it may be an experience which took place over several years.  Don't worry about whether or not the topic you have selected is acceptable for this paper.  If the event or experience is important to you and impacted your life, it is a good topic for this assignment.

Organization and Questions

Think about your topic and make a jot list or outline of what you remember about this event or experience.  Although students may organize this paper in many ways, all papers will answer these fundamental questions:

1)  What is the event / incident / or experience.
2)  How did the experience take place? 
3)  Who was with you at the time, and what did these people add to your experience?
4)  What were your initial feelings, emotions, beliefs?
5)  How did you react or change immediately because of this experience?
6)  Looking back on the experience now, how did the event change you fundamentally?  Have your       feelings changed over time?
7)  Why is this experience / incident / event so memorable today?                                                                         

Remember to use sensory (Sounds, sights, tastes, odors, feelings, etc.) and concrete details to describe your experience.  Use descriptive language and dialogue which will allow your reader to feel as though he or she was there with you.   Example for Getting to Know You Paper:  

Visits to the Home


            The date was February 18, 2003. I woke up that morning thinking it would be another ordinary day in the life of a teenage girl in high school. Unfortunately, this day is now one that will be instilled in my memory forever. While sitting in class, a girl came into the room with a small, brightly colored piece of paper, and somehow I just automatically knew that it was for me.  Suddenly, I found myself stumbling to the front office, with an awful feeling in my stomach, grasping that small sheet of paper labeled “URGENT” like a small child clutching to the shirttail of its mother. Upon walking in the office I noticed my stepfather sitting on the bench, waiting anxiously for my arrival. Although he was trying to hide it, the expression on his face made my stomach turn. The next few memories are vague, but I remember riding in his big truck on the way home. He had wanted to wait to tell me what was going on until we had reached the house, but I insisted on knowing as soon as possible. I was sitting there nervously, trying to hang on to that last glimpse of hope and security before being faced with the bad news. Finally he sighed deeply and, casting his gaze in my direction, he stated bluntly, “Alan died this morning.”

            As the tears welled up in my eyes, the memories came flooding back. I peered out the window at the trees blurring by and, as the tears streamed down my face, I saw snapshots of the many nights spent visiting my father in the nursing home. I remembered always telling him about what we had done that day and how we wished he could have been there. I remembered the numerous loads of spoiled laundry. I just could never seem to get the stench of stale urine out of them. I remembered Christmas evenings spent at the nursing home reading cards to Alan, opening his gifts for him, and hoping and believing that somehow he was hearing us, or feeling our presence, and could understand. It broke my heart to see him like that, but what hurt even more was knowing that he was in that broken body somewhere trying to communicate to us, trying to tell his children that he loved us, but he just couldn’t.  He was unable to walk, unable to move much on his own except for the spasms, unable to talk or communicate in any fashion, incapable of feeding himself, or even chewing. There was a tube in his stomach that took in the puréed drippings of food so that he could survive yet another day. I remember them saying to me when I was little, “Well, you see, Daddy just doesn’t want to waste time with chewing and swallowing so he has this tube that takes his food directly to his stomach. Isn’t that neat?” I had never known that people really lived like this. My father was in this condition for thirteen miserable years and I never understood why he was made to suffer this way.

    The nursing home was not a place I enjoyed visiting but thinking about my father and  knowing that he spent every minute in there made me want to visit him and possibly bring him some hope. I always wished that it would be the highlight of his day. Sometimes, if he were in his wheelchair, we would roll him outside, allowing him to bask in the sunshine and breathe the fresh air. Some days, if we were lucky, he might manage to force a strained sort of half grin.These were the days that filled us with hope and those are the memories I like to think back on. 

      Visiting the home became quite a depressing experience. Walking in, the first thing that hit me would be the unique odor filling my nostrils. It was the smell of stale urine, old milk, processed and puréed foods, fresh linens and cleaning chemicals. Looking down at my feet, something I still tend to do when I walk, I could almost make out my reflection in the shiny white tile below. The bright, fluorescent lights overhead made me feel bare and exposed. Pastel-colored floral patterns clothed the naked walls. It was a vain attempt at making the place feel more inviting and homely. As I continued down the hall towards the room I knew so well, I would see nurses in brightly colored scrubs zipping in and out of rooms, trying to make their rounds. Sometimes the busy ladies would speak to me saying, “Why hello there little Miss Lacey and how are you doing today?” Smiling shyly, I would mutter some answer I knew they wanted to hear, a practice I still keep up today. Then finally I would turn into that familiar room and see him in such a miserable, melancholy state as always.

            I saw shiny instruments, machines that beeped, and bags that hung high above my head.The contents slowly made their way down the tubing; the unknown substances seeped into his veins. The splints forced on his arms looked painful, but he needed them because his muscles had become so tense that it had caused his arms to retract. My throat always tightened a little whenever I laid eyes on him. Lying on his bed, he was surrounded by pictures of us and other family members, bulletin boards overflowing with cards and lovely inspirational messages, and little mementos reminding him of the things he had once enjoyed and could do before the accident. The daily visits sadly became just part of the routine, but they still seemed to always put things in perspective for me. I learned not to take what I have for granted and that everything I am able to do is truly a blessing. Keeping the right point of view is one of the most important aspects of life.

            Even though his condition was terrible for so many years, his death still came as a shock.  As strange as it sounds, I had become used to the man in the nursing home that I had always gone to visit. Hearing that he had passed away made me incredibly upset, but my feelings were very mixed and confused. Because of the pitiful state he had suffered in for thirteen years, I was relieved that he was no longer in pain and that he had finally gone on to a better place. But part of me had always believed that he would somehow get better. There were always days that were better than others and periods where he would improve considerably so I guess there was always a part of me that believed a miracle could happen. And if anyone deserved a miracle, I just knew it was my daddy. And maybe his miracle was death in that he was finally freed from that body of misery and despair. My initial feeling of shock and surprise has now faded, and I now feel more relieved that he is no longer suffering. Now he is in a better place, the tables have turned, and he visits me each day, looking over me and protecting me just like I knew he always wanted to.

Refections:   I wrote this piece for an assignment that had to be something autobiographical. At first I thought this event would be something difficult for me to write about, but once I got going the whole thing came very easily. This was an event in my life that I have never talked much about.  It was really such a release to finally get some of it out and down on paper. I feel pleased with how this piece came together in the end and I hope you enjoy it. 

Celluloid is a medium on which a director writes his/her vision of a story.  Image, sound, lighting and camera work all contribute to the stated and subconscious meaning as reflected in the mind of the viewer.

Note the conversational style, the short sentences and paragraphs, and the interesting comparisons that most movie reviewers use.  Pay attention to how the writer captures the reader's attention in the beginning and then observe how the writer interjects specific examples from the movie to support statements the reviewer makes about the movie. 

Your Movie Review Must Contain:

*  Title, director, distributor, length in minutes, and major actors and actresses of the movie
*  Rating the Movie received (G, PG, R, etc) and why this rating was given
*  An interesting opening paragraph which captures the attention of readers
*  Background about the movie - a short review of the general plot of the movie
*  Specific statements about the quality of the camera work, lighting, sounds, etc.
*  Supporting examples (quotes, scenes, etc) for all statements about the quality of the direction 
*  A short statement of the kind of person who might enjoy the movie
*  Your rating for the interest level of the movie.  Devise you own system like A-F or 5 stars, etc.
*  An interesting closing line or thought-provoking statement

Reading / Analysis / Précis / Discussion Preparation

For each article, which we read in the Norton textbook or from handouts, you must complete the following assignment.  All assignments must be typed, submitted to Turnitin, and turned in on the day that we are scheduled to discuss the article.  Assignments will not be accepted late.  If you are absent, please e-mail the assignment to me.

1.    In preparation for the class discussion of each article, you must read and analyze the assigned essay or article the night before.

2.    Write a précis (brief synopsis no more than ½ page, single spaced) of the article to hand in at the beginning of class.  I will collect these each day, and the grade will count as a daily grade.  The assignment must be typed (single spaced).  If the assignment is not typed and completed properly, the student will receive a "0" on the assignment and will have no opportunity to remove the grade.  Do not forget to label each synopsis with the title and author of the article.  Within the precis, state the essay’s original copyright  and the magazine, journal, or book where the essay was first published.  (Underline or italicize titles of magazines and journals.) 

3.      Provide a bulleted list of new vocabulary words (with definitions) you learn from the article.

4.      State the tone of the article in one, two, or three words

5.    List 5 examples of rhetorical strategies which you find in the article along with the phrase or sentence in which the strategy occurs.  Cite page number in parenthetical documentation.   Examples:

     Metaphor   Angels wings for wives’ conversations (238)

     Metaphor   Skillet for aircraft carrier (183)

7.    Include an interesting, memorable, or provocative quotation from the article and be prepared to read an interesting passage aloud to the class.

Grading for Synopsis


Excellent, concise, and specific summary of article which exhibits excellent writing and a thorough understanding of the reading selection.


Good and concise summary of article which exhibits excellent writing and a good understanding of the reading selection.


Satisfactory summary of article which exhibits good writing and a scanty or incomplete understanding of the reading selection.


Incomplete summary of article and only superficial understanding of the assigned reading.


Rush Job - Synopsis reflects that the student utilized little thought in reading and/or completing the synopsis


Incomplete Assignment


Student fails to turn in the assignment at the beginning of class.  Or, the assignment is not written according to the specifications for the assignment.


 “Guys vs. Men” Analysis

        Dave Barry’s 1999 essay from the Mami Herald examines the differences between men and women in a humorous passage that confronts many societal stereotypes about gender roles.  Barry elucidates the disparity between a “man” and a “guy,” although he readily admits that even he is not sure of what it really means to be a “guy.”  Guys, he says, are not concerned with details or rearranging furniture; they like to play with complex and intricate things to occupy themselves.  Guys are also relentlessly competitive creatures, and they strive to be the best at whatever they do.  It does not matter if the contest in question is completely pointless and irrelevant; guys still have to outdo one another.  Many of the greatest inventions and technological advancements in history have come from the innate nature of men and their desire to perform as well as possible.  In addition to outdoing each other in physical competitions, guys also must outdo each other when it comes to other manly things, such as trucks or computers.  Even though the truck or computer a guy currently owns may be more than sufficient for his needs, he will inevitably upgrade to a bigger and better model within a few years.   Women often do not understand why men act the way they do, and the same is true regarding the man’s view of women in general.  Barry tackles age-old gender stereotypes and comments on them in a humorous way that enlightens readers about the differences between men and women.


None for this article


Rhetorical Terms

·        Oversimplification/Humor – “being male primarily consists of … possessing a set of minor and frequently unreliable organs” (p. 343)

·        Hyperbole – “[my computer] is probably capable of supervising the entire U.S. air-defense apparatus while simultaneously processing the tax return of every resident of Ohio” (p. 344)

·        Personification – “[my computer] sits there, humming impatiently, bored to death, passing the time” (p. 344)

·        Hyperbole – “twenty-three Advil in my bloodstream” (p. 346)

·        Simile – “Guys are similar to my small auxiliary backup dog, Zippy” (p. 347)


“[my computer] is probably capable of supervising the entire U.S. air-defense apparatus while simultaneously processing the tax return of every resident of Ohio” (344).


We will engage in vocabulary enrichment exercises including the study of root words and word families.  We will review the words in class on Mondays, and all quizzes will be on Fridays.  We will work with words from your readings that have been identified as having been featured on the SAT exam by the College Board and the rhetorical terms that will enable you to discuss literature with authority.

Reading: Reading in an integral part of the study of language, and as such we will engage in not only the reading of literature, but discussion and analysis of the issues presented by the authors.  All of the books you will be assigned this year are part of the American Cannon.  Some of the novels are classics, some are contemporary masterpieces; all are worthy of your study and contemplation.  You will be expected to complete your reading assignments, failure to do so will result in a lowering of your grade:  you WILL be expected to participate in class discussions.

We will read several books during the semester. 

Book I:   Fahrenheit 415  by Ray Bradbury
This is a short book which we will read during the opening days of the semester.  You will be given a copy to read.

Book II: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret AtwoodThis is a futuristic dystopian novel whose theme and content is both adult in nature.  If you or your parents object to reading books which contain adult situations and language, I will make an alternate selection available.  (Alternate:  The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand) You must purchase this book by September 1, 2008.Book III: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Often considered one of the greatest American novels, this book tells the story of Hester Prynne, a puritan of great, but flawed character.  We will explore the roots of the American psyche through this novel.  You will be given a copy to read.

Play I:  The Crucible by Arthur Miller

This novel brings the concepts introduced by your initial readings into an examination of our past and present.  We will read this play in class.

Book IV:  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This is considered by some to be the greatest American novel.  Ernest Hemingway, when referring to this book, said that all American Literature began with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You will be given a copy to read.

Book V:  The Awakening by Kate Chopin

This is the exploration of the feminist struggle in the late 19th Century. Beautiful and lyrical, this novel has a transformative effect on the reader.  You will be given a copy to read.

Book VI:  1984  by George OrwellLong considered the pinnacle of dystopian novels, this book takes a look at a futuristic world and offers a warning about our own destiny.  You must purchase this book by December 10, 2008.  This will be your winter break reading assignment.