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During the next three lessons, you will write a 2–3 page personal essay in which you reflect on a personal experience or a set of related experiences. Your essay should be a combination of true, personal story telling and reflection on what that experience means or how it changed you. In addition to hearing about your life experience(s), the reader should take away some larger idea or truth from your essay.
A personal essay consists of your personal thoughts and experiences. Most of the essay will consist of relating a single true event or a couple related events, like the story-telling or narration you will read in this lesson, but personal essays must have a point or a thesis. It is not enough to simply tell of the “interesting thing that once happened to me.” You must reflect on the significance of your experience. What did you learn from it? What does it mean? How did it change you?
Bad Thesis: My family moved around a lot when I was a child. I never lived in one house for more than two years.
Better Thesis: Because my family moved often when I was young, I learned that “home” is not defined by a house or a particular location. Home is being with your family, wherever that may be.
Bad Thesis: When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. (shallow, cliché)
Better Thesis: Trials are a refining process that reveal our true character, for suffering helps us discover those things that truly matter most in life.
Remember, you are not just rambling on about feelings or memories. Everything you put in your personal essay should relate to your main idea.
Usually, in persuasive essays, thesis statements are near the beginning. Personal essays, however, offer more flexibility on where you make your point. Sometimes writers will first tell an interesting story, then reflect on its meaning (or make the point) toward the end. Sometimes the point in a personal essay is never stated directly, but implied throughout. But just remember, you will want to show how your experience and thoughts helped you come to understand some larger, more universal truth. Although the focus or thesis doesn't have to be stated in the first paragraph it should be reflected in the title, implied throughout the essay, and reflected on in the conclusion.
In other words, your essay must answer the question, “So what?”
Due: You will work on this paper in phases. The final draft is not due until Saturday of Lesson 12. Use the following stipulations when writing your essay:
•Length: 2–3 pages
•Format: •Double space.
•Use Times New Roman font.
•Use 12-pt font.
•Have one-inch margins.
•Do not triple space between paragraphs.
•Indent the beginning of each paragraph.
•Include and center a title for your essay.
Step 1: Read the Personal Essay Rubric below which describes the grading criteria for the final draft of your essay to better understand the expectations and goals for the final writing assignment. Notice that the first category is about the main idea of your paper, the second category is about the support and detail in your essay, the third grading category addressed the organization and unity of your paper, and the remaining grading category refers to the grammar, mechanics, and formatting you use.
Click here for a printable version of the rubric.
Step 2: Read through the assignment description for this lesson’s writing assignment below. You will use this page to submit your outline (see below for further details). The outline is worth 10 points and is due Saturday.
Write an “explanatory” outline of your personal essay. This will help you answer some important questions before you start the paper, such as what life experience you are going to write about and what sorts of themes and ideas you will draw out of that experience. Make sure that your outline offers a good overview of your planned essay. This assignment is the first step of the larger personal essay. You cannot complete or understand this assignment until you have carefully read the personal essay assignment description above.
Step 3 (optional): If you are unsure of what to write about, use this pre-writing and brainstorming activity to get the creative juices flowing.
(This activity will not be turned in. If you are not sure what to write about, use this activity as a tool to get going. Completing this activity does not fulfill the assignment.)
1. On a piece of paper, write a few ideas in response to each of the following prompts:
•List a few turning points in life—events that changed you.
•Identify a conversion experience when you learned the truth of some spiritual principle—or perhaps the gospel itself. It can also be a conversion to a certain idea or cause.
•Identify a difficult or complicated life experience you have still not quite made peace with or that you do not quite understand.
2. Choose 2–3 of the most promising topics you listed above, and then answer the following questions on paper:
•Why is this important to me?
•Why do I still remember this?
•How did this change me?
•So what? What might others take from this experience?
3. Now that you have written a bit on each topic, ask yourself which topic had the most energy behind it? In other words, which one caused ideas and memories to start flooding your mind? Which topic brought up the most emotion?
4. Don’t be afraid to explore those places you normally don’t think about. The topic that evokes the most emotion or energy—whether joyful, painful, or otherwise—is the story inside you that wants to be told.
Lesson 10 Assignment: Explanatory Outline
For this week’s writing assignment, you will bring a draft of your “explanatory outline” to the Thursday gathering to be able to receive peer feedback. You will then submit your outline to your instructor by Saturday of this lesson.
Step 1: Read the example of an explanatory outline to better understand what is expected for this lesson’s writing assignment.
Example of an Explanatory Outline for THIS assignment:
Personal Essay Outline
Thesis: Mostly from this experience, I know that sometimes I will be asked to overcome trials and sometimes I will be asked to endure. By turning to the Lord I can learn to do either one “well.”
1.I will start by briefly explaining how my roommate committed suicide.
2.I will explain how my motto up to that point had been “I will succeed because of, not in spite, trials.
3.I will explain a little while this trial then posed such a great problem with that motto.
4. I will go into some of the experiences dealing with it.1.Sitting at the temple.
2.Remembering “President Spencer W. Kimball said that we need what he called ‘reservoirs of faith’ to stand firm and strong against all the temptations and adversities of life.”
3.Reading C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed.
Conclusion: I concluded that sometimes we are asked to overcome and succeed because of trials, but sometimes we are just asked to endure. By turning to the Lord we can have the strength needed to do either one.
Step 2: Compose your outline in word processing software. Proofread and edit your work. Be sure to correct any spelling errors.
Step 3: Remember to bring three copies of your outline to the Gathering to discuss it with your classmates.
Step 4: Submit your outline by Saturday by clicking the Open button below and copy and paste your work into the comment box. Do not worry if your formatting does not appear in this box. This is normal.
Note: You are only required to submit one draft of your outline this week.
Note: For your first drafts and rough drafts, you probably will not receive feedback and critique from the instructor. You will receive feedback during the peer review activity at each Gathering. If you have a specific concern about your paper that is not answered during the peer review, contact your instructor.
During the next three lessons, you will write a 2–3 page personal essay in which you reflect on a personal experience or a set of related experiences. Your essay should be a combination of true, personal story telling and reflection on what that experience means or how it changed you.