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Pedagogical Theory

Teaching the Summary Essay in ENG 1020

Within the current WSU composition sequence, the summary essay is usually associated with ENG 1010. Having taught all three courses in the sequence, however, my experience is that many 1020 students do not have strong summarization skills. What skills they do have are often oriented around their use of summary in literature-based courses or the book report genre. Given our program’s emphasis on argument and rhetoric and their role in the scholarly conversation, I use the summary essay in 1020 as a bridging genre that spans both the high school language arts curriculum and rhetorical analysis. As such, I use the summary assignment as the first project of the semester. For the second semester project, the rhetorical analysis essay, students craft a thesis-driven argument about the rhetorical strategies used in the primary text they study for their summary essay. I like using the same primary text for both assignments because it forces students to further develop their summary skills in condensing their two to three page summary down to a single paragraph (or so) as part of their analysis essay.

As in many 1020 sections, I break my 1020 syllabus down into projects. As a way of introducing each project, I write a Project Overview which functions as both a planning document for me and an introduction to the unit for students. The overview for the summary essay can be downloaded
here and contains:
• A general description of the unit
• A listing of the unit’s learning objectives
• the instructional sequence and calendar for the unit
• the assignment description and rubric.
What I have not included below is the PowerPoint presentation containing the content for my daily micro-lectures on concepts and ideas related to the unit, or the specific in-class activities and take-home assignments where students practice skills developed over the course of the project. I’d be happy to provide these to any interested parties via e-mail (ttrimble [at] wayne [dot] edu).

Thomas Trimble is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department. He is also a recent Ph.D. graduate of the department, whose dissertation “Rhetorical Outcomes: A Genre Analysis of Student Service-Learning Writing” used genre theory to theorize writing assessment issues in service-learning courses. Thomas is currently teaching ENG 1020, and has taught ENG 1010 and ENG 3010 previously.

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