English 12 Essay Writing

Essay writing is the most important skill you need to develop in your HSC year. Success in HSC English will depend on your ability to write convincing, powerful essays that convey your understanding of both the Area of Study and Modules units. It’s understandably daunting to think that so much of your mark revolves around one skill but fortunately, with a bit of direction and structure, a Band 6 essay is achievable.

When marking an essay, teachers and HSC markers want to see that you’ve developed a complex and in-depth understanding of a text (or pair of texts, as the case may be) and in order to show them this, you need to express your ideas clearly. As such, nothing is more important than simplicity and structure!

The first is self-explanatory – if you misuse complex words because you think they’ll make your essay look more intelligent, you’re more likely to lose marks on account of their misuse. If you get a point across using straightforward language you’re guaranteeing that the marker will understand you and you’re more likely to get marks that way. If you are not confident about how to use a new word, it’s best to leave it out and replace with a word you are comfortable with.

Structure is another story altogether. A good essay is a circular (in that the conclusion always links back to the introduction), self-sustaining (in that all arguments put forward will be thoroughly explored in the essay) beast, one that gives the reader everything they need to know. In order to achieve this, you need to structure the following elements.

Introduction

The introduction is the first impression your reader will get, so it’s the most important part of an essay. You need to answer the question asked within the thesis statement then expand on your thesis in the introductory paragraph by introducing the texts, the themes within the texts and their relation to your Area of Study or particular Module. You also need to give an overview of the key techniques you will discuss later.

Example:

Question: How does the comparative study of two texts from different times deepen our understanding of what is constant in human nature?

Introduction (the thesis is bolded):

The comparison of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s 1992 film Blade Runner  the Director’s Cut  facilitates the examination of transforming societal values and the human condition. An examination of the transition from early 19th century England when Romanticism was challenging aspects of the dominant Enlightenment discourse founded upon science and rationalism to late 20th century America, a period influenced by Reaganomics and rampant scientific development in cloning and technology, reveals a shift in societal values.

However, both texts explore similar aspects of humanity including humanity’s pursuit of  progress and power, questioning of the human identity and refusal to consider the morality of their actions, albeit in different paradigms. Thus, as texts are a reflection of their context and its values, it is evident that aspects of human nature remain constant irrespective of context.

If you would like more detailed information on how to write introductions, you should look at our essay writing series. Read the first post How to Write a Thesis Statement – a step-by-step guide and we’ll explain why a thesis statement is so important, and walk you through the process of creating them.

 

Body Paragraphs

Each body paragraph must deal with a particular theme or text, and must start with a topic sentence. A topic sentence, similar to a thesis statement, will tell the reader what you plan on discussing. From there, you must justify your statements with evidence. A basic tool you can use is the T.E.E. system – highlight a technique, identify an example and explain the effect – the effect will relate to your topic sentence, which in turn relates to your thesis! The conclusion of a body paragraph must sum up your argument for the paragraph and relate it to the thesis once again.

In terms of what should be in your body paragraphs, you should aim for analysis which is insightful and informed. It is not always easy to form an insightful opinion of a complicated text, so to get started, you will have to do some reading of critical analysis written by experts like academics, reviewers of plays or productions.

Example:

The T.E.E structure in practice has been indicated with the following colours:

Technique
Evidence 
Effect

In Frankenstein, Shelley explores the transgression of the natural order in the Romantic ideal by humanity’s ongoing pursuit for progress and knowledge, a consequence of the Enlightenment Era and the Industrial Revolution. Victor’s overreaching ambition to overcome the natural boundaries of mortality by taking God’s creator role is highlighted in the metaphor “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds… I should break through“.Victor’s hubristic ambitions criticises aspects of Enlightenment rationalism which attempted to control natural processes, exemplified in Galvani’s experimentation with “animal electricity”.

If you would like to know more about writing topic sentences, you should read our posts on How to Write a Thematic Framework and How to Write a Topic Sentence to see learn how the introduction and topic sentences work together. In addition, our step-by-step guide will walk you through how to write a body paragraph.

 

Conclusion

A conclusion can often be both the easiest and most difficult part of an essay. You must never introduce new arguments or information in a conclusion, nor can you merely restate the introduction. A conclusion must draw on the fundamental idea that you have extracted from the question, and which you have based your entire essay on – in essence, you need something reflective and thought-provoking to leave with the reader.

Example: In the shift from 19th century England to Reaganite America, the foundation of power migrated from scientific knowledge to a greater focus on economics and capitalism. However, despite their differing contexts, both Frankenstein and Blade Runner  suggest that humanity’s pursuit of power and progress has resulted in a continuous foregoing of the moral and ethical concerns of their actions. Thus the comparison of these two texts reveals how these fundamental flaws are ingrained in human nature and that they will paradoxically remain constant even as society and its values inevitably shift.

For more detail on how to write a conclusion, read our step-by-step guide.

Want to take your English skills next level?

 

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Eleventh and Twelfth Grade Writing Standards

 

Writing standards for eleventh and twelfth grades define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at these grade levels. By understanding 11th and 12th grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.

What is 11th and 12th Grade Writing?
In grades eleven and twelve, students are expected to produce error-free essays that demonstrate their understanding of the elements of writing (e.g., purpose, speaker, audience, form). Students plan, draft, and complete written compositions on a regular basis, editing their essays for clarity, engaging language, and the correct use of standard American English. 11th graders and 12th graders practice all forms of writing, with an emphasis on writing coherent and focused persuasive essays that convey a well-defined perspective and tightly reasoned argument. Eleventh grade and twelfth grade students also focus on personal forms of writing, including a response to literature, a reflective essay, or an autobiographical narrative.

What Writing Standards Measure
Academic standards are very specific, detailing every aspect of what students are expected to learn in each grade. Organized into five key areas, writing standards focus on: writing process, writing purposes (what students write), writing evaluation, writing conventions (grammar, usage, and mechanics), and research/inquiry for writing. The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as benchmarks in writing proficiency for grade eleven and grade twelve.

Grades 11 and 12: Writing Process
Writing standards for all grades focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help students become independent writers. In grades 11 and 12, students are expected to use each phase of the process as follows:

  • Prewriting: Students in 11th and 12th grades use prewriting strategies to generate ideas, develop voice, and plan their writing. Students generate ideas from multiple sources (e.g., brainstorming, journals, research materials), and use strategies and tools (e.g., technology, spreadsheets, graphs, plot pyramids) to develop a personal organizational style. Students make a plan for writing that addresses purpose, audience, controlling idea, logical sequence, and a timeframe for completion.
  • Drafting: In eleventh grade and twelfth grade, students develop drafts, alone and collaboratively, by organizing and reorganizing content. Drafts should structure ideas and arguments in a sustained, persuasive, and sophisticated way and support them with precise and relevant examples. Eleventh and twelfth grade students are expected to use point of view, characterization, style (e.g., use of irony), and related elements for specific rhetorical and aesthetic purposes. Students should work to enhance meaning by employing rhetorical devices, including the extended use of parallelism, repetition, and analogy. Drafts should also be planned to incorporate visual aids (e.g., graphs, tables, pictures) and a call for action where appropriate. In 11th and 12th grades, students demonstrate a command of language by using natural, fresh, and vivid ways to establish a specific tone. Students analyze the language techniques of professional authors (e.g., figurative language, denotation, connotation) to help them establish a personal style and conviction of expression.
  • Revising: In 11th grade and 12th grade, students revise selected drafts to highlight the individual voice and point of view, improve sentence variety and style, and enhance subtlety of meaning and tone in ways that are consistent with the purpose, audience, and genre. Students also evaluate their drafts for the development of a central theme, the logical organization of content, and the creation of meaningful relationships among ideas. Other revision techniques used by eleventh and twelfth graders include creating precision and interest by elaborating ideas through supporting details (e.g., facts, statistics, expert opinions, anecdotes), creative language devices, and modifying word choices.
  • Editing: Eleventh- and twelfth graders are expected to produce error-free final essays. Students proofread carefully for appropriateness of organization, content, style, and language conventions, using resources and reference materials (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus, checklist to guide proofreading). Students edit for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, and check for varied sentence structure and appropriate vocabulary.
  • Publishing: Using technology, students in grades eleven and twelve publish their work frequently in a format appropriate to purpose (e.g., for display, multimedia). Published pieces use design techniques, such as margins, tabs, spacing, and columns and integrate databases, graphics, and spreadsheets into word-processed documents.

Use of technology: Eleventh grade and twelfth grade students use advanced publishing software and graphic programs to support aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts.

Grades 11 and 12: Writing Purposes
In grades eleven and twelve, students write in a variety of forms, including business, personal, literary, and persuasive texts, for various audiences and purposes. Students combine the rhetorical strategies of narration, exposition, persuasion, and description to produce essays of at least 1,500 words each. Specifically, writing standards for 11th and 12th grades stipulate that students write in the following forms:

  • Narrative: Eleventh and twelfth grade students write fictional, biographical, and autobiographical narrative essays. In these essays, students relate a sequence of events and communicate the significance of the events through concrete sensory details (e.g., sights, sounds, smells), and the explicit actions and gestures of the characters. Eleventh- and twelfth-graders develop the plot/events and characterizations further by creating dialogue and interior monologues to depict the characters’ feelings and locating scenes and incidents in specific places. Students are expected to use literary devices and make effective use of descriptions of appearance, images, shifting perspectives, and sensory details. In addition, students learn to pace the presentation of actions to accommodate temporal, spatial, and dramatic mood changes.
  • Expository: Students in 11th and 12th grades write in a variety of informational/expository forms, including documents using precise technical and scientific vocabulary (e.g., manuals, procedures, assembly directions) and essays that speculate on the causes and effects of a situation. Expository essays must include introductory, body, and concluding paragraphs, and demonstrate coherence, logical progression, and support for ideas. In the cause-effect essay, students establish the connection between the postulated causes or effects, and offer evidence supporting the validity of the proposed causes or effects. Students are expected to incorporate information and ideas from primary and/or secondary sources, noting the validity and reliability of these sources and attributing sources of information accurately. Eleventh- and twelfth-graders may also be asked to write detailed travel directions and design an accompanying graphic using the cardinal and ordinal directions, landmarks, streets and highways, and distances.
  • Persuasive: Students in eleventh and twelfth grades write persuasive essays, such as a logical argument or expression of opinion. Persuasive essays in these grades should state a position or claim, and present detailed evidence, examples, and reasoning to support effective arguments and emotional appeals. Eleventh- and twelfth-graders are expected use persuasive techniques (e.g., word choice, repetition, emotional appeal, hyperbole, appeal to authority, celebrity endorsement, rhetorical question, irony, symbols, glittering generalities, card stacking, testimonials, bandwagon, image association, transfer). Students must also refute opposing arguments by addressing readers’ concerns, counterclaims, biases, and expectations.
  • Responses to Literature: Eleventh and twelfth grade students are expected to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the significant ideas in literary works or passages. Students analyze the use of imagery, language, universal themes, and unique aspects of the text, and support their ideas through accurate and detailed references to the text or to other works. Eleventh- and twelfth-graders should also show an understanding of the author’s use of stylistic devices and an appreciation of the effects created. In addition, students must identify and assess the impact of perceived ambiguities, nuances, and complexities within the text.
  • Reflective Essays: In reflective essays, 11th and 12th grade students are expected to explore the significance of personal experiences, events, conditions, or concerns by using rhetorical strategies (e.g., narration, description, exposition, persuasion). Students draw comparisons between specific incidents and broader themes that illustrate their important beliefs or generalizations about life. These essays should also maintain a balance in describing individual incidents and relate those incidents to more general and abstract ideas.
  • Historical Investigation Reports: In historical investigation reports, 11th and 12th grade students are expected to use exposition, narration, description, argumentation, or some combination of rhetorical strategies to support the main proposition. Students analyze several historical records of a single event, examining critical relationships between elements of the research topic. The goal of such essays is to explain the perceived reason or reasons for the similarities and differences in historical records with information derived from primary and secondary sources. Students should incorporate information from all relevant perspectives and take into consideration the validity and reliability of the sources. These reports should also include a formal bibliography.
  • Business and Work-Related Documents: Students in grade 11 and grade 12 write a variety of business and work-related documents, including letters, memos, emails, meeting minutes, speaker introductions, résumés, applications, and cover letters for applications. The goal of business writing in these grades is to present information using a tone and style that fits the purpose and audience. In the case of job applications and résumés, students strive to provide clear and relevant information and address the intended audience appropriately. Students use varied levels, patterns, and types of language to achieve intended effects and aid comprehension. Eleventh- and twelfth-graders are expected to follow the conventional style for that type of document and use page formats, fonts, and spacing that contribute to the readability and impact of the document.
  • Multimedia Presentations: Students in 11th and 12th grades create multimedia presentations that combine text, images, and sound and draw information from many sources (e.g., television broadcasts, videos, films, newspapers, magazines, CD-ROMs, the Internet, electronic media-generated images). Students select an appropriate medium for each element of the presentation and use the selected media skillfully, editing appropriately and monitoring for quality. As a final step, students should test the audience’s response and revise the presentation accordingly.

Grades 11 and 12: Writing Evaluation
Eleventh and twelfth grade students evaluate the writing of others, as well as their own writing. Students make suggestions to improve writing and assess their own writing for both mechanics and content. In grades eleven and twelve, students are expected to respond productively to peer reviews of their own work. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set goals as a writer.

Grades 11 and 12: Written English Language Conventions
Students in eleventh and twelfth grades rely on the conventions and mechanics of written English, including the rules of usage and grammar, to write clearly and effectively. Students are expected to produce legible, error-free work that shows accurate spelling and correct punctuation and capitalization. In particular, writing standards for grades eleven and twelve specify these key markers of proficiency:

Sentence Structure
—Understand correct use of varied sentence structure, including the elimination of dangling or misplaced modifiers, run-on or fused sentences, and unintended sentence fragments.
—Compose increasingly more involved sentences that contain clauses (e.g., main and subordinate) and phrases (e.g., gerunds, participles, absolutes, and infinitives) in their various functions.

Grammar and Mechanics
— Exhibit command of grammar, diction, and paragraph and sentence structure and an understanding of English usage.
—Demonstrate control over grammatical elements such as parts of speech, verb tense, noun/pronoun agreement, subject/verb agreement, pronoun/antecedent agreement, parallelism, modifier placement, comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, and unintended shift in person or tense.
—Use appropriate manuscript requirements in writing, including title page presentation, pagination, spacing and margins, and integration of source and support material.

Punctuation
—Identify and correctly use the mechanics of punctuation, including commas, colons, semicolons, apostrophes, dashes, quotation marks, parentheses, ellipses, brackets, and underlining or italics.

Capitalization
—Eleventh- and twelfth-graders pay particular attention to capitalization of names of academic courses and proper adjectives.

Spelling
— Use knowledge of spelling rules, orthographic patterns, generalizations, prefixes, suffixes, and roots, including Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon root words.
—Understand foreign words commonly used in English (e.g., laissez faire, croissant).

Penmanship
—Students use fluent and legible handwriting skills.

Grades 11 and 12: Research and Inquiry
In eleventh and twelfth grades, students use appropriate research methodology and a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for writing research papers and other writing assignments. Students use writing as a research and learning tool in the following ways:

  • Use writing to discover, organize, and support what is known and what needs to be learned about a topic.
  • Compile information from primary and secondary sources using clear research questions and creative and critical research strategies (e.g., field studies, oral histories, interviews, experiments, electronic sources).
  • Use systematic strategies to organize and record information (e.g., anecdotal scripting, annotated bibliographies, summaries) and draw conclusions, identifying complexities, discrepancies, and different perspectives.
  • Use appropriate conventions for documentation in the text, notes, and bibliographies by adhering to those in style manuals (e.g., Modern Language Association Handbook, The Chicago Manual of Style).
  • Analyze strategies that writers in different fields use to compose.
  • Use writing as a study tool to clarify and remember information.

Eleventh and Twelfth Grade Writing Tests
In many states, students in grades eleven and twelve take standardized writing assessments, either with pencil and paper or on a computer. While tests vary, students are typically given questions about grammar and mechanics, as well as timed essay-writing exercises in which they must write an essay in response to a writing prompt. On 11th and 12th grade essay writing tests, students demonstrate their ability to produce an effective composition for a specific purpose, as well as their command of the conventions of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure.

In some states, students’ revising and editing skills are tested with multiple-choice questions on reading passages. Students are asked to indicate how a particular sentence might be corrected or improved or how the organization or development of a paragraph might be strengthened. Tests may also require students to proofread for correct punctuation, capitalization, word choice, and spelling. Another type of question asks students to write a summary statement in response to 11th and 12th grade reading passages. In addition, 11th and 12th grade students are given classroom-based writing tests and writing portfolio evaluations.

State writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standards-based tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. If students do well on school writing assignments, they should do well on such a test. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how each student is meeting grade-level expectations. These assessments are designed to pinpoint where each student needs improvement and help teachers tailor instruction to fit individual needs. State departments of education usually include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including testing guidelines and sample questions.

Writing Test Preparation
The best writing test preparation in eleventh and twelfth grades consists of encouraging your student to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. Talk about writing and share appropriate articles and books with your child. Students learn to write effectively when they write more often. Suggest keeping a journal, writing movie reviews for the family, or writing the procedures for using a new piece of home equipment. Any writing is valuable practice. By becoming familiar with 11th and 12th grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them to use the strategies of writing process to revise their own work.

Time4Writing Online Writing Courses Support 11th and 12th Grade Writing Standards
Time4Writing is an excellent complement to eleventh and twelfth grade writing curriculums. Developed by classroom teachers, Time4Writing targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standard-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.

Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Time4Writing online courses for eleventh and twelfth grades.

*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Time4Writing relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.


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