Writing a Response
RECORD YOUR FIRST REACTIONS
Before you write a response to an article, record your first thoughts and feelings. This pre-writing or brainstorming activity allows you to organize your thinking before you write. To record your thoughts and feelings, ask yourself a series of questions about the article and about your feelings.
Questions about your feelings:
Are my feelings positive or negative about this subject? Why?
Are my feelings strong about this subject?
Questions about the article:
What is it about the article that made me feel this way?
Has the author presented mostly facts or opinions?
Is the author qualified to write on this subject?
In what kind of publication was this article printed?
· Do I agree or disagree with the author on the main points?
Questions about how this relates to you:
How does the information relate to my own knowledge of the subject?
How can I use the information I have read?
Can I add my experience and perspective on this subject to help others understand it?
Suggestions for Recording First Reactions
Listing: Record your initial thoughts and feelings about the ideas you read without worrying about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. List your thoughts as quickly as you can; many times one idea will lead to another, so try to write without stopping.
Answer the preceding questions about your feelings, the article itself, and how the article relates to you. If your answers lead to other thoughts, list those as well. No idea is too unimportant or too silly to list in this first step. Try not to evaluate your responses as you write--just write.
Mapping: Another way of recording first reactions is called mapping or clustering. This method is quite different from listing. Mapping shows how ideas relate to each other, and the process helps one idea lead to another. Your personal thoughts and reactions determine the shape of the map.
Here are four suggestions for making and using a map to record your first reactions.
1. Draw a circle or box in the center of a page. Write the subject of the article in the box.
2. Show related ideas in other circles or boxes. Draw lines to show how those ideas are related to the main idea or to each other.
3. Work quickly; don't stop to evaluate your ideas or worry about spelling.
4. When your map is finished, look at it. Is one part more detailed or more interesting to you than the rest? That may be the part you'll want to write about.
WRITE THE RESPONSE
The brainstorming you do by recording your initial reactions will help you determine your strongest reactions and interests relating to the article. Now, write a response paragraph that focuses on the key elements of your reactions. Here are some guidelines to help you.
Be clear about your opinion. Once you decide on the focus of your response (the topic), write a sentence that states the main point you want to make. In Chapters Three and Four, you practiced identifying authors' main ideas. Now you are the author, stating your main point in what is often called a topic sentence or main idea sentence.
To write an effective topic sentence be sure to
Make a personal connection between what you've read and your own experience. Ask how the information in the article adds to or changes how you act and relate to your surroundings.
Include a judgment. A response is an opinion; so do not be afraid to clearly state your opinion.
MODEL: The following are topic sentences students have written for their responses to articles about marriage and relationships.
In the articles I read and in my own experience, I realize that relationships are often jeopardized by lack of clear communication.
I do not look at marriage as a step one should take in life in order to be considered successful; however, I do feel that loving marriages are possible.
If a marriage is not based on friendship, it is destined to fail.
Explain your feelings and reactions. General terms such as "interesting," "helpful," or "frightening" may be appropriate, but try to explain how or why you used such a word to describe your feelings. In Chapter Four you identified the major details that authors used to explain or clarify the main idea. As an author, you will want to include examples, facts, and other details to explain your main idea. It is appropriate to use personal pronouns, such as "I," "me," "we," or "us" in this type of writing.
MODEL: Student response to The Myth of Romantic Love by Scott Peck
In the article I read and in my own experience, I realize that relation ships are often jeopardized by the lack of clear communication. In "The Myth of Romantic Love," Scott Peck says that even when couples have fallen out of love, they tend to ignore that fact and hope that everything will work out all right. I had a similar experience with a girl I had been dating for about a year. I no longer had the feelings for her that I once did, and I wanted to change our relationship. However, I stifled my feelings and tried to go on. One day our relationship was destroyed in a terrible fight. It wasn't until two years later that we were able to sit down and talk it out. Since that experience, I have been trying to work on being honest and straightforward when I need to be.
Michael "Cody" Brooks (student)
COMMENT: Cody focuses on his own experience and the way that the information in the "The Myth of Romantic Love" relates to that experience. Notice that he begins his response with a clear topic sentence, and then paraphrases one of the author's ideas before relating this idea to his own life.