Speak Literary Analysis

Expository Writing
Editing & Peer Review with Word Technology


| General Overview | Topics | Planning the Essay | Writing the Essay | Peer Review Guidelines | Peer Reviewing using Word | Publishing the Essay | Grading Rubric | Essay Tips | Essay Elements |

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General Overview

  1. Learn about essays and strategies for writing good essays. Understand the basic elements of a good literary analysis essay.
  2. To help you organize your ideas, a graphic organizer may be just what you need.
  3. There is a basic pattern to this kind of essay. Remember the acronym CSE to remind you to state a claim, support what you say with proof from the book, and explain what you mean.
  4. Remind yourself about how to integrate quotations into your essay. You have had practice with your Scarlet Ibis paragraph and all your Moodle responses for Speak.
  5. See sample paragraph for help with numbers three and four.
  6. Saving your document: Save a Word document in your CE9 folder as "speak_first name." Ex: Emily would call hers speak_emily. This naming style is VERY IMPORTANT. You will be exchanging documents with another student for peer review, and this file name will help eliminate problems.


Choose one of the following topics (the first two are from Mrs. Tigner-Rasanen):

  1. Find as many references to speaking in the novel (when people speak, when they don't). What are the consequences for not speaking? What about for speaking up (saying what's important)? What is the author saying about speaking?
  2. How does the development of Melinda's art reflect her process of healing and recovering?
  3. Trees are one of the main symbols in the novel. What does Melinda learn from/through her interaction with trees throughout the novel.
  4. One of the main motifs of the novel is mirrors. Find as many instances of mirrors (or any reflective surface) and think about what Melinda is doing, thinking, or learning. How does she grow or change throughout the book as she continues to consider her own reflection? Mirror images: 17, 21, 25, 40, 50, 82, 101, 124, 125, 136, 145, 170. Don't forget to consider the value of the mirror at the end of the novel as well.
  5. Melinda's escapes: Look at all of the places Melinda goes to avoid being "in school." How are these places similar or different? What are the benefits of each place for her? Are there any detrimental effects?
  6. The Marthas seem like great girls. The teachers and the administration think they are. Contrast Melinda's view of the Marthas with the adults' view of them.
  7. Show how the character of Andy Evans develops through the story. Be sure to include various perspectives, not just Melinda's.
  8. Melinda's teachers: who are the best/worst and why? Which teachers help Melinda grow, and which ones do not?
  9. Melinda's home life: how does Melinda's homelife and relationship with her parents serve as a parallel to her dysfunctional year?
  10. Write about Melinda's closet, how it functions for her in her 9th grade year. How does that function change throughout the year?
  11. Come up with your own topic. You must get your topic approved before you begin writing.

Planning the essay: Getting ready to write!

  • Read all the passages from the novel that are relevant to your topic. You will have to do some serious re-reading.
  • You will be citing passages from the novel, so take notes on passages that will help you prove your point. Use post-it notes on important pages to mark important places.
  • Organize your ideas. Use a graphic organizer if you like (not required). Graphic organizers can help in several ways:
    • They help you organize your thoughts and ideas.
    • They can help you see what you're missing: not enough information, missing support, etc.
    • They can help you see if your ideas are too similar or overlapping.
    • They can help you see connections between ideas.
    • They can help you generate new ideas.
  • Outline model from Falcon Skills and Style Handbook

Writing the essay

  • Consult the essay elements below and make sure your essay complies with these guidelines.
  • Write in third person. Do not use “you” or “I.”
  • Do not lose track of your thesis, your guiding idea. Stay focused on your purpose, which is to prove what you think about your topic.
  • Be sure to use effective transitions also. Transitional phrases help you connect ideas.
  • Carefully weave in your support; introduce quotations with context information.
  • Use quotation marks around passages that you use directly from the book to support your main ideas. Put the page number at the end of that passage showing what page you took it from. For example: Sentence begins and then "there is a passage from the book" (72). See how the period goes after the parenthesis? Use this model. For more help, see pages 42 and 43 in your Skills and Style Handbook to see how to weave quotations into your writing.
  • See a sample paragraph for a color coded visual guide to CSE, weaving in support, using partial quotations, etc.
  • Sample Essays: from Jessica; Theresa; Kelly Jo.

Peer Review

  1. Proofread your own essay first for conventions errors (especially spelling and sentence faults), coherence, and development of ideas.
  2. Send your essay to your cyber partner as an email attachment. The subject line of this email is "speak."
  3. Open your cyberpartner's essay file by right clicking on the Word icon in the email and choosing 'Open With' and then Word.
  4. Save this file in your H:/drive. DO NOT change the file name (if your cyberpartner named the file wrong, see your teacher before you save the file).
  5. Review your cyberpartner's essay using Word.  You are to make five comments in all (minimum).
  6. See the peer review guidelines for this assignment. Develop your comments fully. One or two words is not really a comment. If you say something that needs explaining, explain.
  7. Send the reviewed and saved document back to your cyberpartner as an attachment. CC: your teacher The subject line for this email is also speak.
  8. When you get your essay back, consider your feedback carefully and then revise and make final edits.

Publishing your essay

You will be posting your essay on your blog as a page.

1. Click “Add New” under the Page drop down bar on the left side of your dashboard.
2. Title the new page Speak Essay.
3. Copy and paste your essay into the text box. Use the tool for pasting from Word.
4. Go through your essay and delete any indents. Paragraphs should have a space in between them.
5. At the conclusion of your essay you need to cite the book as your source using MLA format. Anderson, Laurie Halse. Speak. New York: Puffin Books, 1999.
6. When you have ensured that your essay is free of all spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, submit the page for review.

Elements of a basic literary analysis essay

Introduction: Your introduction needs a few basic elements.

  • You must give the author's name and the title of the book.
  • You must draw your reader in with an attention getting opening. There are several strategies for engaging your reader.
  • You must state your thesis in your introduction. Many times, the thesis sentence comes at the end of the introduction.

Paragraphs one-four: This is the body of your essay and it's where you develop your ideas. Remember that the typical pattern to follow is CSE:

  • Claim: make a statement (something you believe, that you intend to prove or show)
  • Support: support your statement with evidence from the book (prove your claim)
  • Explanation: explain what you say, expand the idea, or connect to another idea

See a sample color coded paragraph that shows you each part.

Conclusion: Connect back to your thesis. You can restate it, but not in exactly the same words. You can also extend the ideas by making a statement about what is important to remember. What are the key ideas that readers should remember after reading your essay? Do not address the reader directly. Remember never to use first or second person in an essay like this. More on conclusions

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This page last revised 11/16/2009 © Dawn Hogue