Ethan Roback



This English course emphasized four main learning outcomes as well as several key terms. The objective of this assignment is to discuss two of these key terms; I have chosen Organization/Idea Development and the Known-New Chain. During my discussion of these key terms, I will describe how I gradually learned to use these approaches in my assignments. I will also emphasize that I am now able to effectively use these strategies in my writing in order to properly convey my message to my audience. The use of these two strategies has directly led to the improvements that I made as a writer, culminating in my Feature Artifact.

Organization of Ideas and Idea Development

At the beginning of the semester, I never had trouble thinking of ideas to write about. Unfortunately, writing clear sentences in an order that best conveyed my thoughts to the reader was troublesome for me. Many of my ideas were not closely enough connected to one another and I believe readers may have been confused when trying follow my train of thought.

However, as I was introduced to new ways to organize my ideas, such as by summarizing and paraphrasing, my writing became clearer and easier to follow. For instance, in the beginning of the semester I was assigned to write about my favorite TV show. As I looked back on my first drafts, my ideas were convoluted and most of sentences did not directly follow from the preceding sentence, or lead to the next sentence. As the semester progressed, and I completed more writing assignments, my organization grew exponentially better. Eventually, as I wrote the introduction to my proposal, I realized that my ideas made more sense in connection to one another and it was easier to follow along.

The proposal was a project that focused on the theme of African American community in plays by significant playwrights, and how these fictional communities compared to the real world, both past and present.  My proposal discussed the idea that through art and literature, Black people were able to break the constraints imposed by societal oppression and make a name for themselves in the community. The writing tools I learned in this course helped me to improve the organization of these ideas and to better convey my message. Through thoughtful consideration of these ideas, I was able to create an exhibit, using artifacts, detailing the struggles and the subsequent breakthroughs of the African American community. This work then led to my Featured Artifact, the Narrative Essay, which is the most thorough and well-organized written work I have ever completed. The Narrative Essay allowed me to show how organizing my ideas produced a greater understanding of material and helped to provoke new thoughts in order to make the reader more knowledgeable about the subject material. It was also a project in which I could showcase my knowledge of everything that I learned over the course of the semester. Here are some artifacts that show how my improving use of Idea Organization and Idea Development directly contributed to my progression as a writer during this course:

Artifact 1: My Favorite TV Show was a free write that I produced in the beginning of the semester. The goal of this assignment was to describe the genre of my favorite show and the audience the show was tailored for. In reviewing this assignment, I can see that the ideas were not well connected, and it was hard to understand the points I was trying to convey in my writing.

Artifact 2: Rhetorical Listening was another free write that I completed during class. The purpose of this assignment was to use Rhetorical Listening to write a speech that discussed the play “The Ground on Which I Stand” by August Wilson. The sentences and ideas in the paper were better organized and connected with one another than in Artifact 1, yet there were still a number of points I wanted to make that were probably difficult for the reader to understand.

Artifact 3: The Introduction to the Proposal was part of the major project which we were assigned. In reviewing this assignment, I believe my ideas are becoming very concise and clear, and it is much easier for the reader to follow my thoughts. Most of the ideas connect, however there are still some that don’t work well in the context of the paragraph.

Featured Artifact: The Narrative Essay was the pinnacle of my English Semester. This assignment dealt with viewing the curated exhibit and describing one’s feelings when viewing the assignments. The organization and development of the ideas were much improved, and I believe provided the reader with a good understandings of the essay as a whole. There is a clear order to the essay; the ideas are straightforward and they tell the story of the essay without any gaps in information. Compared to the other Artifacts, my Featured Artifact displays a sense of order of the ideas from the beginning to the end. The ideas that are shown in the Narrative Essay are expanded upon in a way that helps the reader understand the point of the essay and helps them follow the train of thought that the writer used to write the piece. The Narrative best exemplified my ability to use the Idea Development and Organization of the Idea approaches which I learned during this course.

Known-New Chain

As with my skills in Idea Development and Organization, my ability to effectively use the Known-New Chain approach was poor in the beginning of the semester. I initially only had a vague understanding of this writing tool. For example, I understood that my ideas should connect in a way to makes the essay flow better, but I didn’t really know how to do that. As the course progressed, and we learned about this approach, I started using it in my writing.  Towards the end of the semester, I understood how the ideas from the last sentence could help clarify the meaning of current sentence by continuing with the same train of thought. The artifacts that I describe below are the same as I used with Idea Development in order for the reader to have a better understanding of how these two tools work with one another.

In the Favorite TV Show free write, I discussed the intended audience for the show and its genre. Because those two prompts were different, I addressed them by jumping from one idea to the next. Later, after I had a better understanding the Known-New Chain approach, I realized that it would have been better to make the ideas flow by using the sentences on genre as a lead-in to my thoughts on the intended audience.  As I got better as a writer, my ideas were no longer jumping around, but were connected from the first to the next. My Narrative Essay was the best example of my ability to use the Known-New Chain in an artifact. From the beginning to the end of that essay I described a progression through my curated exhibit where each part of the exhibit led smoothly into the next part. My Narrative Essay reflected my ability to connect not only the parts of the exhibit to one another but also the parts of the essay from one to another. Being able to connect my ideas in order to better convey the meaning of my writing to readers has been one of the biggest improvements in my writing this year.

Artifact 1: My Favorite TV Show was a free write that I produced in the beginning of the semester. My ideas did not connect with one another and there were big jumps in content between sentences that made it hard to follow as a reader.

Artifact 2: Rhetorical Listening was another free write that I prepared during class. While there were still big gaps in idea connections, the ideas in one sentence better flowed into those of the next sentence, making it easier to follow as a reader.

Artifact 3: The Introduction to the Proposal was part of the Proposal project. Almost all the ideas were connected, with the Known Idea in one sentence being well connected to New Idea in the next sentence. However, as some points in the proposal there was information missing that interrupted the flow of thought.

Featured Artifact: The Narrative Essay was the pinnacle of my English Semester. All the ideas had meaning in relation to those ideas around it. The essay was written with the Known-New chain in mind in order to improve the connections between ideas in adjacent sentences. The Known-New chain helps with the flow of the essay, as one sentence builds on the preceding one. The reader is able to follow the chain of ideas that continue throughout the writing and is not exposed to jumps in logic that can disrupt the meaning of the essay. The Narrative Essay best exemplifies my ability to use the Known-New Chain because all the ideas on the page have a connection to other ideas, even those in other paragraphs. Consequently, my ability to connect ideas together with the Known-New Chain allows the reader to gain a fuller understanding of the points I make in the essay.

Reflection Letter to the Committee

English has never been my strong suit when it comes to academics, so my writing has always been my weak point. Thinking of ideas is not hard for me because that skill is used in many other aspects of life, but when it comes to putting my ideas in a concise and understandable order and manner, that it where I struggle. In the beginning of the semester, it was evident that my organization of ideas was still lacking because when I re-read the free writes that I had to complete for class, my train of thought was lost quickly because the ideas were jumping back and forth. However, as I continued to grow as a writer I was able to gain further knowledge about how to better explain my argument. In a project that was had to complete called the Proposal, my first few drafts were similar to those of the free writes; no clear organization of ideas with a bunch of idea gaps. But the more that I read over and looked at the first draft, the more I realized what my issues were and I was able to fix them. When it comes to the Introduction of the Proposal, one of the many projects during the year, my final draft, one of many, was a giant step in the right direction. As a reader, it was easy to follow from the beginning to end with only a few gaps of information missing in the middle. Learning that writing is a process was one of the biggest learning outcomes that I figured out as a writer; learning that the first draft that you do is on a template onto which someone can build on. In my case, my first draft was a very rough template that I had to improve on, and by being able to synthesize my ideas into a clear and logical argument allowed me to be the writer that I have become at the end of the semester. Another success that I achieved as a result of my initial failure was my Narrative Essay. The Narrative Essay was my best work yet because it was a place where I was able to showcase everything that I learned throughout the year. First of all, I was able to take all the ideas and properly order them in a way to strengthen my argument, and by organizing my ideas I was able to use the artifacts in the Curated Exhibit project in a meaningful manner.  Looking back on what I was as a writer in the beginning of the year and looking at my most recent work helps to show both me and the reader what trusting writing as a process can do and helps me see that putting in the necessary work allows success in the end.

Another failure that I had at the beginning of the year, and I still have trouble dealing with it, is the repetition of words. When it comes to my writing I like to make sure that my audience is totally engaged in my writing and not being distracted. However, I realized that I tend to use certain words repetitively which, as a reader, makes the piece of writing both boring and tiresome to read. Nonetheless, my writing in Curated Exhibit helps to show that I try to write in different genres in order to better maintain my audience’s attention. By switching similar words around and changing flow of the sentence and essay as a whole, I believe that I have better captured their attention and improved as a writer. To go along with the Curated Exhibit, the first draft of my Narrative Essay helped me realize that I still have issues when it comes to repetition of words. However, the more that I worked at it and the more I played around with words and phrases the better I understood the fact that writing is not a one and done deal. I have to work at it over and over in order to better myself so that the sentences and the essay make more sense. This all led to my featured artifact, my final draft of the Narrative Essay, which showed that I was better able to utilize my skills in the reduction of word repetition and when I compare the final to the rough draft, I see how I have improved as a writing because the essay becomes less choppy and become more smooth.

Looking at the failures at the beginning of this semester has allowed me to see the success that I was able to achieve that the end of the year due to the learning outcomes I was able to understand.