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home :: paragraphs: patterns of development in context

Contexts for using patterns of development:

One mistake developing writers tend to make after first learning about the many patterns of development is to forget that these patterns are tools for developing ideas, and not an end in themselves. After learning to use the comparison and contrast strategy, for example, many students will write essays with controlling ideas like "There are many similarities and differences between . . . "  A huge mistake.  Instructors groan when essays begin this way.  But how does one learn to use the strategies properly, especially when the language of an essay prompt implies that students are to use specific patterns to develop their essays?

The answer is to figure out what your controlling idea is before you figure out your content. Even when an assignment calls for comparison/contrast, leave the strategy aside and ask yourself what your purpose is. Consider the following assignment:

Assignment:

Is the "American Dream Home" a destructive or positive ideal? Compare and contrast American fantasies of home as shown in our popular culture and mythology with the reality of home in America.

Now, consider how one student turned this assignment into a personal topic and then into a controlling idea for an essay:

topic:

What home is like for me now vs. how I imagine it to be (my fantasy of home)

controlling idea:

My home is a cute little ranch house, but much to my dismay, I can never get it to look like the home that lives in my imagination—the result of years of accumulated movie, magazine, and television images. . . . And still I try.

Now that this student has a purpose, he is ready to write the first draft (and not before!). Comparison and contrast would be effective strategies to develop the student's idea, but other strategies may be useful as well.  The strategies should come from the controlling idea at the level of the essay and at the level of the paragraph.

 

 

 

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