Monday, January 26, 2015

Sample Expository Essays

Break ideas into smaller paragraphs in order to support claims.

There are several essay examples on the Gypsy Daughter Essays blog, but none are more prevalent than the expository essays, written to explain an idea or inform a reader about a topic.

Let's examine three different sample expository essays, each of which informs or explains in a slightly different way.

Sample Expository Essay in Chronological Order

First, let's look at the sample essay, "Ancient Greek Theatre: Origins of the Term 'Deus ex Machina.'"

Although this is not a typical five-paragraph essay, it is indeed expository.  Its overall purpose is to inform and explain. The essay's claim, or thesis statement, is "In order to fully understand the term "deus ex machina" as it's used today, it's important for a reader to understand the ancient Greek origin of the term."

The essay then develops as the thesis suggests; that is, the essay first offers an overview of the term's origins, offers an historical example of its use, then explains and gives an example of how the term is used today.  Evidence includes facts, examples, and reasons.  Where applicable, an expert source has been cited.  The essay ends after the most contemporary use of the term is explained to the reader.  The essay ends with its listed references.

Sample Expository Essay Written in Five-Paragraph Framework

Another expository essay example is "Stages in the Development of Critical Thinking."  The claim in this essay is stated: "Recognizing the stages of student development can help teachers better plan lessons and assessment activities to help their specific students become better thinkers."  This essay is written using the basic five-paragraph essay framework. The introduction states a thesis and offers an essay map based on Perry's theory of development, and each categorical paragraph covers one of the listed stages.

However, a simple discussion of the stages would not be sufficient to support the given claim, so another section appears at the end of the essay that details what teachers can do to help students through each stage.  Evidence includes facts, examples, and expert testimony.  Again, all source content has been carefully cited.  The essay ends with a brief conclusion and a list of references.

Sample Expository Essay with Process Analysis & Step-by-Step Strategy

Last, but not least, "Making Crochet Sushi Toys" is an expository essay written with a "how-to" strategy.  The thesis statement for this essay reads, "Making an amigurumi (Japanese for "cute crochet") set of sushi ingredients is a great way to create a child's gift in only a few hours and for only a few dollars."  This thesis emphasizes why a reader should want to continue reading the essay. This type of thesis emphasizes what's in it for the reader.  The rest of the essay is a process analysis essay (explaining how something is done) with sequential steps.  Evidence includes factual information and detailed descriptions. Specifically, in order to support the claim, the ease and low cost are emphasized within the paragraphs.

Please note that each section of the essay, though written as step-by-step instructions, still includes a topic sentence that acts as a "gate," keeping all ideas about that section within its own "fence."  The essay ends with a very brief conclusion.

Whether you want to read about crocheting sushi toys, ancient Greek theatre, or the development of critical thinking skills, there are sample essays on this blog that offer examples of efficient, unified, coherent, and clear expository writing.  Each essay includes a thesis statement, carefully ordered topic sentences, sufficient evidence to support each point, and a brief conclusion.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What's an Object Complement?

The object complement is a noun or adjective that follows the direct object.

An object complement is a word in a sentence that either renames or modifies a direct object.  That means the object complement is always going to be a noun or adjective that follows the direct object.

Can you identify the object complement in the following sentence diagrams?

Remember, the object complement

  • Renames or modifies the direct object
  • Is a noun or adjective
  • Follows the direct object

Example One
Jorge painted his kitchen green.

The first step is to identify the main parts of the sentence.  Jorge is the subject, painted is the verb, and to find the direct object we ask "painted what?"  The answer is kitchen.  The object complement, then, will be a noun or an adjective that follows the direct object and tells us more about the kitchen.   In this sentence, the object complement is green

Jorge is the subject, painted is the verb, and kitchen is the direct object.

Example Two
Jack considers Thomas a worthy ping pong partner.

In this second example, Jack is the subject, considers is the verb, and Thomas is the direct object. However, unlike the first example sentence, this sentence has five words that follow the direct object. We must determine which of those five words tells us more about Thomas.  When we analyze the adjectives more carefully, we see that they each describe partner, not Thomas.  Therefore, partner is the object complement.  Partner is a noun that follows and renames Thomas.

To diagram an object complement, place it on the base line and use
the backslash to separate it from the direct object.

Example Three
The fire chief declared the apartment safe to enter.

In this third example, chief is the subject, declared is the verb, and apartment is the direct object.  In this sentence, the direct object is followed by an adjective and an infinitive used as a modifier.  Since the infinitive, to enter, is describing the way in which the apartment is safe, we are left with safe as the object complement.

The object complement will always follow the direct object.

To summarize, finding the object complement in a sentence requires us to remember only three rules. First, the object complement must be a noun or an adjective.  Second, it must rename or modify the direct object.  Last, but not least, it must follow the direct object.  Once all of the parts of a sentence are placed in diagram form, it is easy to see how the object complement interacts with the rest of the sentence to offer us more information about the direct object.

Want to learn more about grammar or diagramming sentences? 

Try my complete online course on Udemy or purchase my sentence diagramming textbook from Amazon.

To enroll in my video series, sign up for a free Udemy account and register for my class, Diagramming Sentences: From Beginner to Expert in 12 Lessons.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Playful Lesson for the Composition Classroom

Incorporating this playful lesson in the college composition classroom can spark insightful, passionate, and engaged student writing.

A sense of play and creativity encourages engagement in any activity, and college writing is no exception. Play helps “gratify desires that can’t be immediately fulfilled in order to relive tension,” states The Typist in an engaging blog post called "Creative Writing and Composition: Do They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Thumbtacks?" The Typist's post, written by an English instructor from Springfield, Missouri, goes on to praise the introducing of playful and creative classroom activities and assignments in the composition classroom. To summarize, when students feel unfettered or free from the confines of the five-paragraph essay, their writing becomes more lively, passionate, and engaging.

The task, then, is for writing faculty to find ways for play and creativity to be incorporated into the composition classroom and its given learning outcomes.

It Starts With Something Students Love

My students love music. Not only do they love to listen to music, but they consistently choose, when the choice is available, to write about topics pertaining to music. In order to tap into this love, and in order to bring a sense of play and "emergence" into my composition classes, I have created a lesson that uses the folk music murder ballad to teach the concepts of unity, coherence and transitions in both narrative and expository writing. The same idea can be used with narrative lyrics from any genre of music.

Using Language for Play and Creativity

  • First, I introduce the murder ballad to the class, pass out the lyrics, and play the song or songs for the students. Their task is merely to listen.
  • Next, I ask the students to engage with the lyrics, and without using the term “active reading,” I guide them through the process. They circle, underline or star certain grammatical elements, they take notes, and I ask them to work together to make assumptions about the narrative.
  • I ask them to role-play, or to think like reporters or detectives and infer answers about the murder by writing down answers to the five “Ws.”
  • After they finish making some inferences, I collect the lyrics, cut them into pieces by verse, and return a few verses to each of the students.
  • I ask them to reconstruct the story in any order they choose by grouping up with one another. Trying to reconstruct the story as originally arranged is strictly forbidden.
  • Once the students pair up and group up, reconstruct the narrative, and add transitional devices that I’ve written on the board, their task is to prepare a piece of writing that details the order of events based on their inferences and reconstructed narrative.
  • They present their work to the class.

Engaging Results

In the end, some students present newsworthy journalistic articles, while others write film noir or witness-style monologues, and still others write first-person accounts or process analysis essays. The various genres and styles of writing generally surprise the entire class, and "the" question is ultimately directed to me, "Are we allowed to write like that?" And I get to tell them, “Yes!” because even though left without a structure or formula, the writing is unified, coherent, and engaging. So, at that point I can redirect and explain the concepts of unity and coherence by using their own writing as examples.  Furthermore, continuously returning to these pieces of writing as examples throughout the term makes it easier to reinforce principles of writing in a way that resonates with the students.

In order to bring play and creativity into the composition classroom, faculty can tap into something students love while incorporating bridging exercises that lead to engaging results. These creative classroom projects can be used to introduce new writing concepts while helping students see "old" lessons in new ways. The freedom to write in a way that meets the objectives of the assignment while allowing for unique voices and styles helps maintain the momentum of the class and inspire more effective writing.


Creative Writing and Composition: Do They Go Together like Peanut Butter and Thumbtacks? (February 29, 2008). The Typist. Retrieved from

Want to read more about pedagogy and writing?  Try

Strategies to Revise Student Writing: Revision Day
Using Anti-Plagiarism Software as an Assignment Requirement
Myths about Writing Essays
The Benefit of Play in the Composition Classroom

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.  Originally published Aug 25, 2011.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Defeating Writer's Block

Writer's block, depicted as a shadowy monster, stands in front of a brick wall.
What can you do to overcome writer's block?
On the final exam for my composition classes, I like to stick in a few tension-cutting questions that make students smile and help them relax into the rest of the test.

The question I ask about writer's block never initially was intended to generate one of those smiles, let alone the giggles it sometimes receives.  That question goes something like this:

When you find yourself with nothing to say about a particular topic and staring at a blank sheet of paper the day before an essay is due, what can you do to overcome your writer's block?

A. Stay up all night staring at a blank sheet of paper until inspiration hits.

B. Plagiarize or buy a paper online and hope like heck you don't get caught.

C. Go to bed and take the zero because there is nothing you can do to overcome writer's block.

D. Take a shower, dance around, drink some coffee, and write about something else for a while.

Do you know the best answer?  Let's examine the options.

ANSWER A: Stay up all night staring at a blank sheet of paper until inspiration hits.

Plagiarism is never the answer!
First, I will say that for some lucky souls, staying up all night staring at a blank sheet of paper until inspiration hits might work. More likely than not, however, this will lead only to sleeping in front of the computer or the completion of a particularly terrible paper. It would be better to do something active, as action begets more action.  "Staring" and "waiting" are not effective actions.

ANSWER B: Plagiarize or buy a paper online and hope like heck you don't get caught.

Definitely not.  An act of academic dishonesty will very rarely get by a professor undetected. Not only will plagiarism earn a student a zero on the assignment, but that student will then have to face the displeasure of a professor who has wasted a lot of extra time having to fill out paperwork that basically says that the student cheated. It only takes twenty to thirty minutes to grade a paper, but it takes over an hour and a half to turn in a student for cheating.

ANSWER C: Go to bed and take the zero because there is nothing you can do to overcome writer's block.

When all else fails, some students will choose to take a zero rather than fight the ugly writer's block monster. What I tell my students is that anything is better than a "goose egg," and I demonstrate my point by displaying a line chart with the course grade on the "Y" axis and the number of missed assignments in the "X" axis. When students accept zeros, or "goose eggs," grades plummet, as my line chart shows.

ANSWER D: Take a shower, dance around, drink some coffee, and write about something else for a while.

Give your brain a break!
Believe it or not, this is the correct answer. When faced with writer's block, it's always a fine idea to get up and move around, get refreshed, and write about something else for a little while - it all depends on a person's time management skills. If a student has procrastinated, he or she may not have a lot of time for some off-topic writing, but it's still important. Students may find they can sometimes find inspiration in that "something else" they choose to write about, or they may come up with a brilliant thesis statement in the moment when they're relaxing their minds a bit.

The secret to defeating writer's block is quite simple.  In order to overcome writer's block, a person has to write through it. The answer is in the semantics. If a person is writing, it really can't be called "writer's block" anymore, can it?

Want to read more about writing essays?  Try

Myths about Writing Essays
Outlining an Essay
Writing an Argumentative Essay

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.