Saturday, April 24, 2010

Howard Pease’s Letter To Pat

Dear Pat:
You write that you have read every book of mine except two- quite a record. Yet I wonder if you really read those books...

If you reviewed one for your English teacher at school, you no doubt wrote something about the characters, the story plot, the humour, if any, the prose style, and all those other obvious elements of fiction. But did you scratch through the surface of the story to discover what the author had to say? Did you find the theme of each book, and then ask yourself how it applied to you? If you didn’t do this, you failed to read those books.

Let me hasten to point out that not every book contains more than the story with its surface elements. “Escape fiction” doesn’t. This is the type of fiction you most often find in the big popular magazines. It is never realistic. It never makes the reader think.

At least half of our young people’s books are of this type- pure escape. In plot they run like this:
Our youthful hero, poor but honest and hard - working, is presented with a colt, apparently worthless. Of course the average reader knows better; the colt is an ugly duckling. Under tender care this colt grows into a magnificent thoroughbred. Now our hero sees his chance. With the help of a friend, a “character” at a nearby racing stable, he trains his horse for the turf. Here we have suspense- the -ever present danger in the dark of night from other trainers who are jealous. Valiantly our hero triumphs over all these villains. In the exciting last chapter, our ugly duckling wins the race and our deserving hero receives the Grand Prize of fifty thousand dollars.

This, Pat, is not reality. They aren’t real people where world and this isn’t real life. It is the dream world where facts are never faced; in other words, this is an escape story. Such a book in itself doesn’t do any harm, When truly entertaining, it is valuable in getting the slow reader to come back like Oliver Twist and ask for more. It is only a continual diet of such books that may be harmful. For these books give a distorted view of life; they the reader in an unreal world.

I’ve written escape fiction myself. Jungle River and Hurricane Weather are just stories. In state industrial schools where most of the delinquent boys are so ill -adjusted they cannot face the world, such books are eagerly read, So we need, you see, all kinds of books for all kinds of readers. Still, if you are to become a reader of our better serials and murder tales, you must learn while young how to read. You must learn to dive beneath the surface of a story and explore in the twilight until you find its meaning – its point, its moral, its underlying idea, its theme.
Since most modern writers do not tack on an explanation to their stories, as did old Aesop in his fable about the fox and the grapes, you must learn how to hunt, how to dig.

You might begin your search by studying a popular song such as “Bali Ha’i,” from South Pacific, which says that most people live on a lonely island lost in the middle of a foggy sea, and most people long for another island- Bali Ha’i. Don’t take this literally Pat. This is figurative language. You might say in your own words that the song’s idea, or theme, is “Greener pastures are over the fence,” or Beyond the horizon is a lovelier place to live.” In this idea you’ll find what we call a universal truth. It is true of you and of me and of every other person, because all of us at times wish we were in other places- over the fences that surround us. It is the element in the song that gives it such a wide appeal and makes it stand out from other popular songs.

Pick up a volume of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and read “The Red Shoes.” The little red shoes are always dancing. To me they represent. or symbolize, a quality. To me they are a symbol of vanity or the frivolous life. And to me the theme of the story is: “Vanity leads to sorrow and getting rid of vanity leads to peace and happiness.” Next read “The Nightingale” by Andersen and then figure for yourself what the live nightingale, with her lovely songs, stands for; and what the mechanical nightingale, with its one music-box song, stands for. Both are symbols. There is a meaning, a universal truth, in this little tale, and that’s one reason why it lasts through the years.
This is the stuff of art and literature. Our best writers whom I want you to read some day- Hawthorne, Melville, Henry James, Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Hemingway- can be read, and must be read, on more then one level. The short stories and novels of these distinguished writers not only have themes of universal significance, they are also filled with implication and symbolism; that is, they contain under-the-surface meanings.
It is not only our top-drawer authors who possess this under-the-surface element in their fiction. Any writer, if he really knows his craft, makes the attempt to include it.
Certainly it should not be difficult to peer into the twilight depths of a story for young people. Such a book may not be literature, but it may be, I hope, a stepping-stone to the reading of literature. Let me look at a few books I happen to know best - my own. Take one of my simplest books, Secret Cargo.

On the surface, this is an action and mystery story about a locked chest hidden in the hold of a ship. But there is also a hidden cargo that my hero, Larry, knows nothing about until the end of his adventures. When the lid of the wooden chest is raised, there is nothing of value inside. Then why is the book titled Secret Cargo? Because its theme, a belief I still hold to, is this: “In all of us, in our unplumbed depths, there are certain hidden qualities, abilities, talents- call them what you will- which few of us ever discover and bring to light and put to use. So seldom do any of us ever reach the limits of our own short range.”

The secret cargo is in Larry himself. The brassbound chest, hidden in the ship, is a symbol. What do I mean by that? Well, a lion is a symbol of courage. [Remember Richard the Lion-Hearted?] The object used as a symbol represents something else, a quality, an idea of greater magnitude, something you cannot see or put your hands on. To use a symbol is one way of trying to give more depth, more meaning to a story. Now, Pat, stand on the first level but hold yourself ready to dive. On the surface, this book is the story of a locked chest hidden on a ship at sea. Now dive to the second level. The story is about the secret cargo that Larry discovers within himself, certain abilities he did not know he had until his adventures showed them to him. Now plunge down to the third and touch bottom.

You see, I had hoped that a young reader like you, after finishing the story, would pause long enough to ask himself if he, like my hero, possessed any secret cargo. Think a minute. Dig deep down inside yourself, bring this cargo to light, put it to use. Did you do any of these things?
At last, Pat, we are beginning to read a book. We have found its theme. We have discovered the use of a symbol. We note that the surface story of the finding of the hidden chest on a ship at sea goes parallel with the deeper story of Larry’s finding himself as a capable human being. We understand now what the author is saying between the lines. So we finally ask ourselves if there is a meaning here that touches us personally, and we linger over this question….

If for a time you read along the lines I’ve mentioned, you should soon be ready to plunge into literature. I’d like you then to read a masterpiece by Ernest Hemingway. This is his short novel, The Old Man and the Sea. Let me suggest a few things, out of many, to look for.

From the very first paragraph, where you read that the boat’s sail, furled, was “like the flag of permanent defeat,” to the very last sentence of the book, “The old man was dreaming about the lions,” you will find symbols, underlying meanings, implications. Note that the old man feels himself a brother to the fish in the sea, to the birds that rest for a moment on his boat after flying so far from shore. Like himself, they are all part of life. Note that after a turtle has been butchered, its heart will still beat for hours. Do you find a meaning here?

When, at the end of the story, the old man returns defeated to his hut, he throws himself down upon his cot with his arms outstretched, “the palms of his hands up.” Here is the symbol of Christ on the Cross- material defeat but spiritual victory. For the old man still dreams about the lions. He has not lost his courage, his faith.

Why does the author so seldom call his main character by his name, Santiago, but usually just “the old man”? Because he represents mankind. His story is man’s story down through the ages. And why does the old man not have a wife at home or a friend of his own age to talk to? Why, instead, is his companion a boy? Because the author needed a youth to represent the younger generation. The old man passes on to this youth two things of value: first, a knowledge of how to fish, how to make a living; and second, courage that never admits defeat. In each generation, man needs to hold on to these two things if he is to survive, if the cycle of life is to go on.

Note the tourists who enter the story just before the final paragraph. They gaze upon the skeleton of the marlin and think it is a shark’s. They see only superficially; they do not understand, or care. Don’t be a tourist, Pat, who skims along like a water bug on the surface of life.

These under-the-surface elements that we have discussed are also to be found in many of the European movies shown in this country and, now and then, in an American movie. If you saw the Oscar-winning All About Eve, you must have been aware that the movie’s end was brought onto the stage. The camera turned away from Bette Davis and Celeste Holm and focused upon an unnamed character, a teenage girl. [This was Marilyn Monroe in one of her first small parts on the screen.] This teenage girl, standing before a panel of mirrors with a lovely evening gown held up before her, saw her own glittering reflection over and over again in those mirrors. Without a word spoken, the whole meaning of the story was summed up on that symbolic final scene. That glittering dress was a symbol that hit you with tremendous force. It was a symbol of material success at the expense of spiritual failure, a ruthless success that had achieved its end by trampling on friendships. The movie, in its own technical way, was getting under the surface of the story, aiming its camera at you and at me, speaking directly to you and to me. This is art.

When you bring this knowledge of method to the movies you see and the books you read, you gain a new understanding of your own life and a new understanding of the lives of people about you. Not only have learned how to get under the surface of a story; you have learned at the same time something more vital- how to get under the surface of life.

Let me summarize:
I hope now that you will be able to spot an escape story. A good one, based upon some measure of reality, can be as refreshing as a shower on a hot summer day. It is only the cheaper ones that I question. And those which over-emphasize material gain in the last chapter give such a distorted view of life that a diet of such books may act as an obstacle to your maturing into a sensible adult. Remember that a fairy tale may have, behind its action, a meaning, a universal truth. Remember that it is this element in some of our young people’s books that makes them stepping-stones to the reading of literature. Remember that behind the action, the characters, the prose style, lies the true worth of a book- its meaning.

You should [1] find the theme of a story and be able to express it in your own words, the fewer the better. [2] Be alert and look for symbols, and if there are some, decide what they stand for. [3] Pick out human values presented by the author and label them either as spiritual or as material values; then, according to your own way of thinking, rate them as to their importance. [4] Finally, identify some of the under-the-surface elements and ask yourself how they apply to you personally.

Yet how many readers, old or young, do this? Do you, Pat, truly read a book? Do you hunt for its secret cargo?
Cordially yours,
Howard Pease
Howard Pease, “How to Read Fiction”


I imagine you have all heard of such recipes as Chicken à la King, Shrimp à la Creole, Blah-Blah à la this and so on. What follows is a description of one of my favourite class recipes, a Book Review à la Papa Dan[ my students’ name for me]. Guaranteed to whet the appetite of even the most reluctant language student, satiate the Ministry of Education’s predilection for language-skill integration, this particular concoction or any adaptation of it and the approach, the method it suggests and upon which is based is a must for the pedagogical cookbook of any language teacher.

Like so many of our teaching instruments this one too has a history; it too underwent quite an evolution over the years. It was in the early 1970’s while doing tons of reading for the development of a mass media course that I chanced upon a letter by a writer of teenage fiction to a young fan of his interested in distinguishing the good from the bad book, that worth reading from that not worth the reading effort. The writer’s name was Howard Pease, the fan’s Pat. I read the letter and as sometimes happens, the light lit… Howard Pease’s letter to Pat is one piece of writing my students became very familiar with during their time in my classroom.

Of all my teaching instruments this became one of my most precious because of its ability to make good readers, good viewers of my students.


In our language classrooms, students are assigned books to read. This is good. Here’s a description of what often happens after, which, unfortunately, is not so good. The teacher comes to class, usually on a Friday, and gives his young charges a content test, usually consisting of 25 or so fill- in- the- blank, underline- the- right- word, multiple- choice type questions, designed to check whether the student has read the novel or not. Note that all the student needs to be successful here is a good memory.

The student is then sent home for the weekend with a photocopy of a “famous” critic’s analysis of the novel’s style, major themes and symbols or he’s asked to purchase a copy of Cole’s Notes or similar reading material to pore over for the weekend.

On Monday the real work begins- at least for the teacher. He comes in armed to the teeth with a briefcase full of notes on the novel under study gleaned from the most scholarly of literary articles -and Cole’s Notes- and begins a chapter- by- chapter study of the novel which sometimes lasts for weeks, depending on how much time he’s got at his disposition, with his students. At the end, he gives them another content test to check if they’ve been developing their listening skills while he’s been developing his speaking ones.

And all over the globe our respective ministries of education are wondering why our young people are having such difficulty developing language skills. He who does learns. It’s as simple as that. If the teacher does all or most of the work he does all or most of the learning.

If by now you’re wondering how I know all of this it’s because in my early years of teaching I did all of this. As the expression goes, “ been there, done that ”. Then, not unlike St-Paul, I fell off my high horse, and the light lit… [Eventually, I hope to be able to share my philosophy of language teaching with you in another piece of writing.]

What I particularly like about Howard Pease’s way of reading fiction is that it puts the responsibility for understanding what one has read exactly where it belongs: in one’s lap. Once a student understands the concept of criteria and Pease’s four criteria for evaluating a piece of fiction, written or film, he can make meaning of anything he reads or views. In effect, he is well on his way to becoming a fine critic himself, all the while developing those language skills language teachers are hired to help him develop.


Here’s how I approached a book review à la Papa Dan.

During the first week of school I would tell my students that they were going to have two supplementary books to read during the course for book review purposes, that one of these would be done in the form of an essay, [which I would teach them how to do], the other orally up front of the class for the benefit of all their classmates. This, I would also add, would be the major part of their public speaking program. I would also assure them that when the time came for them to do their major presentation they, like those who had come before them, they too would have the wherewithal to do so successfully.

It was also at this time that I would ask them to start selecting and obtaining approval for and starting to read as book review time would be upon them more quickly than they thought. I would caution them about procrastination and get them under way.Eventually, and only after teaching them how to write the good essay, I would finally get around to showing them what a Book Review à la Papa Dan entailed.

The first thing to do was have them read by themselves Howard Pease’s Letter to Pat. This was followed by a class reading and general discussion of the letter’s contents. A series of units designed to explain and clarify each of Howard Pease’s four criteria for evaluating a piece of fiction was the next item on the classroom agenda. It goes without saying that what a criterion is, what criteria are, was also an integral part of these units.

Though these units took different forms during the years, the one thing they retained was their inherent capacity to involve the students in the tasks at hand. One thing I learned over the years , as aforementioned, was that when I did I learned, that when thy did they learned. So, I tried to design units that would involve them in most of the doing.

Time consuming, you say. Yes, but that is why you have them in your language classroom. Your job is to help them become producers of language, not merely spectators of others’ language productions. Stephen D. Krashen, an American researcher in how language is acquired, puts it this way. One of the great paradoxes of language teaching, he says, is that “language is best taught when it is being used to transmit messages not when it is explicitly taught for conscious learning.”

One of the things I did was have them divide themselves in groups and prepare kits or units for another class that would help students in these learn what a theme is. By the time they had shared these kits with each other and we had discussed them they were ready to evaluate any novel, film, piece of literature, and here I use the term in its broadest sense, according to Howard Pease’s first criterion for so doing, that is, “ find the theme of a story and be able to express it in your own words, the fewer the better.” To Pease’s criterion I would add the words: preferably in one complete sentence.
Once we had gone through the four criteria via such units the students were asked to evaluate any film they had recently seen according to Howard Pease’s four criteria. Then it was on to an evaluation of one of the novels we had read for class study and discussion in similar fashion. By the time we had finished this exercise, they knew Howard Pease and his four criteria for evaluating a novel quite well and were ready to be put to work by themselves. This is when I would refresh their memory regarding their two book reviews.

I would tell them when they had to hand in their written book review. This usually presented no problem as by this time we had undergone all of the steps the production of an essay entailed, from the selection of the subject, through the brainstorm all the way to the conclusion and final draft. We had gone through this process as a class, they had written a composition in groups, and they had also handed in or were working on a major paper- putting into individual practice what we had learned and practiced together.

The oral book review, however, was usually a bit more frightening for them. This is the way I handled it.I would usually ask a student to reproduce on standard 8 x 11 paper the school calendar for the months of our English class. I would then cross out with an X those days which I wanted to reserve for class purposes. I discovered over the years that more than two presentations a week tended to be monotonous so I would usually X out all but two days per week.

Using this calendar, students would choose their own date of presentation by penning in their John Henry on a first-come, first-served basis. As much of that period they required to do their oral book review was theirs- and given the task at hand, most of the time they needed most of it.
Their presentation started off with a brief summary of their book. [If they had chosen to do their presentation on any other book than a novel they chose other evaluation criteria with my help. Some of Pease’s evaluation criteria do not easily lend themselves to the appraisal of such literary forms as biographies, autobiographies, informational literature, and so on.]

The summary was followed by a thorough evaluation of their novel according to Pease’s criteria for evaluating fiction, thoroughly explained in his Letter to Pat, which follows this piece of writing. The numerous tasks their presentations entailed usually took up the better part of a forty minute period. I required, however, that they keep the last seven to ten minutes for questions.

That basically is what the presenter did. What, however, did the students do during the presentation besides listen, especially if the presenter was not the best of speakers. It’s important to remember that the goal here as far as the presenter was concerned was to help him or her develop speaking skills. To assume that he or she had to have these in order to present is to miss the whole point of the exercise. During the years I designed several tasks to keep them on their intellectual toes, so to speak, to keep them at their listening best.

First, at the end of the presentation, I would select two or three students at random to prepare a critique of the presentation. These critiques had to be written and were orally delivered at the beginning of the next class period during which there was no presentation. The same student could be called upon once, twice, three times in a row, so he couldn’t afford to sleep even though he had already been picked once or twice do a critique. Everyone did at least one critique. Another task those being presented to were required to do was put to paper five thought- provoking questions on the various topics touched upon by their classmate during the presentation. These were sometimes picked up for evaluation. Often they were used to initiate discussion.

These pen-and-paper listening activities kept most of my students listening most of the time. It goes without saying that I would spend some time with them showing them how to do a constructive critique and how to devise thought-provoking questions, questions that required more than a yes or no answer. We also developed together a checklist for the assessment of speaking skills. It was these criteria that were used to appraise their oral book review.

In senior grades, I had students go one step further in their reviews, both written and oral. They were asked to not only employ Howard Pease’s criteria in their evaluation, but also to identify, explain and use two of their own personal criteria for evaluating a “piece of literature”. Again I use the word literature in its broadest sense, to include not only written but also film, television and other productions.

So, there you have it- a unit that involves all the students in a language class in myriad language activities, in fact, in all of the major language areas, namely, reading, writing, speaking, listening and thinking.

Students never forget a book review à la Papa Dan. They had too much practice. Some years ago, a student I had taught about ten years earlier asked me if I remembered Howard Pease’s Letter to Pat. Naturally I answered in the affirmative. She then went on to ask if I’d be kind enough to send a copy to her Mom, an elementary school teacher, who was taking a university course and who wanted a “way” to evaluate a novel she was preparing for a seminar. I complied with this call for help and later found out that both Mom and daughter had been very happy as Mom’s assignment had been highly praised by her professor.

In closing, it is important to note that the recipe described lends itself to a myriad of adaptations. Flexibility is key to successful classroom utilization of different strategies for different purposes at different grade levels. Students at an academic level, for example, can use them to evaluate two different books they’ve been assigned, one in the form of an essay, the other orally for the benefit of their classmates. Non-academic students, those who are viewers a lot more than they are readers, can use them along with film and television- specific criteria such as set design and special effects, to evaluate a book and\or movie and\or television program.

Variations on a theme. An expression worth remembering when using Howard Pease’s FAB FOUR. The potential for adaptation is almost limitless… Good Luck.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Essay Writing:Easy Recipe

How I Passed My College Entrance Writing Proficiency Examination



Daniel St-Jean














The following is designed to help you pass any college or university entrance writing proficiency examination. In fact, anyone anywhere following its steps should be able to produce a good piece of writing.

Before embarking upon the first of several steps, it is important to note that there are four major types of prose writing and that each is distinguished by its main purpose. The purpose of EXPOSITORY WRITING is to explain, to discuss, to analyze and clarify. That of ARGUMENTATIVE WRITING is to prove a point. DESCRIPTIVE WRITING aims to describe, whereas NARRATIVE WRITING tells a story.

The type of writing college and university students are required to show some proficiency in upon entrance and master once accepted is the first: EXPOSITORY WRITING. This is so because this is the type of writing that the worlds of business and science require the most. It is unfortunate that even though many high school teachers often ask their students to write essays, compositions, papers, [call them what you will] that they very seldom take them through the painstaking, time consuming[and extremely beneficial!] process this entails.

Below is a step by step recipe, an easy one to boot, to help you produce a good piece of EXPOSITORY WRITING. Noteworthy is that the same process can be used to write an equally successful piece of ARGUMENTATIVE WRITING.

The first thing needed to write a COMPOSITION is a SUBJECT. For the professional writer this is often a task in itself. For the student this is not a job at all for a subject is assigned to him- at least most of the time! The same holds true for the student having to write a writing proficiency entrance examination. Subjects usually given to choose from are those young adults should have some familiarity with in their day and age, such current events as, the upcoming federal or presidential election, the war in Iraq, climate change, etc. Having a look at and giving some thought to what’s been a lot in the news is a good idea before setting off to go write such an exam.

Once you’ve got a SUBJECT to write on, then the real work begins. Job number one is called the BRAINSTORM, and it consists of three steps. The first is the actual STORM. All you are required to do at this point is focus on the SUBJECT real hard, and jot down any idea that comes to mind on it, as quickly as possible. At this stage, pay absolutely no thought to the ideas your mind comes up with, don’t worry about things like spelling, capitalization, etc. Just open up the floodgates of your mind and let the waters [ideas] flow.

Below is a sample STORM on the SUBJECT of Parents. This SUBJECT has been selected because it is something we all know enough to write on. RESEARCH, a necessary step when hardly anything is known about one’s SUBJECT, is not required to write about this one. In fact, we have enough knowledge about it to write volumes….


Old fashioned
Worried about what others will think
You can count on
Can’t win
Brothers and sisters
Good eats
Summer vacation
Focused on appearance

This then is your BRAINSTORM. Other questions you can ask of most subjects to help generate even more ideas are: Who? What? Why? Where? When? How? Thinking about the origins of something will also help in the production of ideas.

Not knowing what to write about on a given subject is a problem many students know only too well. All anyone has to do to generate enough ideas to write a whole book on is BRAINSTORM the SUBJECT as has been done above. The problem then becomes having too much to write about, one many students would gladly welcome, one which has a simple enough solution.

The abovementioned solution is step number two of the BRAINSTORM and it is called THE GATHERING. This consists of having a look at the numerous ideas you’ve come up with on your SUBJECT, and “gathering” those that go together under separate headings. Note that the same idea can go under different headings, and that any idea can become a heading.

Below is the sample GATHERING on the SUBJECT of Parents.


Problems [with parents]

• don’t understand
• strict
• worried-what others will think
• listening
• old fashioned
• overprotective
• critical
• demanding
• always right
• angry

Fun [with parents]

• holidays
• food
• Christmas
• Toys

Good things [about parents]

• Love
• Forgiving
• Money
• Car
• Generosity
• Count on

Life stages [of parents]

• Birth
• Growing up
• Growing old
• Sickness and death
• Friends
• Love

Good eats [with parents]

• Christmas
• Summer holidays
• Thanksgiving
• Mom’s and Dad’s best recipes

Sexuality [parental]

• Gay
• Divorce
• Separation
• Sex

After your STORM and GATHERING you are probably going to come to the realization that “Boy, do I have lots to write about!” In fact, if you look closely, you have enough ideas to write volumes on your Subject. You could, for example, write a piece on the “good eats” you’ve shared with your parents over the years, or holidays with Mom and Dad, or the good things about parents. You could, if you wanted to, concentrate, on some of your favorite Christmases with your parents or the piles of money they’ve spent on you over the years.

As you can see the possibilities are limitless, especially if you decide to brainstorm specific ideas obtained in your initial BRAINSTORM. What you now have is a big SUBJECT, one you have to put on a diet. Now is the time for step number three of your BRAINSTORM, namely, ESTABLISHING A FOCUS AND BUILDING A PLAN. Now is the time to decide what aspect of this very broad SUBJECT you’re going to write on, and plan accordingly.

The aspect of our very broad SUBJECT I’ve chosen to focus and write a COMPOSITION on for the purpose of illustration is The Qualities of Parents. This will also be the working title of my piece of writing. Below are the PLANS for a six-paragraph composition on The Qualities Of Parents, the aspect of the Subject to be written about, as well as one on Parent’s Faults which you could write about later on for practice.

The Qualities of Parents

I. Introduction

II. 1. loving
2. forgiving
3. generous
4. reliable

III. Conclusion

Parents’ Faults

I. Introduction

II. 1. overprotective
2. critical
3. strict
4. old fashioned

III. Conclusion

Note that if you had a longer COMPOSITION to write, say an eight paragraph one, you could combine the two above PLANS and write one on The Qualities and Faults of Parents. If you had an even longer one, you could add more qualities and faults.

The Good Introduction

The first part of any COMPOSITION is called the INTRODUCTION. An INTRODUCTION, designed to INTRODUCE, always does the same two jobs, no matter what the subject, no matter what the language. The first job is often referred to as the GENERAL STATEMENT because it consists of pointing out to the reader the general subject to be dealt with in the paragraphs to follow, in this case Parents. By the time the reader has finished reading your GENERAL STATEMENT he knows what subject you’re going to be dealing with but still has no clue exactly what aspects or aspects of the subject you’re going to be focusing on.

Below is a sample GENERAL STATEMENT on our COMPOSITION on The Qualities of Parents.

General Statement

Parents have been around forever, in fact, since the beginning of mankind. Every child around the world as a rule has a set of two, a father and a mother, and the many qualities of these two special people in the lives of all children have been the subject of countless discussions as far back as Adam and Eve.

After your reader has read this first part of this INTRODUCTION on The Qualities of Parents, he knows that this piece of writing will be dealing with parents and their qualities. This will confirm what he has probably already deduced from the TITLE, its job being to point out to the reader the SUBJECT and DIRECTION of a piece of writing.

After your reader has had a look at the TITLE and read the GENERAL STATEMENT he still doesn’t know which specific parental virtues are going to be discussed in the BODY of your ESSAY. Job number two of the GOOD INTRODUCTION will address this. It is often referred as the STATEMENT of INTENT because it tells the reader what aspects of the SUBJECT will be specifically dealt with in the paragraphs to come. In our sample COMPOSITION the STATEMENT of INTENT will tell the reader exactly which of the numerous parental qualities will be developed.

Different formulae have been designed to accomplish this “specifying” task. “The purpose of this essay is to…” is one. “The following paragraphs will deal with…” is another one. There are countless other variations of these two formulae. I used to use them in university and both my teachers and I knew where I was going. Later, when I was teaching and I had taught them, my students did likewise and both they and I knew where they were headed in their piece of writing.

Note, however, that even though correct and acceptable, these formulae are quite formal and more the language appropriate to the doctoral dissertation and science lab. The more accomplished writer will find a way around them- if that is his wish.

Statement of Intent [With formula]

The purpose of this essay is to discuss four of the many qualities of parents: they love and forgive, they are generous and reliable.

Statement of Intent [Without formula]

It doesn’t matter where you go or who you talk to, sooner or later you will be forced to come to the recognition that not only are parents loving and forgiving but also generous and reliable.

After you’ve read the above Statements of Intent you now know that the writer is going to be talking about four parental virtues, namely, their loving, forgiving, generous and reliable nature. In a short COMPOSITION only one paragraph probably will be devoted to each quality. In a longer piece, a book, for example, a whole chapter or section could easily be devoted to each.

Entire Introduction [With formula]

Parents have been around forever, in fact, since the beginning of mankind. Every child around the world as a rule has a set of two, a father and a mother, and the many qualities of these two special people in the lives of all children have been the subject of countless discussions as far back as Adam and Eve. The purpose of this essay is to discuss four of the many qualities of parents: they love and forgive, they are generous and reliable.

Entire Introduction [Without formula]

Parents have been around forever, in fact, since the beginning of mankind. Every child around the world as a rule has a set of two, a father and a mother, and the many qualities of these two special people in the lives of all children have been the subject of countless discussions as far back as Adam and Eve. It doesn’t matter where you go or who you talk to you sooner or later you will be forced to come to the recognition that not only are parents loving and forgiving but also generous and reliable.

Now that we’ve told our reader what aspects of our SUBJECT we were going to develop in the BODY of our COMPOSITION it’s time to do it! Here goes!

Paragraph 1 [Loving]

The love of parents for their offspring starts early and lasts forever. As soon as today’s woman finds out that she is pregnant she starts giving up that cigarette with her morning coffee, that glass of wine with her evening meal. Her partner starts taking on jobs that are not necessarily hers but that she often does, shopping for and preparation of meals, running the vacuum, loading and unloading the dishwasher, to name several. These little “extra efforts,” all demonstrations of parental love, continue “until death does them part”.

Paragraph 2 [Forgiving]

When it comes to their children, another virtue that parents have and display daily is a forgiving nature. Children, it seems, can commit the everyday little misdemeanor, they can lie, steal, cheat, or the most heinous of crimes, they can torture, rape, and murder, and at the end of the day, after a severe scolding or not, they will more often than not be forgiven by their parents. It seems that there is no crime that parents will not forgive. With parents, getting yet another chance is indeed par for the course. And everyone has a story or two, or three, about this extraordinary parental quality.

Paragraph 3 [Generous]

If parents are loving and forgiving, they are also extremely generous- with both their time and money. In the early years just caring for their children takes up the better part of their day. Later, time is made to taxi them to games and lessons and meetings. Also, parents rarely refuse to reach into their pockets, and sometimes deep, for such things as gifts and hobbies and clothes; for braces and college education and marriage. It is said that every child costs his parents upwards of $100,000. Parenthood and generosity surely go together.

Paragraph 4 [Reliable]

By the time they have reached age of seven, what used to be known as “the age of reason,” children know many things, chief among them that they can count on their parents. They were there in the early years when knees were scraped and bones were bruised. They were there at the bus stop those first days of school, when taking the bus was no easy chore. They were there when they found out about that bully at school picking on the younger ones. They were also there when money was needed to go to college. It seems that they are never far behind whenever a helping hand is needed. This is reliability and they are reliable.

And there you have it-the BODY of your COMPOSITION or ESSAY or PAPER… What follows is the last paragraph of your PAPER. It is called the Conclusion.

The Good Conclusion

The Good Conclusion, like the Good Introduction, does two jobs, no matter what the subject, no matter what the language. In fact, it does pretty much the same two jobs as the Good Introduction, but in reverse order.

If you remember, the first job of your introduction was to point out to your reader exactly what aspect or aspects of your SUBJECT you were going to develop in the BODY of your PAPER. Now that you have done that, it is time, before you leave him perhaps forever, to turn around with him, and look back quickly over the ground you’ve covered. A SUMMING UP is therefore the first task of the Good Introduction.


Summing Up

The stories left behind by humans about their journey through life are numerous. Not surprising many deal with and prove time and time again the extent to which parents love their offspring, the extent to which when it comes to these they are loving, forgiving, generous and reliable.

Now that we’ve summarized for our reader the main ideas that have been touched upon in the BODY of our COMPOSITION, it’s time to do job number two, which I used to tell my students was called THE WRAPPER UPPER. It’s important to remember at this point in time that we’re just on the verge of bidding farewell to our reader, and so we want to wrap things up as neatly as possible. Who knows, if we do a good job here what we had to say might stay with him a tad longer…

The WRAPPER UPPER is another kind of General Statement, one that can take on different forms. Sometimes it takes on the form of a question, raising another aspect of the SUBJECT, sending the reader further on. Most of the time, however, it just closes the piece of writing.

Below is a sample WRAPPER UPPER.

Wrapper Upper

These are just a few of the many qualities of parents. That there are countless others, undoubtedly enough to fill books, only the proverbial fool would dare argue with.

Entire Conclusion

The stories left behind by humans about their journey through life are numerous. Not surprising many deal with and prove time and time again the extent to which parents love their offspring, the extent to which when it comes to these they are loving, forgiving, generous and reliable. These are just a few of the many qualities of parents. That there are countless others, undoubtedly enough to fill books, only the proverbial fool would dare argue with.

This, then, is your Good Composition. Select a SUBJECT, follow the recipe, and you’ll be able to write one too. Practice the recipe, follow it when writing, and you will write well enough to pass any college entrance writing proficiency examination- with flying colors! My students had a weekly “THOUGHT OF THE WEEK” to write. So they got to practice the recipe often. Many of them became very good writers. Those with writing talent became excellent writers. Not many failed their college writing proficiency examination.




How I Passed My College Entrance Writing Proficiency Examination













Papa Dan

The hard copy of An Easy Step By Step Recipe For Expository Writing is available at: