Henry David Thoreau quote - Library Way - NY City

The end point for our study of Dear America is that you are going to end up writing an essay for this text. Your text response essay will need to discuss:

- how the text constructs meaning
- how a text conveys ideas and values
- how a text is open to a range of interpretations

(Beardwood, 09, p.67).

Our learning/study of the text is about preparing for this. It is about getting to know the text well so that you will develop ideas and points of view about it that can be discussed in an essay.

Of course, to be able to discuss one's ideas and points of view in an essay one needs to have strategies and skills for approaching essay writing. This blogspace will discuss what an essay is, ways one can approach writing an essay and the little tips and tricks that one can use to help prepare for writing essays under SAC and exam conditions.

Monday, June 18, 2012


What the?

(image source: http://www.yesicanusechopsticks.com/thesequel/photos/journal-pics/incidental.JPG)

If you can incorporate some incidental learning into your study throughout the year it will put you in much better position to achieve in your SACs and exams than if you don't.

In preparation to write essays for Dear America you can:

* Print of copies of the free downloadable text article for Dear America at http://www.englishforyear12.com.au/ and place them in accessible places such as your bedroom and loungeroom.

* Develop quotes posters that you can put up in your bedroom, above the kettle, on the dunny door and walls, in the glovebox (if you get lifts to sport and work), in the VCE centre, or anywhere else you think is useful. Perhaps your mirror.

If anyone has any other suggestions please leave them as a comment.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spelling Demons

These are words that were commonly misspelled or used incorrectly by students:

  • soldier
  • throughout
  • receive
  • Vietnam War
  • compared
  • opinion
  • their/they're/there
  • know/no
  • upon
  • thought
  • government
  • ashamed
  • a lot



(1) In the text Dear America – Letters Home From Vietnam, the soldiers are the writers and authors of the letters. There is no one author/writer. Therefore, as you can’t use the name of an author/writer refer to the editor of the text, Bernard Edelman, particularly in the introduction of many essays. He is the man who collected, sorted and chose the letters to be used in the text.

For example –
The text Dear America edited by Bernard Edelman is a compilation of letters from serving American soldiers in Vietnam during their tour of duty.

In the text Dear America – Letters Home From Vietnam, edited by Bernard Edelman, he has compiled hundreds of letters written by soldiers serving in Vietnam to family and friends home in America.

In an essay, once you have used the full name of the author of a text, or in this case the editor, for a first time, (as in the introduction above); you can then just refer to their surname if you use their name again in the essay.

For example –
Through the compilation of letters written by soldiers in Vietnam home to their family and friends in America, Edelman aimed to bring an understanding of the war and its effects on those who served to life for the readers of the text.

In the introduction to essays on this text you need to weave in the title and editor of the text.

(2) Underline or place ‘……’ around the title of the text. Be consistent in your choice.

(3) Refer to individual letters in the text through both (A) direct quotes and (B) indirect examples.

For example –

(A) The letters home were important to the soldiers. ‘Mom, I appreciate all of your letters,’ Rod Chastant wrote. ‘…For a while as I read your letters I am a normal person. I’m not killing people, or worried about being killed.’

The conditions the soldiers experienced in the jungles of Vietnam were alien to them. As one soldier related home in his letter, ‘we are all scared’. Another soldier recorded of his first experience in combat, ‘This was my first experience of war and it was ugly’.

(B) In a letter home to his wife Linda, Fred Downs expressed his feelings about what he felt about the role he was playing in Vietnam. He….

(4) When appropriate and the topic allows:

Recognise the thematic nature of the chapters. (The letters in each chapter have been included because they all make some reference to or are concerned with different elements of the soldiers’ tour of duty…)

(5) Make reference to the photographs used at the start of the chapters and what they add to the impact of the text.

(6) There is a change of tone in the chapters throughout the text.

For example –

• At the start it was new, exciting to a point
• Shift to combat zone highlights the idea that war is hell
• Later there is disillusionment about the tasks that were asked to be done and some begin to question the reasons for being there

(7) Don’t forget the biographical details that are given at the end of most letters. This is part of the way the text has been structured. The inclusion of these details is aimed at adding to the emotional impact on the reader. This is particularly the case when it is discovered that the letter writer was killed in action.

Some Practice SAC Feedback

  • Plan: It can stop essays from becoming unwieldy. It can also help to build content.
1. What is your contention in response to the topic question?
2. What are four key supporting ideas that you can use in response to your topic question? These will support your contention, they will explain your position in regards to the question. What evidence will you provide to prove your points? Quotes/incidents. You can write your main points into short sentences that you can use as topic sentences for each of your main paragraphs.
  • Ask 'yes, but' or 'no, but' to your initial response to the essay question to ensure you consider different interpretations of the text in your response. Remember, you must show that 'you have an understanding of ways in which the text is open to different interpretations'.
  • Refer to the author/editor of the text throughout your essay. This will assist you in incorporating metalanguage into your response. It will force you to talk about the way the text works and how it effects the reader.
  • This is a 'text response'. Base discussion around the text, don't be general. 'Explore the topic from the basis of the text'.
  • Spell numbers up to one hundred.
  • Use single quotation marks.
  • Incorporate all quotes into sentences.
  • Do not abbreviate in essays or use texting language. It is a formal piece of writing.
  • Use upper and lower case letters accurately.
  • Use apostrophes accurately, especially when when using them to indicate possession in nouns.


When you set about to write your text response to Dear America it is important to consider your approach. Taking a step-by-step approach ensures you cover every aspect you need to think about to do your best. When you break the process of writing a text response down, there are four key steps:

1. Unpack the topic
2. Plan
3. Write
4. Review and edit

The initial steps are crucial to setting yourself up to write well on an essay topic. So, what do you need to consider at these stages?

1. Unpacking the topic: What are you being asked to write about? Make sure you fully understand what words of the topic mean. What are the key aspects of the topic? Highlight them. NB: You must answer all parts of the question. What will your contention be? Remember: you do not have to fully agree with the topic.

2. Plan/Brainstorm: Focuses on the text itself. What ideas do you have about the text that might be relevant to the topic. What characters and events should you discuss? Which themes and values will you consider in your discussion? How will you incorporate metalanguage into the essay?

Use the some of the essay questions at your disposal to practise these two steps. Being able to unpack and plan for an essay topic quickly is vital when you face the exam. Extend yourself by also practising writing the introduction and first paragraphs to an essay. Being able to do these things well puts you in a confident position to develop essays that follow through in directly responding to the topic/question.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


A common weakness in writing is the lack of varied sentences. Becoming aware of three general types of sentences--simple, compound, and complex--can help you vary the sentences in your writing.

To learn more about these sentence types VISIT THE SOURCE FOR THIS INFORMATION and click on any of the images presented in this post.

Tip: If you use many simple sentences in an essay, you should consider revising some of the sentences into compound sentences.

Tip: If you rely heavily on compound sentences in an essay, you should consider revising some of them into complex sentences

NB: The most effective writing uses a variety of the sentence types.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011