Over these past two semesters, I have grown a lot as a writer and have learned many new and interesting skills that would not be offered in any of my other classes. Everything we have done this year has vastly improved my communication skills — orally, written, and body position. Mr. Ziebarth’s AP English 4 class doesn’t only focus on language composition, but also expands into life application. I would have never obtained the same level of well-rounded learning anywhere else.
Reflecting on this successful year, I would have to contribute that success to working together in table groups to peer grade our assignments. I do not know how to explain it, but one feels more connected and open to suggestions, or criticism, when it is delivered from a peer. One of the best examples of this phenomena is with the narrative essay from the first semester. When I submitted my first draft of the essay, I was absolutely sure that it would receive a near perfect score because, as I went down the rubric, I had all the requirements and more. But as my table group fixed my essay and posted critical comments, I soon realized that there was so much more to writing than simply responding to the prompt with all the necessary categories. When writing, one has to take into account SOAPSTONE: Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and Tone. The category I failed to appeal to is audience. Looking back on the assignment, the diction I chose contained much beach jargon that most people would not be able to
understand. Therefore, I had to go back and adjust my essay to allow for an easier read for my target audience. Another section of SOAPSTONE I needed to work on was the tone of my essay. On several occasions, I did not choose the correct adjectives and verbs to portray the mood I wanted. Without getting this constructive, positive criticism back from my peers, my essay would have been a disaster. Also, one of the neat touches that Mr. Ziebarth included in his class, concerning peer grading, is that students are not allowed to talk while their essay are being corrected. I found this especially helpful because I am the one to argue my point until I can get the opposing side to agree. This trick allowed me to see and understand how others comprehend my writing without explanation — any gaps in logic or awkward wording. On the other side of the spectrum, this allowed unrestricted flow of ideas when correcting another student’s paper. I could better communicate my full thoughts on my peer’s paper without interruption.
One of the greatest skills that I will cherish from this year was my ability to better communicate my idea on paper. The assignment that I can best attribute this expansive growth in skill is to the months of blog posts. Being able to research a topic and then reflect upon it is a very important skill. Doing this assignment two to three times a week taught me how to become more insightful and create something of interest to others. As my blogs improved, my number of views from around the world skyrocketed. I was amazing to see the progress in the number of views and comments from people in other countries. This relates to my Catcher in the Rye question: How do words affect the relationship between a person and others?The same words that Holden Caulfield used to repel people in his community, I used to attract people from around the world. This assignment just proves that words are a powerful tool that can be used to bring people together or force them away. Labeling others as “phonies” whenever people have differing opinions or way of life is a sure way to stay alone. In the novel, it is Holden’s words that alienates him from society.
Keeping everything in mind, I utilized these experiences in writing my college project — one my all time favorite assignments in my high school years. The ability to research and transfer my thoughts into words that will appeal to my target audience is something that I could have only managed in this class. From writing my letters of recommendations for next year for a lifeguarding scholarship to telling crazy lifeguarding stories in my personal essay, I plan to deploy these assignments next year during the dreaded college application process.
Now it is time for some self-criticism. There are several things that I could have done differently, but the one that really been lingering over my head is doing my reading assignments in the mornings. I do not mean leaving the entire reading assignment in the mornings, but rather only reading books in the morning from 5:30 am to 6:30 am. I wish that I had allotted my reading assignments to the late night when my attention was at its peak. I feel like I retain information much better when I do it right before I go to sleep. To prevent this from happening next year, I will allocate one to two hours for reading assignments next year right after dinner so I can recall as much information from every word of a novel.
All in all, this past year has been unlike any English class that I had before. I have greatly enjoyed my time in class and I hope to see everyone again next year. Thank you Mr. Ziebarth for making my Junior year that much better.