Building Complex Subjects and Objects in Memoir

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SWBAT recognize the groups of words acting as subjects, objects, and objects of prepositions in a memoir, as well as their function, through analysis of expert texts and their own work.

Big Idea

Nouns don't always act alone as subjects, objects, and objects of a preposition; more help leads to richer descriptions in memoir.


Yesterday we ended class by looking at a student text next to a couple different expert texts with the verbs highlighted, and noted that the verbs in the expert text were generally less frequent—that the writers pack more information into the subjects and direct objects of clauses between the verbs to develop richer, more detailed and fluid prose.  Today we will explore that space between the verbs more closely by analyzing how adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, and even clauses work with nouns to develop more complex subject and object phrases and clauses, which in-turn develop deeper context and, ultimately, build a deeper, more complex central idea.

Learning How Subjects and Objects are Constructed

25 minutes

Today’s lesson will follow a similar pattern to yesterday’s, in that I will first define subjects and objects (in systematic functional linguistics, the participants in any process of a clause), and also define prepositional phrases by explaining that they generally provide the circumstances in which the participants are involved in the process (such as reference to time, place, etc.).  When these phrases are used in direct association with the subject or object of a sentence, their function is to build more complex subjects and objects that are around one verb, rather than shorter subject-verb,-object sentences.  To demonstrate, I will use the same excerpts as yesterday for continuity (Wild subject groups.docx:  students have studied these extensively, and we analyzed the function of verbs in them yesterday, so it makes sense to use them again so students can focus on the function of the words).  A summary of what I will show students in the text is in the following video:  subject groups mp4.mp4.

How Subjects and Objects Function in Memoir

45 minutes

After modeling with one paragraph of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, students will then highlight the subject and object phrases and clauses of the rest of that piece (I will let them talk together on this so they can learn from each other, and I will circulate to help, too; ).  Once they appear done, I will put my version on the Smartboard and let students compare theirs with mine, and they can also ask any questions they might have.  With this on the board, I will then ask what they notice regarding the color—that there is a lot of it, and it is often in large chunks of text.   To demonstrate, I'll then show a side by side document that compares the text with a student text, and note how the chunks are generally shorter.   I will also show a side by side that highlights prepositional phrases only, which shows that there are a lot more in the expert text (here are two side by side examples:  field analysis expert vs. student sample 1.docxfield analysis Wild vs. student sample 1.docx). 

So, what does this mean in terms of writing?  We will discuss this question, with the main point that revising essays by use of prepositional phrases in connection to subjects and objects (also nouns, of course!) can build depth and complexity from within the narrative instead of trying to add more at the end, which leads to a stronger overall essay.

As one more point of emphasis, I want to take the additional step of returning to the genre moves of memoir and look more specifically at how the shape of subjects and objects differ in the narrative parts versus the analysis sections, in that there are more first person pronouns in the analysis, and less use of prepositional phrases (I demonstrate this in the video of the previous section).  Since the students highlighted these genre parts the other day, this should help the students identify where to focus their energy on revision through additional circumstances.

Finally, with all of the information we’ve covered, I will do a quick list of some of the things they might find in their field analysis, and what the revision could be, so they have a better sense of how to use what they’ve learned as they go into the revising process tomorrow. (use of field analysis.pdf)

Next Steps:  Students will highlight the subject and object groups in their own papers and write a brief analysis of patterns they identify.