Tips and strategies: The Midterm Exam

March 14, 2019

What makes writing in-class essays like the Midterm and the Final difficult comes from the fact that most first draft writing is disorganized and unfocused – you are responding to a question that you’ve haven’t seen before.

That’s why I’m giving you the questions in advance, so you can develop a focused thesis and plan your answer.

I’ve designed the Midterm Exam to build the writing process into the exam itself.

The purpose of this essay exam test is

to test your comprehension of the reading required for this class;


to evaluate your ability to generate ideas, sentences and conclusions in response to that reading.

This exam will allow you to practice what you’ve learned so far in the class: outlining and writing an effective essay with a focused thesis statement, topic sentences, and organization of body paragraphs.

A good Midterm Exam essay exam will be:

focused with a thesis statement
organized around a sequence of connected assertions (topic sentences)
developed by use of examples and evidence (from the book)

So now that I’ve given you possible questions, let’s talk about how to plan and organize an essay response:

Here are some strategies for this essay response:

As you write down notes for your 3X5 cards:

1) Analyze the question by underlining cue or key word(s) to determine exactly what the question asks
2) Rephrase the question into a thesis statement
3) Outline the main points you plan to cover in your essay
4) Use a logical pattern of organization and a strong topic sentence for each paragraph
5) Support generalizations with specifics/evidence
6) Beware of going off topic – respond to the prompt (see number 1)

Checklist for Essay 1 final draft

March 13, 2019

Highlight your thesis statement. Place a checkmark by each example. Does your thesis clearly indicate the generalization about Luma’s personality and character that your examples support?

If not, revise your thesis so that it fits your examples.

Think about the purpose of your essay: To explain Luma’s personality and character through examples from the book.

Cross out any examples that don’t fulfill that purpose. Do you have enough examples left?

If not, brainstorm examples that are more appropriate to your purpose and your thesis. Add some examples or use one extended example.

Reread each example you checked. Is each one relevant to your thesis? Are the examples varied enough to get your point across?

If not, cut the examples that don’t connect to your thesis and brainstorm to find better, more relevant examples. Revise vague or unclear examples with more details.

Underline the topic sentence of each paragraph. Does each paragraph have a topic sentence?

Does each topic sentence clearly make a point that the example(s) in that paragraph illustrate?

If not, add a topic sentence or revise the existing one to make the point each example or group of examples illustrates. Reorganize your essay, grouping examples to the same idea.

Outline your organization. Is your organization clear and effective? If not, add transitions to make your organization clear.

Reread your intro and conclusion Are they effective?

If not, revise to make them more focused and effective, using strategies we’ve discussed in class.

Discussion Questions: Chapters Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two

March 9, 2019


What is the Mayor’s response to St. John’s idea of writing about the Fugees and the effect of refugee resettlement? (188)

St. John refers to as “the common misperception that the refugees were a monolithic group of strangers from faraway lands” (188). What are the consequences of this misperception?

How do the refugees see themselves, according to St. John? (188)

St. John points out that the Mayor isn’t a “bumbling good ol’boy” or a “simpleton” – he’s actually pretty smart in terms of the politics of the refugee issue. (188-189)

On page 190, St. John explains how the mayor’s arguments for banning soccer in Clarkton keeps shifting.

But on the same page, St. John says he find himself developing “a degree of sympathy” for Swaney. Why?

When the two men go to get something to eat, Swaney insists on going to City Burger, a place that serves “traditional American fare,” instead of the growing number of ethnic restaurants in Clarkston.

But how is a little detail about City Burger explain for St. John the “confusion and isolation” that the mayor is living in? (191)

The next section of this chapter explains how Luma goes to City Hall to petition for the Fugees’ use of the field in the town park.

How do the accounts of the Ethiopian woman petitioning for permission to serve beer in her restaurant on Sundays and the man challenging the legality of the sign in Milam Park forbidding even the presence of leashed dogs help St. John make his point about the the people who govern Clarkston? (194-195)

Luma knows she talking to a different audience. How does she change how she usually speaks during her presentation? (193)

What does Swaney say to the council members? How do they vote?

What is the significance of the chapter title?


Luma tries to deal with the gang issue with her players, and asks questions about why they might join a gang. What are some of the reasons they give? (195-196)

What is the purpose of the repetition of “If you keep getting beat up on the same road, take a different road” (197)?

At the end of this scene in the classroom, she tells them that they will be the first players to use the soccer field at Milam Park. And she wants to put the lesson about a “different road” in how she expects the boys to behave. (197)

How does St. John create an image in readers’ minds of the new field at Milam Park? What words, phrases, and passages help him create this image? (198)

There’s a funny comment – “We’re not in Africa anymore” – made by the Sudanese midfielder in response to Hamdu’s suggestion the boys should chase after the herd of deer that appeared at the perimeter of the practice field at Milam park. A little moment that shows how the refugees are adapting to the world of America.

How do you think St. John portrays the old man who appears late one afternoon to object to the Fugees’ practicing on the field?

What does the old man represent?

Are there words or passages can you use to support your interpretation?


St. John begins this chapter by giving us background on Quendrim (pronounced “Chin-Drim”) and his family and the horrible ethnic violence between Albanians and Serbians, so we understand what they have gone through to get to the United States.

What’s interesting is how the freedom and liberty that Xhalal experiences in America is a little “unsettling” because there are no checkpoints and nobody is watching what you’re doing (206).

By the way, what connections can you make between the description of Xhalal, from a small town in southern Kosovo, being introduced to Chinese and Mexican food and the British researcher Steven Vertovec’s “simple three-step process for building connections between members of different culture within a “super-diverse’ society” (184)?

What are some possible meanings of Quendrim’s observation that he thought of the other players on his team as more than just teammates and that “It’s like they’re all from my own country”? (207)

The rest of the chapter talks about how the teams are starting to gel and how Luma starts to figure out how to put the players together on teams.

Many of you have written about Luma’s rigid enforcement of her own rules of conduct. What is her coaching strategy? (209)que

Discussion Questions: Chapters Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen

March 4, 2019


In this chapter the reader is shown another side of the usually stern and calm Coach Luma as she worries about the future of the reconstituted Under 15s.

On game day, Luma watches her less experienced team prevail, under Kanue’s leadership in a hard-fought match over the AFC Lightning.

The game and its outcome elicit from Luma, who is typically sparing in her praise, the comment – she tells them: “you played a beautiful game” (168).

From the way St. John describes the match between the Fugees and the Lightning, what sense do readers get about his feelings?

What specific words or passages can you point to that suggest his feelings?

Describe Kanue’s influence on the team. What specific actions suggest the type of influence he has?


This chapter begins with the shooting of Tito. What is Luma’s response to the shooting?

Is Luma’s ejection of Osman and Tito from the soccer team warranted? Why or why not?
St. John describes in earlier chapters that the refugees face hostility from older white residents in Clarkston. But why, according to St. John, do the refugees also face hostility from poor whites and poor blacks? (170-171)

What does St. John mean when he describes the gang shooting as a “corollary of the more realistic competition over limited resources” (171).

[Vocab: corollary – noun: A direct or natural consequence or result.]

How does the shooting change Luma’s view of the field at Indian Creek?

Do you anticipate that the events discussed in this chapter will help Luma make her case to the City Council for moving practices and games to Armistead Field? Why or why not?

What do you think is the purpose of this chapter?


Why did Thriftown’s business start to go down with the demographic changes in Clarkston?

Using the details presented in the chapter as evidence, describe Bill Mehlinger’s character traits. What kind of person is he?

What challenges does he face in catering to these new populations? (174)

Discuss the extent to which Mehlinger’s statement, “If you don’t change, you’re gone” (175) applies broadly to shifts in demographics across the United States.

How does Bill change Hong Diep Vo’s life? (175)

How is the experience of Pastors Perrin and Kitchen similar to Bill’s?

What challenges do these people face in dealing with a diverse community? (177)

Using the details presented in the chapter as evidence, describe Tony Scipio’s character traits. What kind of person is he? (178)

How is Swaney’s hiring of Scipio an attempt to shake things up in Clarkston? (178)

What changes does Scipio put into place for the police department? (179)

St. John cites one incident on pages 179-180. Describe the incident. How does this situation “encapsulate” the problems between officers and refugees?

How do the white police officers react to Scipio’s changes? (181)

When Scipio learns about the Chike Chime arrest, how does he react? (181)

St. John describes another incident between an Afghan family and drugs dealers on page 182. How does this incident provide an example, for St. John, for the small ways that the community is trying to negotiate differences?

St. John compares the examples of Bill, Perrin, Scipio and even the drug dealers and says they are connected by similar motivations. What are they? (183)

According to St. John, what’s the consequence of these connections between communities? How do these connects affect relationships? (183-184)

In this chapter, St. John introduces to his readers the term “super-diversity” (184-185): the “incredible cultural complexity” evident in places like Clarkston and in “practically every cosmopolitan metropolis in the world”—places like New York, London, Cairo, Mumbai, and Hong Kong.

The term was coined by Steven Vertovec, who argues that “topdown efforts to impose contact and understanding between various groups [are] likely to fail,” according to St. John (184).

Vertovec offers a three-step process for building more organic connections between members of disparate cultural groups:

decategorization: list all identities which an individual claims (ethnic, national, gender,religious, etc): consequence–individual, not just a type.

Explain this?

b. recategorization: individuals recast themselves in terms of commonalities, not differences.

Explain this term?

c. mutual differentiation: acknowledgement of interdependence that takes into account various group identities

What does this term mean?

What does St. John mean when he writes that the “key to making super-diversity work [may] have less to do with embracing it than ignoring it” (185).

How does Clarkston represent an example of “super-diversity” at work, according to St. John? (186)

Discussion Questions: Chapters Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen

March 1, 2019


This chapter tells the story of St. John’s dinner as a guest with the Ntwari family  (Generose, Bienvenue, Alex, Ive, and six-month-old Alya).

St. John gives us insight into their difficulties of adjusting to life in America: their poverty, their struggle to learn English, their difficulties with telemarketer scams, and Generose’s inability to find jobs given that she has to care for a 6-month-old daughter.

St. John uses this family to help his readers understand that these obstacles are not only specific to the Ntwari family but are true for most of the refugee population.

According to St. John, refugees eager to meet Americans – because it is a rare situation – the refugees feel cut off and isolated, so they are happy to interact with a “real” American (144).

When St. John visits Bien, Alex, Ive and their mother Generose for the first time, the meeting did it “got off to a rocky start” (144) because Generose had been charged for a subscription to the newspaper that she didn’t ask for.

St. John explains that this story makes a bigger point: telemarketers and other marketers often target refugees and exploit and scam them because the refugees don’t speak English very well.

St. John writes that Generose and her boys “perfectly fit the profile” of refugees in Clarkston, because their English skills were in “inverse proportion to their ages” (146).

St. John gives details on the difficulties that Generose faces as a working mother with a six-month-old child. Her husband is in Canada, and he can’t get to the U.S. He sends the family money, but she has to make ends meet somehow.

But her lack of English skills limits the types of jobs she can find, and her need for child care also is a big problem. So she has to leave the child in the care of her three sons (ages 7, 13 and 15).

St. John writes that Generose didn’t think that she would have to choose between work and looking after her children when she came to the U.S. (147)

So St. John uses the experiences of this family to show how the refugees have an America as a land of promise and plenty – but the reality is more “complicated” (148).


This chapter describes Luma’s battles with YMCA officials after her cancellation of the Under 15’s season and Luma’s disappointment with the YMCA’s repeated failure to follow through on their word in terms of securing a field, goal posts, and other equipment.

St. John points out that for Luma, there is “no greater flaw” than this failure to follow through and keep a promise. (151) That tells you a lot about Luma’s beliefs and values.

She volunteers her time in coaching for the YMCA, collecting no salary, and feels taken advantage of and generally exhausted.

But because Kanue had single handedly put together a new team, vetted the players, and made sure they committed to respecting Luma’s rules, she takes on a new and inexperienced Under 15 team for the season.

What do you think motivates Luma to take on this new Under 15 team even though she is exhausted?

There’s an interesting moment on page 153, after Luma has agreed to take on this new team. Even though Luma isn’t an observant Muslim, she observes the daily fast of Ramadan. Why do you think she does this?


This chapter offers an account of Luma’s testing of the new Under 15 team with new players so eagerly recruited by Fornatee.

Through a mixture of pride and adolescent confused decision-making, however, Fornatee decides he need not try out again since he already made the team the first time.

He fails to show for the first two scheduled practices. He appears at a scrimmage Luma has arranged between the much superior Under 17s and the Under 15s, seeking to pick up where he left off, but Luma refuses to let him participate. Even though Luma promises him a chance to explain himself after the game, he hooks up with Prince and other Liberian friends at the playground next to the soccer field and disappears, this time for good, from the team.

During their scrimmage, the Under 15s prove to Luma that they have what it takes to compete.

Luma, frustrated by the field and practice conditions at the elementary school, meets with Mayor Swaney, who passes responsibility for permitting soccer on Armistead Field off to the Clarkston City Council.

As we’ve talked about Mayor Swaney had formerly declared Armistead Field as a “soccer free” zone to keep the Lost Boys’ and other refugee soccer teams from using it.

He now tells Luma the decision will be up to the City Council, which, St. John tells readers, will “likely go along with whatever he recommends,” and thus Mayor Swaney, “would have a fresh chance to let his constituents know what sort of town Clarkston was becoming” (162).

From what you’ve read so far, do you think Mayor Swaney will have a change of heart? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions for Chapters 11, 12, 13

February 27, 2019


Why are Luma’s reasons for the short hair rule? (111)

Why does Fornatee start to trust and depend on Luma for support? (112)

How does Luma demonstrate to him that she cares? (112)

Another good example of St. John’s vivid writing page 113 – look at how he uses concrete details to help the reader visualize what he’s describing.

Why doesn’t the team have soccer goals? (114) What happens to the goals that Luma picks up from the Y?

Luma runs her players hard during practice, but what happens when they finish the day with a scrimmage?

What’s the effect of these scrimmages on the area around the field? (116)

How does Luma respond when she sense she’s being tested as a coach? (117)

When Luma realizes the under13 boys aren’t running complete laps, why doesn’t she call them out as soon as she realized it? (119)

According to St. John, the Liberian refugees are a special case, with their own difficulties. Why? (120-121)

Why are the Liberian boys drawn to gangs? (121)

How are Beatrice’s parenting strategies different in Africa?

Why does she feel at a disadvantage in America when trying to be a parent to her sons? (124)

When Beatrice can’t control or discipline her sons, what does she do? (125-126)


How does the U15s’ first opponent from Lilburn contrast with the Fugees? (127)

Why does St. John hesitate to give Mendela a ride in his car to pick up a few players? (129)

On page 130, St. John does a good job of writing about the game itself – look at how he uses visuals and details to help his reader “see” the action of the game.

When the Fugees are losing, why doesn’t Luma meet her players at midfield during the half time break? (131)

How does the game end? What big decision does Luma announce when she gets back on the team bus?


This chapter explains the family situation of Kanue Biah.

How does the tough situation with his uncle actually help Kanue become a mature person? (135)

How does he deal with getting harassed and picked on at school? (136)

How would you describe Kanue’s relationship with coach Luma and the Fugees? (136-137)

What is Kanue’s idea for playing without a complete roster of players? (139)

Why is Luma concerned about this new plan? (139)

Essay 1: Writing the introduction and conclusion & Key elements of Essay 1

February 27, 2019

Remember, for Essay 1, your introduction should include a thesis statement that expresses the generalization about Luma’s character that your examples support.

But how do you begin your essay? Here are some common kinds of introductions that “hook” the reader.

(By the way: these introductions are helpful strategies for all the essays you will write in this class, not just Essay 1.)

• Open with a quotation

A good, short quotation can hook your reader. It must, however, lead naturally into your main idea, and not be there just for effect.

If you start with a quotation, make sure you tell the reader who the speaker is and where the action takes place before you begin quoting.

• Give an example or tell a story

Opening an essay with a brief story or example often draws readers in. Is there a telling example from Luma’s background?

• Start with a surprising fact or idea

Surprises captures people’s attention. The more unexpected or surprising something is, the more likely your reader will be hooked.

• Offer a strong opinion or position

The stronger the opinion, the more likely is that your readers will pay attention. Make your point clear in your introduction.

• Ask a question

A question needs an answer, so if you start your introduction with a question, your readers will expect to read on to get the answer.

Conclusions: Remember: Don’t conclude with your final example.

After your main points have been made by your body paragraphs, use your concluding paragraph to drive your main idea home one final time.

Make sure you conclusion has the same energy as the rest of your essay.

A good conclusion paragraph

Refers back to the thesis statement, and

sums up what has been covered in the essay and reminds readers of your thesis.

Review: Keep these points in mind as you draft your first draft to make sure you include all the elements of an illustration essay:

Thesis statement unifies your essay

Evidence supports your essay’s thesis statement

Summary statement (conclusion) reinforces your essay’s main idea

Transitions that move your reader from one example to the next.

Integrating quotations into Essay 1

February 21, 2019

The first point to keep in mind is that when you begin a paragraph that will include a quotation, begin with a topic sentence.

Don’t start a body paragraph with a quotation.

Your words and your thoughts are what are important in your body paragraphs – your topic sentence should drive each paragraph.

If you begin with a quotation, you are emphasizing your source’s words over your own and the reader isn’t sure about the point you are making.

You want your quotations to support your points in your body paragraphs, so always put them mid-paragraph, after you have introduced your topic sentence.

After you’ve introduced your topic sentence, you are ready to introduce your source.

Since you are discussing a single work for Essay 1, you will introduce the author and the title in your introduction. Make sure that you introduce the author, Warren St. John, the title of his book, and the subject under discussion, Luma Mufleh.

A good rule to keep in mind when quoting from a source, is to create a “quotation sandwich” or “quotation window”:

First, introduce the quotation with a signal phrase

Second, insert the quotation exactly as it appears in the book

Third, add a sentence that explains why the quotation connects to your thesis statement.

What is a signal phrase? A signal phrase warns readers that a quotation is coming.

As St. John explains,
As the author points out,
As Luma says at the beginning of Chapter One,

Without signal phrases like these, the quotations won’t be smoothly integrated into your paragraphs, and they won’t do what want them to do: support your thesis.

(Note: Don’t use “quotes” as the verb of a signal phrase. A writer can never quote him- or herself.)

You can create your own signal phrase by mixing these basic styles with verbs. There are many verbs you can use to build your own signal phrase:

points out

(Your Pocket Style Manual has a page listed possible verbs for various signal phrases on page 118.)

Rules and conventions for punctuating quotations:

The in-text citation format in the MLA style does not use footnotes or endnotes to cite sources.

Here’s what your quotation should look like:

The author uses the metaphor of a lifeboat to describe Clarkston, referring to it as a “modest little boat that the locals thought they had claimed for themselves” (10).

Signal phrase + quotation + in-text citation (page number in parenthesis)

Now your reader can refer to your Works Cited entry on Outcasts United, and the sentence tells your reader that the quotation appears on page 10.

Note that only the page number appears in the parenthesis. There is no “pg.” or “pp.” or “p.” If the quotation stretches over a couple of pages, just write (10-11).

In this example, by the way, note how the student only used a portion of St. John’s sentence and incorporated into her own sentence. This is acceptable, as long as it fits grammatically into your own sentence.

Other important rules:

Use single quotation marks to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

There is a lot of dialogue/spoken words in the book, where Luma speaks about her experience.

And you’ll probably want to quote what Luma says about herself in the book.

Here’s the format for doing so. Example:

In a disturbing scene from Chapter Eight, the author describes an example of police brutality: “Chime felt his face and windpipe swelling from the cayenne oil, and his head was throbbing from the flashlight strike. Jordan (the police officer) never offered to rinse the chemical from Chime’s eyes. At one point on the video, as Chime whimpered in the back seat of the cruiser and complained about the chemical, Jordan told him, ‘I hope it burns your eyes out’” (74).

Note how this quotation is introduced with a signal phrase that prepares the reader, and uses a colon to insert the quotation.

Not also how the quotation is reproduced exactly as it appears in the book.

Note also how the dialogue spoken by the officer is in single quotation marks.

And note how the punctuation comes after the in-text citation.

Don’t use an ellipsis (three periods …) at the beginning of a quotation, and don’t use an ellipsis at the end of a quotation.

But you can use an ellipses if you are dropping a portion of a longer quotation in the middle of a quotation.

As Luma explains, _____________________________ … ________________ (70).

The ellipses (three periods) indicates to your reader that you’ve dropped a middle section of the passage.

As we’ve discussed, the quotation you use should make grammatical sense with the rest of your sentence. Therefore, you may sometimes have to add words to a quotation, or modify the verb form in the quoted text.

For example, if you change a word from the original to help it fit into your own sentence, surround that change with brackets [ ].

Look at this example:

Readers learn about Warren St. John’s professional work ethic when he says, “Brown — who soon moved to Damascus, and later to Israel with her husband and family — lost touch over the years with her star player, but she kept Luma’s [baseball] glove from one move to the next …. ‘The webbing has rotted and come out,’ Brown told me from Israel, where I tracked her down by phone” (23).

Note how the quotation is quoted exactly as it appears in the book, but the student has included the word baseball to make the meaning of the quotation clearer to the reader.

(And note again how the dialogue spoken is placed in single quotation marks.)

So you have a topic sentence and you have incorporated it correctly into your body paragraph.

But now you have to discuss and comment on the quotation. Don’t just throw in a quotation into your body paragraph; spend time with it. Use it to explain or clarify the point of your example.

The quotations that you pick can’t do the work for you – you need to show and explain how the example connects back to your thesis statement.

Finally, use a summary statement at the end of your paragraph to help the reader see how it connects back to your thesis.

Remember our “quotation sandwich”:

First, introduce the quotation with a signal phrase

Second, insert the quotation exactly as it appears in the book

Third, add a sentence that explains why the quotation connects to your thesis.

Drafting Essay 1: Review

February 21, 2019

The thesis statement in an illustration essay is the generalization that you will support with examples.

So the first step is to brainstorm a list of Luma’s characteristics or aspects of her personality.

The thesis statement should be a full sentence.

Your list of your examples can either be full sentences (topic sentences) or bullet points.

Reread the “Luma” chapter and jot down notes or situations that illustrates your thesis. These examples will become your body paragraphs.

Think about organization: Consider organizing the examples in terms of their importance, from least important to most important.

(You could organize the examples chronologically, if you think that reveals what kind of person Luma is.)

Use the Planning Form Handout to help you think about organization.

For the essay itself, let’s review key elements of an illustration essay:

Remember, your purpose in this assignment is to use examples to reveal the essential characteristics/personality of Luma.

So the examples you use to explain the type of person Luma is should be carefully chosen.

I will look over your thesis statements and outlines and give you feedback.

The next stage is to write a first draft.

As you write your first draft, keep these notes in mind:

Use each paragraph to express one key idea; the example in that paragraph should explain that idea.

A good rule of thumb: One example per paragraph.

• Use the topic sentence in each paragraph to make clear the particular idea that that example illustrates.

• Provide sufficient detail about each example. What do I mean by that? Use quotations from the book (more on this in a moment).

• Use transitions to move your reader from one example to the next.

Writing tip: Write your introduction paragraph and your conclusion after you’ve written your body paragraphs.

Remember: Don’t end your essay with your final example.

Finish with a conclusion paragraph that acts as a summary statement that pulls together your ideas about Luma as a person and reminds your reader of your thesis.

Key Elements of an Illustration Essay

February 18, 2019

The introduction of an illustration essay should include a clear thesis statement that identifies the essay’s main idea – the idea the examples will support.

The body paragraphs should present evidence – fully developed examples that support the thesis.

Each body paragraph should be introduced by a topic sentence that identifies the example or group of related examples that the paragraph will discuss.

The conclusion of an illustration essay should include a summary statement that reinforces the essay’s thesis.

An illustration essay should use appropriate transitional words and phrases to connect examples within paragraphs and between paragraphs.


An illustration paragraph should have a topic sentence that states that paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should present evidence – in the form of examples from the book – that supports and clarifies the general statement made in the topic sentence.

Examples in an illustration essay, by the way, should be arranged in logical order – for example, from least to most important or from general to specific.

You might be asking yourself: How many examples do I need to include in my body paragraphs?

The number of examples you will need depends on your topic sentence.

An illustration paragraph should end with a summary statement that reinforces the paragraph’s main idea.

An illustration paragraph should include transitions – that introduce the examples and connect them one to another and to the topic sentence.

These transitions help readers follow your discussion by indicating how your examples are related and how each example supports the topic sentence.

Examples of transition words and phrases:


in addition



one example

another example

The first … The second …

for example

for instance