Michael: You seem excited. What’s going on?

Kim: I just read over my 10th grade students’ Cry, the Beloved Country essays. And my students did a better job of applying a Biblical perspective.

Michael: What did they do better?

Kim: They were better able to show their grasp of what the Bible teaches, not just what a verse says. They more effectively discussed Biblical perspective, instead of just citing verses.

Michael: What helped them do better?

Kim: They did a better job of following 3 writing guidelines I teach:

  1. Use topic sentences.
  2. State the topic sentence first and then support with details.
  3. Introduce quotations.

When students use a topic sentence, they’re able to focus their paragraph more and connect the paragraph to the thesis.

When students state their topic sentence first and then support with details, they set the context for the details—which helps the reader understand the topic sentence and helps the writer prove the topic sentence and prove the thesis.

When students introduce a quotation, they set the context for the quotation, connect the quotation to the topics sentence, and consequently help the reader more fully grasp the meaning of the quotation. Doing this also involves students in more carefully analyzing which quotations to use because they’re more aware of the quotation’s significance.

Michael: Those are 3 important guidelines. I use them when I write. How do these 3 guidelines help your students apply a Biblical perspective?

Kim: In previous years, I noticed that when students wrote about Biblical perspective, they reverted to a youth group conversation style. Talking in youth groups is important—I’m glad my students have an opportunity to talk about their faith in an informal, relational way. This is an appropriate communication style for youth group settings.

However, this communication style poses problems for students when they are writing. It poses problems when they are using writing to apply a Biblical perspective. Good writing, for example, involves carefully delineated thoughts expressed in complete sentences, not fragments like we use in conversation. Good writing involves supporting a thesis, while conversation tends to be associative.

Michael: So it sounds like you recognize that students need to use the culturally appropriate forms of communication. When at youth group, use youth-group talk. When writing, use effective writing guidelines.

Kim: Yes, that’s right.

Michael: Tell me more about how the 3 writing guidelines helped your students apply a Biblical perspective.

Kim: By inserting Biblical perspective into the topic sentence, students can more effectively set the focus for the paragraph. By stating a Biblical perspective topic sentence first and then citing verses, students can better demonstrate what the Bible teaches, not what an isolated verse teaches. By introducing quotations, including verses, students are more likely to select their quotations carefully and more likely to connect the quotations with the topic sentence.

Michael: So let me see if I understand this. It’s integrating Biblical perspective into topic sentences, not leaving it out. It’s Biblical perspective topic sentences supported by verses, not unsupported topic sentences and not verses without a topic sentence. And it’s introduced Bible verses, not verses dropped in the middle of paragraphs.

Kim: I think you’ve got it. Let me show you a sample paragraph from the <Cry, the Beloved Country> unit essay. Just so you’ll know, during this unit, students considered 3 Biblical perspective questions: What’s wrong with the world? Who am I? Who is my neighbor? To support their consideration of these 3 questions, students received direct instruction on and completed a Bible study about shalom.

Here’s the sample paragraph. In this paragraph, the student:

  1. Has a topic sentence that includes a Biblical perspective.
  2. States the topic sentence first and then supports it with quotations.
  3. Introduces each passage with a variety of grammatical structures that include additional pertinent information.
There are many ways to define the word peace, but the Biblical concept of peace or shalom has a round meaning, relating all beings in the universe and outside the cosmos. Genesis 1 describes the perfect creation God had made in the beginning as He said, “It was very good” (New International Version). However, as man marred his image of God through sin, the relationship between God and man, God and creation, man and creation was broken. Fear and sorrow entered the universe, and every human being needed to go through such pain in the world. Henceforth, humans needed to pray for redemption and the restoration of the intimate association with God, so that this may someday lead to the restoration of creation. Romans 8:21 expresses the hope for this restoration when “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This is a place where all living creatures and humans live in harmony without pain and suffering, which is referred to as the New Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation 21. This concept of Biblical shalom in elucidated by Alan Paton’s book as the “ideal justice.” Beginning with Stephen Kumalo, one finds the broken relationship between God and man and creation in the tribe, and through much adversity and sorrow, Kumalo attempts to build shalom by restoring the broken relationships.

 

Michael: That was a helpful example. I’ll bet you were excited when you read that paragraph. I can see how using the 3 guidelines would help students more effectively apply a Biblical perspective when writing. What’s next?

Kim: Reinforcing the 3 guidelines and further implementing a 4th guideline: Integrate Biblical perspective into your thesis statement.

Michael B. Essenburg © 2007 • Close the Gap • Web: http://closethegapnow.org

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