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January 30, 2006

Suggested Instructional Video for Teaching English Essay Writing

For Monday's English composition class, I used this educational video as part of my daily lesson plan:

English Composition: Writing for an Audience. Program 2. "Finding Something To Say." Nar. Peter Berkow. Prod. Peter Berkow and Anita Berkow. Annenberg/CPB, Annenberg Foundation-Corporation for Public Broadcasting. PBS. 30 minutes. 2000.

NOTE To English Writing Teachers: The handbook for instructors teaching the Annenberg/CPB telecourse English Composition: Writing for an Audience, is available for purchase HERE. This helpful guide provides a diverse selection of activities, exercises, and discussion prompts for you to use in conjuction with the film series.

This series should be available in any large university library stateside. Use the info listed above to locate it; the ISBN is: 1576802299. Better yet, watch it online in a media player (with free membership) at this address: http://www.learner.org/resources/series128.html. I should add that the entire series is available there as well; an invaluable teaching resource and wealth of information.

If you've had the opportunity to see "Finding Something To Say" for yourself, what were your impressions? What, if anything, did you learn from it that might be useful? Was this a better or more useful part of the series when compared to Part 1 in the series or worse? Why?

Please leave any constructive comments that you feel might be useful in the box beneath these remarks. Feel free to peruse the reactions of a few of my students who volunteered to voice their own reactions (some positive, some negative, of course).

Best wishes,


*Read more English-Blog Film Reviews HERE!

Posted by lhobbs at January 30, 2006 02:29 AM

Readers' Comments:

The film “Finding something to say” will definitely help me in the future when it comes to finding something to say in my papers. It showed me different approaches that I can take in order to successfully complete an assignment. It also showed me the importance of free writing as well as organizing my ideas with techniques such as clustering and using transitional sentences. I’ve always tried to approach every writing assignment with an open mind but it was sometimes difficult for me. After viewing this film, I feel a little better about starting my next assignment.
I would have to say that the film gave me a bigger boost of confidence then the first one. In the first film they focused mainly on the different types of writings and why it is important to become good at it. But here, they actually gave examples and explained the steps and different approaches that can be taken to develop your paper. This is essential because you can not become a good writer if you don’t have the recipe to get to that point.

Posted by: Adrianne E at January 30, 2006 04:28 PM

I felt that the portion of the film we watched in class today was very informative. It gave great ideas as to how to come up with a topic for a paper. It also provided information as to steps on how to write and revise a paper.
I prefered watching this part of the video because as much as the first part was important, I felt that the second part was more of what I needed to hear. It was great to know that most jobs use english on an everyday basis, but it was more important to me to know how I can improve my writing.

Posted by: Kelly J. at January 30, 2006 06:11 PM

Today’s film was as insightful production. I have always found it hard to write an essay with an open-ended topic, but this film gave me some ideas for how to go about choosing a good topic and writing a good paper on the topic I chose.
I also felt that this half of the film was better than Part 1 was. I believe that this was probably because today’s movie was about something that I have struggled with in the past so I could personally relate to it.
All in all, today’s film was helpful and I will be keeping my notes on it for future reference.

Posted by: Kelsey L. at January 30, 2006 11:26 PM

"What to Say: Writing for an Audience part II" was a film that really brought clarity to beneficial strategies for writing an effectual essay. These strategies include(but are not limited to): freewriting, clustering, transitional sentences, developing a "voice" and finding a relation between you(the writer) and your topic. The video fine tuned my idea of what a freewrite is from just writing down things I would want to be the topic of a paragraph to, writing down thoughts about the topic of discussion to get creativity flowing. From this I understood different routes to take when writing an essay and that there is no "cookie-cut" way to create ideas to support your thesis.
Due to the reasons I listed before I have come to the conclusion that this film is even more apropos to me in relation to the film we watched a week ago. This film is closely pertinent to my current study of college writing in English101 by opening my(the student's) mind to how many approaches can be taken to write an essay.
Finally, this film re-established vaguely taught concepts about writing from High School. The tools of brainstorming, outlining, creating a rough draft and then revising to the create the master copy, was made more practical and easy to work with by this film. The overall message conveyed was writing a paper should be interesting and that it is a process for everyone from a writer, to a teacher, to me a student.

Posted by: Holden B. Jones at January 31, 2006 02:11 PM

I felt the video was very informative and that it gave me a lot of good ideas on how to find things to write about if I’m stuck trying to find something to say. One of my favorite ideas was to carry a small notebook or notepad with you and always write down ideas you have so you don’t forget about them when you go to write about them later. There are a lot of ideas I’ve lost because I failed to write them down. A few other suggestions they made where to look in the library for information on your topic and in looking for information you may find more material to write about or maybe even something completely new to write about. They also recommended talking about your topic with friends to try and spark ideas or work with a team of writers and have peers evaluate your writing.
I thought that this segment of the video was more informative because it dealt with more of a concentrated subject than the other part. The other part tried to encompass a wide variety of tactics and styles in writing and didn’t have time to get into specifics. This made it difficult to take something away from it. This video applied more to the troubles I have now in writing and I could apply what I learned right away.
I think the point they tried to get across the most is that to be able to write well the thing you need to do is write more. It’s the only way to improve. The more often you write the better you will become. It’s an important thing to remember and it’s the basis for the film.

Posted by: Sam H. at January 31, 2006 02:45 PM

The second part of the film, Writing for an Audience, gave information on how to get ideas together before writing. The different strategies given will help me to brainstorm. The information I took from the film will help me to organize my thoughts when beginning to write.
Both parts of the film gave good information about writing. The first part of the film was about how writing will be used. The second part was how to get started. I think the first part of the film was more useful for me than the second one.
The first part of the film was more informative to me because it gave me new information. I learned that all jobs will need the skills learned in my college writing class. The second part of the film gave good information, but I had already read and discussed much of it in the class.

Posted by: Cathy at January 31, 2006 03:22 PM

The film explains the many different parts of the writing process. Some of these include freewriting, outlining and other ways to organize thoughts, as well as revising and editing. It also talks about peer-editing and how having someone else read the paper will decrease the amount of mistakes. The film stresses the importance of these steps and how they will help improve the quality of a paper. It also explains that once you find your own voice, the papers written will improve.
The second part of the film was better than the first due to the fact that it actually explained the different steps of writing. The people explaining these steps were the same people from the first part, but they were explaining how the different steps are used in their profession. The second part explains how knowing the steps of the writing process will help with their occupation.

Posted by: Ali L. at January 31, 2006 05:13 PM

In class today we watched a Movie Called Finding Something to Say. "Writing For an Audience". What I found interesting that I could use in my everyday writing is that I sometimes have problems coming up with a topic to write about, and in the video it came up with the suggestion to have a notebook at hand where ever you are. So when and event or an idea happens or comes to mind you can pull out the notebook and write down a few comments and side notes to remember about the event or idea that comes to mind. So when you are asked to write a paper, that you can choose a topic, all you will have to do is to pull out the notebook and look down the list of topics that you have written down in the notebook and it will be so much easier and so much faster to start on your paper.
What I thought about the second part of this film what that there was a lot of good information in it. That anyone no matter where they are in there education career or even if your out of school and in the working field the information that they give you will help you in the long run. I know this video will help everyone out with writing a paper. This video will better your video. It gives you steps on how to go about writing your paper. This video is a very educational video to have watched.
Why I think this video will be a very positive video to be watching because, I was able to find out things that I didn't know about writing a paper. Even though I have been writing papers in school for years there are still things that I was able to pickup on this video. I am very sure any individual that watches this video will pick up a new piece of information in it. This video was set up very well with the steps easily to distinguish and the explanations were very easy to understand. This is why I say this video was a very positive influence for me and it will influence the way I will write my papers from now on.

Posted by: Jennifer G at January 31, 2006 06:40 PM

Writers block... everyone has it sooner or later. This film gave some really useful tips to overcome this temporary lack of ideas such as freewriting. As a writer, this film was more geared to helping those who write instead of saying what jobs require writing.

That being said, the second film was much more informative than the first. Instead of going on about how writing is important, it geared more towards those that already KNOW that writing is important and want to improve.

As a writer and an avid reader, I don't need to be told that writing is important. The first film may have opened other people's eyes but not mine so much.

Posted by: Rachael T. at January 31, 2006 06:56 PM

Response to “Finding Something to Say” Film:
Figuring out the best way to express what you want to say, is often the hardest thing of writing. Some important techniques that I gained from this film were to research first and respond to the author’s ideas while reading. By researching, you can learn more about that topic or come across something that more excites you. Often times, you may come across a topic that you like, but you do not know much about it. In this case, you may go back to research, but you find something else that intrigues you in the process. Another helpful technique to finding something to say is, responding to the author’s ideas. A good way to do this is to divide a notepad into two sections. On one side, write down quotes and important ideas, and on the other side, write down your reactions to what you wrote. These methods are very helpful, and may aid me in finding what I want to say.
This film was more useful to me than the first one. The second part of the film was much more interesting and helpful than the first part. Part two gave better examples of ways to put your words into writing. Part one of the films did not focus on the methods and techniques of finding what to say. The first film focused more on the terms that make up an essay. Part one was really the composition of writing an essay.
Part two of the film was more helpful to me because it gave methods like, jot down what comes to you, which would help to find out what to say. Part one included a lot of terms such as, description, compare and contrast, and analysis, which made up finding what to say. The second part of the film focused more on the “doing it” aspect of finding what to say. It gave techniques such as free-writing and clustering as ways to figure out what you want to say. The first film did not inspire me to do any of the things that they talked about. It was basically information on what makes up an essay. This is why I think that the second film was more helpful and useful than the first one.

Posted by: Kashiff M. at January 31, 2006 08:02 PM

While watching the second part of the film, I found it to be very informative on telling the viewers that everyone gets “ writer’s block.” Therefore, the educators in the film explained on how to go about braking through “writer’s block.”They advised the students to research as much as possible about their topic. Then it will be easy to piece together all of the information that has been researched to make into sentences.
I thought the second half of the film was extremely helpful. I feel like if I would ever get “writer’s block” that there is no need to panic or get overwhelmed. They gave great examples of how to make things easier when writing a paper.
Everyone that has or usually has trouble starting their papers should watch this film. I will help students figure and organize things out that they seem to have trouble with.

Posted by: Liz L. at January 31, 2006 10:25 PM

After watching Part 2 of Writing for an Audience, I learned that my writing should include real world/life experiences. Even though the topic is assigned it allows for the author to establish a voice and style when connecting your own experiences. By connecting the two ideas it allows the writer to have fun and play around with the assignment.
Although the first Part of the movie explained how writing is used in the real would, Part two gave an insightful overview of how to apply your own writing and observations. I feel that the second part of the movie was much more informative, if not more beneficial for me.
I was given ideas of how to get into an assignment by using resources- whether it be from a book I read or from my own observations in life. The movie explained more of how the process of writing, from free writing to editing works and its usefulness. Through each process you can rethink and change ideas either you developed, or a peer helped form. Collaboration and feedback is a beneficial way of expanding your thoughts into a more well developed paper. In this part of the movie I was opened up to the idea that writing doesn’t have to be painful and boring, but interesting and exciting.

Posted by: Samantha V. at January 31, 2006 10:30 PM

Upon watching this video, I was shown the many different types of prewriting. The most important thing I learned from the video was the advice that was given. The advice that was given (staying original, use new material all the time, and write down all of the ideas that come to you throughout the day) really helped me better understand how my works can be considered "better" due to the styles and how they are written.
Although part 1 showed the many different styles of writing, part 2 gave better information on how to write in these styles and how to form them all together into you own topics and such. I believe that part 2 is "better" because tips were given on how to improve writing, such as freewriting, editing, and relating person experiences when necessary.
I believe that these tips are important because all good works of writing have to have proper style in order to be well liked and considered "good". Each different style of writing combined with techniques and tips and advice on organization, brainstorming, and editing can and will help anyone to become a better writer.

Posted by: Missy Z at February 1, 2006 12:14 AM

During the in-class video, the people interviewed discussed some major topics that will help me in writing future essays. These people spoke about dealing with assigned topics, developing my own voice, and getting new ideas through research and revising.
I felt that this video was much more helpful than part I. The video gave a more in depth description of its’ topics along with more subjects that pertain to things I have yet to learn about.
There were many different types of people interviewed such as high school teachers, college professors, and even script writers. This has given me a much more broad view of the writing techniques and opinions.

Posted by: Angela H. at February 1, 2006 01:47 AM

The film, "Finding Something to Say", showed different ways for people to find topics to talk about. The positive things that I took from this film were the ways to think of topics to write about. Some of examples of this are keeping a notebook of ideas that you think about on a daily basis and find a way of relating that topic to yourself. Another thought is when reading a book to write down the authors ideas and then write down my thoughts on them right beside them. Developing a voice is one of the things that I really liked about the film. Developing my writing voice is being true to myself whenever I write.
I liked this film better because it will help me in the future for writing topics and strategies. The last film just showed how different people used writing in their careers.
This film has given me several strategies to use. It has also given me an idea of how to develop my voice in my writings. I think this film was more valuable.

Posted by: Thoryn S. at February 1, 2006 02:11 AM

In the movie, "English Composition: Writing For an Audience" Part II, it is a very useful tool, because it teaches you how to develop your own personality in your writing. Sometimes, when people write, it is similar to the way people read: monotone. It's boring and lacks personality. Others however, can write with passion and is very eager to catch their audiences attention. In the video, it explains that you should start off by writing in the same style has your favorite author and that you should work off of that first. Afterwards, you start to develop your own style and your own voice, which is true.

The second part of this video was much better than the first. Not only was it less boring, I felt that it contained more information. Also, I find that the second part of the video helps more with the development of your writing whereas the first part of the video just explained the different type of writing. A lot of people have trouble with what to write when they are asked to, and this video helps the thinking process by telling you what to do and how to do it.

I think that the second part of the video is better, because it was a lot more helpful than the first part. The first part of the video was just a lot of facts that I felt most people should already know, especially at the college level. I do feel that people should know how to write, like they demonstrate in the second video, but even people above the college level gets writer's block from time to time. I think that this video would help people who's have difficulty with the writing process and it would also help with organization, which makes it easier to concentrate.

Posted by: Linda M. at February 1, 2006 02:01 PM


From watching the film “What to Say: Writing for an Audience part II”, I was able to understand concepts which were taught in the film we watched a few weeks ago concerning the writing process. Many strategies were mentioned such as that of clustering, free-writing, maintaining a constant voice, using transition sentences properly, and also understanding the topic to the fullest extent. I believe that the main focus of the film was helping a writer develop a topic by using some of the strategies listed above. It is a very good idea to write down ideas as they come to you and also attempt to develop them. This will help a writer in the long run because he or she can see what topics have more depth to them.

There are many sources which can also be used to develop a topic. Friends and family can help spark an idea if only they are involved in the brainstorming process. The library is also an ideal source for picking a great topic. The library is filled with topics that are familiar to writers and also those that can be somewhat new. Researching a topic can help a writer become enthusiastic about the topic itself and it will also allow them to understand it very well. This film in my opinion was the most helpful because it was more specific. I believe that it depends on the person and what their flaws in writing lie. I have the most trouble with choosing a topic and then developing it so this video was most idea for me.

-Emily S

Posted by: Emily S. at April 20, 2006 01:52 PM

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