Critical Writing Strategies

Part A: Write a Short Essay


“What makes a hero truly heroic . . . is that he deploys his individualism for the larger good, which is how the movies reconcile the American problem of self and society. Superman, Batman and now Spider-Man, not to mention John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rock, are all nonpareil individualists who serve the community and do what in movies the community itself seems incapable of doing — namely, acting. Or put another way, they are both cool and good.”

–Neal Gabler


“As first lady, I’ve had the privilege of meeting our men and women in uniform on bases and in hospitals and in communities all over the country. When I make those visits, I come away not just with a sense of pride and gratitude, but also with a sense of awe, both at their courage and their sacrifice and at their commitment to serving their country and their communities.”

–Michelle Obama


In his article “Inside Every Superhero Lurks a Nerd,” Neal Gabler argues that movie heroes like Spider-Man are popular with Americans because they teach people to be strong individuals but also to use their powers to help others. In the article “First Lady Michelle Obama Welcomes Marine Corps Families,” first lady Michelle Obama takes the time to recognize the real life men and women of the armed forces who make the sorts of sacrifices Gabler is talking about.


This requires that you reflect on the ideas presented in the above passages and the nature of heroism. Think about either a real life person that you have known or a character that you admire from the books, movies, TV shows, or video games you have enjoyed. Does he or she fit the definition of a hero that Gabler and Obama are recognizing? Your task is to show that this person is a true American hero.




Directions: Use the two passages above and the four steps outlined in this workshop to build a short essay about the person you chosen as a true American hero.


Task 1: Making a take : In one sentence, write your opinion on this subject below.




Task 2: Brainstorming: Generate a list of ideas about who and what you could write about.






Task 3: Outlining (Categorize your ideas from the above list according to type. You may want to arrange them so that there are four sections, introduction, body paragraph 1, body paragraph 2, and conclusion)


I. Introduction




Task 4: Drafting


Step 1: Introduction: To accomplish this task, you first need to introduce your paper by establishing the definition of a true American hero– a person who is a strong individual but chooses to help others. Make sure to clearly explain this in your first paragraph. At the end of this opening paragraph, you need to provide a clear thesis statement – namely, you need to claim that whatever person you are writing about is a true American hero. HINT: See your Task 1 above.


Remembering that a good paragraph consists of 4 to 5 complete sentences, write your introduction here:












Step 2: Body paragraph 1 and body paragraph 2: the two body paragraphs show why the person you are writing about is a true hero. This is where your reasons for writing appear, so make sure each one of these paragraphs focuses on one of the ways the person either has acted heroically. Make sure you offer some specific details about the person’s deeds to prove your point!


Remembering that a good paragraph is 4 to 5 sentences long and focuses on one main idea, write body paragraph 1 here:









Remembering that a good paragraph is 4 to 5 sentences long and focuses on one main idea, write body paragraph 1 here:











Step 3: Conclusion: provide a short conclusion where you reemphasize your thesis statement. Try not to repeat the information you presented in your body paragraphs here – instead, answer this question in a sentence or two: why does it matter that we recognize whether or not someone is an American hero?


Remembering that a good paragraph is 4 to 5 sentences long, write your conclusion here:







Step 4: Now, copy and paste each paragraph here to bring your essay together into one place:

Part B: Reflection


1. Describe writing this essay as a step-by-step process. How is it different from other essays you may have written?









2. Has the information in this workshop been useful to you? Why or why not?

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