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Writing Across the Curriculum

“Starting from Scratch”

Kevin Reyes: Rationale for Informal Writing Exercise – Reliability of Sources

The assignment asks students to read two quotations and to write a portrait of the person referred to. The portrait can include both physical and psychological characteristics. The students' written descriptions then become the basis for a discussion about the type of person they imagined.

After this discussion, we read aloud the quotations. I then reveal that both quotations refer to the same person, Olaudah Equiano, a slave who worked and bought his freedom within the British Empire during the 18 th century. The only difference between the two quotations is that one is taken from a history book and the other from the memoirs of Equiano himself.

The revelation that these two very different descriptions are about the very same person provides leaping off points for discussions regarding the reliability of narrators and of sources, the comparison of data for critical analysis, and the use of quotations.



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