Writing Portfolio:
Specific Assignments
Exposition Description Narration Argument

1. Prologue (or Introduction): Explain the significance of your title, making clear why it is relevant to your life in particular. Introduce yourself gracefully to your reader and capture our attention. Include a brief description of this writing project and its purposes in your own words.

2. What's in a Name? Names are an integral part of who we are. They shape our sense of who we are. Explore your feelings about "the unity between [your]self and [your] name." Are these the names you would have chosen for yourself? Surname, middle name, Christian name? Is there a story behind your naming? Someone famous, a family member, weird initials? Does your name have symbolic meaning? Is it ethnic or historic or literary? Did your parents consider other names? In short, how do you live with your name?

3. Personal Alphabet: Browse through a dictionary, looking for adjectives to describe yourself. Know the meaning of the words you select and be able to explain how each word you've chosen fits you. Choose at least one adjective for each letter of the alphabet. Be sure you choose the adjective form of words. For example, "excite" is a verb and "excitable" is an adjective. "Exciting" is a participle so it can be used as an adjectiveBUT "excitable" and "exciting" mean very different things.

4. Likes / Dislikes List: Make two columns, one titled "Likes," the other "Dislikes," and list from ten to fifteen specific items in each column. Avoid naming specific classmates and teachers by general-izing. For example, "that mean teacher who's making me write an autobiography," not my name!

5. Sensory Experiences: The five senses allow us to perceive whatever is tangible, or concrete. A sensory experience is something we can taste, touch, smell, see, or hear. For example, ice-cold water-melon, hot dogs sizzling over a charcoal fire, mosquito bites, fireworks, and the music of the ice-cream wagon are sensory experiences I associate with a Fourth of July picnic. Describe a specific time and place which recalls rich sensory experiences for you. Include at least two details that appeal to each of the five senses.

6. Metaphorical Definitions: This kind of definition helps make abstract words easier to under-stand by giving a specific concrete example. A famous metaphorical definition is "Happiness is a warm puppy." For you, happiness may be something very different a raise in your allowance, a banana split, a room of your own. Write metaphorical definitions of ten different abstract nouns. Your concrete example must be something specific that you can sense taste, touch, smell, see, or hear. Your definitions should follow the format below:

Metaphorical Definition = Abstract Noun + IS + Concrete Example

7. A Quality Personality: In J. Ruth Gendler's The Book of Qualities, 70 abstract qualities come to life, walking and talking, borrowing Grandmother's shawl and telling scary stories late into the night personification at its best! Precise, specific images reveal each abstract quality as a vivid personality. After you read samples in class, choose one quality from the list provided. Check the dictionary and the thesaurus, exploring possible meanings and hunting down synonyms.
These qualities are real people, with weird relatives, bad friends, unique clothing styles, and strange stories to tell. Make your chosen quality a real personality, too. Complete a sensory cluster for your quality sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. Then write and carefully polish a one-to-three-paragraph personification of your quality. Make every word count on this one!

8. Color Your World: In color, and about color, this assignment honors every crayon ever nibbled by any kid. Although you don't have to use crayons, use the color(s) themselves as part of your writing. You could write a poem about the things you associate with a specific color, such as all the blues there are! Or write an explanation of the colors you associate with different emotions. Or make lists of best colors to wear or drive in orYou have freedom with content here, since color is the key ingredient. Maybe a myth about "How Pink Was Born"?

9. Room Sweet Room: We are territorial animals, instinctively seeking a place we can call our own. The rooms we live in and how we decorate them are as revealing as our clothing. Examine your own room and all the things that make it uniquely yours. Describe the room, not just by listing the things in it, but by conveying the feelings you have for the room and the items in it.

10. Personal Metaphors: Make a list of metaphorical comparisons. Think, "If I were an animal, what kind of animal would I be?" For each item, write the general label and then your specific comparison. Be realistic, be somewhat honest, and be able to explain your choices. Don't say you are a rose, if you're really a daisy.

1. Animal
2. Car
3. Article of Clothing
4. Day of the Week
5. Food
6. Color
7. Movie
8. Fragrance
9. Type of Building
10. Plant
11. Musical Instrument
12. Geometric Shape
13. Piece of Furniture
14. Song
15. Season of the Year
16. Television Character
17. Cartoon or Comic Character
18. Appliance or Machinery
19. Natural Phenomenon
20. Word

11. Extended Metaphors: Go back to your list of personal metaphors. Choose five that you can extend by explaining the comparison in detail. Write a paragraph for each personal metaphor by giving four or five specific points of comparison. For example, if you are like an alley cat, discuss four the characteristics of an alley cat and explain the ways in which you have the same characteristics.

12. The Ultimate All-Purpose Excuse: Just in case you are tardy some day, write an elaborate, exaggerated, fantastic excuse for yourself. Be as creative as you can. In about 150 words, convince your heartless English teacher that your excuse is a valid reason for being tardy.

13. Unfinished Sentences: Complete each of the following sentences by expanding them into short paragraphs. As always, be specific.

14. Personal Symbols: Write about any objects that have special symbolic meanings for you. These might be a gift from someone you love, a souvenir from a place you miss, a childhood toy you still treasure, a family photograph, whatever. Describe the objects, appealing to the senses as appropriate and giving specific details. Also explain what each symbolizes for you.

15. Map of Life: Draw a stylized map, beginning with your birth and ending with the present. Along the way, include little labels or diagrams of what you remember as important events, places, and people in your life. Keep all items in order, but leave enough space between individual items to fill in as you think of additional information. Write small since it must fit on one page. If necessary to save space, you may use branching paths or a legend.

1. I usually worry about . . .
2. I feel angry when . . .
3. I'm moody when . . .
4. I'm happiest when . . .
5. I feel confident when . . .
6. I feel frustrated when . . .
7. I feel depressed when . . .
8. I am comfortable when . . .
9. I feel nervous when . . .
10. I feel sentimental when . . .

16. A Mysterious Place: Describe in a full page some place that seemed mysterious, exotic, or fearful to you. Concentrate on creating the same impression on your reader by a careful selection of sensory details which recreate the setting. Help us recognize what was special about this place. Or make up a fantasy place that has these qualitiesjust describe it well enough for us to believe in it too.

17. Synectics: Synectics makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar. It is the basis of all metaphor and involves the process of creative problem-solving. Each of the following sets of questions ask for choices between unrelated answers answers which can be logically related somehow and yet, there is no single correct answer. BUT correct answers would rephrase the question as part of the answer.
Think carefully about the choices offered, make a choice, and then explain your reasons for choosing as you have. It is your explanation which proves your answer "right" or "wrong." Answer at least ten.

1. Which is wiser? a pen or a pencil?
2. Which is easier to forgive? a street or a sidewalk?
3. Which is smarter? a clock or a calendar?
4. Which is easier to teach? a question or an answer?
5. Which is like a contest? a cloud or a sunset?
6. Which is more fearful? new or old?
7. Which is like a promise? mathematics or science?
8. Which is more difficult? a dream or a nightmare?
9. Which is braver? an hour or a year?
10. Which has more pride? an entrance or an exit?
11. Which is easier to close? a road or a map?
12. Which is like a legend? a mirror or glass?
13. Which is more suspenseful? rain or snow?
14. Which has less charm? a signature or an autograph?
15. Which is more trustworthy? history or literature?
16. Which is more useful? a friend or an enemy?
17. Which is sadder? seek or find?
18. Which costs more? a home or a house?
19. Which is happier? music or art?
20. Which is like a valentine? the truth or a lie?

18. Telling Tales: Think back to memories you associate with family storytelling. You know, the ones you hear over and over every holiday. Maybe these tales are the legends that have given your family courage in hardship? Maybe they are religious stories or goofy songs or true family history? Maybe they all seem to be about what a bad kid you were? Embarrassing, hilarious, unbelievable? Retell a story you remember as part of your family's heritage OR makeup one you wish had been told (and may tell in your own family circles later).

19. These Words Belong to Me: Make a list of words which have special power and magic. Think of common words with uncommon meanings, or even strange new words which allow you to think a new kind of thought. For example, do you know what "serendipity" means? Find out why it's so wonderful. What's ironic about a "scar"? List and define at least ten words. For each word, explain why this particular word belongs to you. Or perhaps give me a hint hidden in a question?

20. In Other Words: Try expressing yourself through someone else's words. Select at least ten "Quotable Quotes" which express your philosophy of life. Choose quotations which represent your thought on several aspects of life not only love, but also faith, success, integrity. character, friendship, etc. List the ten you have selected, including attribution (who said it).

21. Metamorphosis: Make a list of objects, places, ideas that could stand for your younger self, symbols for the way you used to be. Then make a contrasting list that could stand for your current self, symbols that represent the way you are now. Sort of an "I used to bebut now I am" kind of chart. Use these contrasting lists to write a free verse poem on your transformation.

22. Flashback: If you could relive one day or experience in your life, what would it be? You might choose to relive this time because it was so wonderful you want to experience it again, or you might choose a day you want to change in some way. Identify the day or experience, tell why it was so important to you, and explain what reliving it would accomplish.

23. Remembrance of Things Present: In twenty years you will have forgotten most of the things that fill your life now. What are the things about who you are now, what you enjoy and value, what you do with your time, and so on that you want to remember twenty years from now? Imagine what will be important to your memory of yourself later on. Write these things down.

24. As Time Goes Bye-Bye: Carpe diem (or, Seize the day!). Before time passes you by, what things do you want to do? What one thing do you most want to do by the time you are thirty-five? Why? What have you already said good-bye to people, places, ideas, stages in your life, hopes, dreams, sorrows? Reflect on those good-byes and/or grand plans. Make a list with short explanations, or concentrate on explaining one specific goal or farewell in depth.

25. My Own List of Lists: Now in its third edition, The Book of Lists, lists facts from history, literature, science, entertainment, etc. For your list of lists, I have selected more personal topics. Write the general label for each category and underline it. Then list from six to ten specific items under each category. You may write in two columns to save space.

1. People who have influenced me
2. Places that make me happy
3. Places I would like to go
4. Things in people which I like
5. Things in people which I dislike
6. Things that worry me
7. Things I would like to know how to do
8. Things that have moved me
9. Ideas that intrigue me
10. My personal favorites

26. A Day in the Life: Write about a part of your life as if it were a passage from a novel. Refer to yourself in the third person not "I woke up" but rather "she woke up." Exaggerate, elaborate, and prevaricate if you wish there's truth to be found in fiction, too.

27. Cheer Yourself Up!: Got the blues? Down in the dumps? Make a list of crazy things you could do to distract yourself from your troubles. Some possibilities Play Frisbee with your old, worn-out records, smile all the way through class and make your teacher wonder what's going on, or cover your front teeth with foil to look like braces. Think of your own ideas, both sane and crazy. You might want to draw cartoons to go with some of your ideas.

28. Picture This: Find an acceptable visual image that you can actually include in your portfolio a photo of friends, a copy of a well-known painting, magazine clipping, original artwork, etc. Paste it on the page with identification (caption, title and artist, bibliography, etc.) Then write a response, clearing stating your opinion of the work and supported by details from the work. Sound familiar?

29. Lessons I Learned After It Was Too Late: It seems that we always learn the most important lessons the hard way, usually when it's too late, when we've already made our big mistakes. Look back over your life and write approximately a page on the lessons you learned after it was too late.

Five Free Choice Assignments: Each should be a significant piece of work, not one haiku, but a page full. If you use assignments from previous years or earlier this year, attach a note explaining why the assignment belongs in your autobiography. In other words, what does the work show about you.
30. Free Choice #1: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
31. Free Choice #2: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
32. Free Choice #3: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
33. Free Choice #4: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
34. Free Choice #5: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.

35. Epilogue: Imagine that a complete stranger just picked up this portfolio. The stranger reads it from page one to page thirty-nine. How would this stranger conceive of the author? What kind of person appears to have filled these pages? Write a character sketch of the person captured in these pages from an outsider's point of view. Refer to specific pieces of writing to support the stranger's impression of the author (you, of course).

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© Copyright 1999 Sandra Effinger - All Rights Reserved