The following is a sentence-by-sentence breakdown of the first discussion paragraph of a Level-6 Anchor Paper for Task III, taken from the January 2000 Regents exam. The anchor paper is transcribed word-for-word, with no corrections.

 

Topic: The power of nature

Controlling idea: Nature is unpredictable. (established by the student in his/her introduction)

 

Text being examined: A report by Jack London on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

 

Here is the whole paragraph, the second in a four-paragraph essay:

 

Passage I is about a terrible earthquake that hit the sleeping city of San Francisco, destroying it with crumbling buildings and rumbling fires before many people even had the chance to escape. The death toll, which could never be accurately counted, is evidence in itself of the unpredictability of the quake in that less people would have died if the quake were predicted in advance. But beyond that, and beyond the vivid description of the damages that the author uses to evidence this unpredictability, are other literary techniques that help convey this idea. Point of view is used in this passage to give an immediacy and authenticity to the account of the quake, as well as to show the numbing effect that the sudden shaking had had on the author, and the city: “…half the heart of the city had gone. At that time I watched the vast conflagration from out on the bay. It was dead calm.” The earthquake had hit suddenly, and produced a giant ruckus, but just a short distance away, the air was still. The author uses the “I” persona only in this one sentence in the passage, and therefore makes this a very important statement. The author was there, survived the sudden attack, and stood back to watch the aftermath. The author also uses listing as a way to describe the damages, which adds to the pace of the piece, propelling it toward the end where the use of complex sentence structure begins to emulate the nature of the quake and the fires that followed. “The streets were humped…and piled with debris…the steel rails were twisted…the telephone and telegraph…were disrupted.” Then near the end of the piece: “Time and time again successful stands were made by the firefighters, and every time the flames flanked around on either side, or came up the rear, and turned to defeat the hard-won victory.” The complex sentence structure mimicks the flames; the firefighters did not know where they would pop up next, just as the sentence seems to stop, but goes on, changes direction, etc. These techniques are used to help the reader understand the nature of the quake: powerful and unpredictable.

 

 

1. This is the topic sentence of the paragraph which provides a brief summary of the piece:

 

Passage I is about a terrible earthquake that hit the sleeping city of San Francisco, destroying it with crumbling buildings and rumbling fires before many people even had the chance to escape.

 

2. This sentence connects the summary to the controlling idea by referring to the death toll as “evidence in itself of the unpredictability of the quake.” Not only that, but it goes on to explain how and why the death toll constitutes such evidence (note error: “less people” should read “fewer people.” Note also: “if the quake were predicted” should preferably read “had the quake been predicted”):

 

The death toll, which could never be accurately counted, is evidence in itself of the unpredictability of the quake in that less people would have died if the quake were predicted in advance.

 

 

3. Here the piece makes an effective transition between the general summary above (“But beyond that, …”) and the more detailed discussion to come.

 

But beyond that, and beyond the vivid description of the damages that the author uses to evidence this unpredictability, are other literary techniques that help convey this idea.

 

4. In this sentence, the student names the literary element (point of view) and explains precisely how and why it is used, giving not one but two examples: (1.) “to give an immediacy and authenticity;” and (2) “to show the numbing effect.”

 

Point of view is used in this passage to give an immediacy and authenticity to the account of the quake, as well as to show the numbing effect that the sudden shaking had had on the author, and the city:

 

5. This is an exact quote from the text that illustrates the student’s point in sentence 4 about the effect of point-of-view:

 

“…half the heart of the city had gone. At that time I watched the vast conflagration from out on the bay. It was dead calm.”

 

6. The next sentence illustrates and elaborates on the meaning of the direct quotation:

 

The earthquake had hit suddenly, and produced a giant ruckus, but just a short distance away, the air was still.

 

7. Then the student reminds us of the literary element mentioned in sentence 4, “I” persona being a more specific aspect of point-of-view, and noting that this is the only time it occurs in the passage:

 

The author uses the “I” persona only in this one sentence in the passage, and therefore makes this a very important statement.

 

8. The student follows up on the importance of the statement, as claimed in sentence 7, by illustrating its purpose/effect:

 

The author was there, survived the sudden attack, and stood back to watch the aftermath.

 

9. Finished with the discussion of point-of-view, the student here moves on to a second literary technique, listing, also referring to pace (as an element affected by the technique) and complex sentence structure. Again, the student directly and specifically explains the purpose, how and why these techniques are used: to “propel it to the end” where it will “emulate the nature of the quake and the fires:”

 

The author also uses listing as a way to describe the damages, which adds to the pace of the piece, propelling it toward the end where the use of complex sentence structure begins to emulate the nature of the quake and the fires that followed.

 

10. This quote from the text is an example of listing, the first literary technique mentioned in sentence 9:

 

“The streets were humped…and piled with debris…the steel rails were twisted…the telephone and telegraph…were disrupted.”

 

11. This quote from the text is an example of complex sentence structure, the second literary technique mentioned in sentence 9:

 

Then near the end of the piece: “Time and time again successful stands were made by the firefighters, and every time the flames flanked around on either side, or came up the rear, and turned to defeat the hard-won victory.”

 

12. This sentence reiterates the point made in sentence 9 that “the complex sentence mimics the flames,” then goes on to explain and illustrate precisely how it does that, directly comparing the firefighters’ perception of the fire with the flow of the language in the sentence, which illustrates the effect of the example (note spelling error: “mimicks” should read “mimics.”):

 

The complex sentence structure mimicks the flames; the firefighters did not know where they would pop up next, just as the sentence seems to stop, but goes on, changes direction, etc.

 

13. This final sentence brings us back to the controlling idea, connecting the techniques and examples discussed with the general principle that nature is unpredictable:

 

These techniques are used to help the reader understand the nature of the quake: powerful and unpredictable.

 

 

 

The paragraph, therefore, accomplishes all that it needs to accomplish by first summarizing the piece, then providing a detailed discussion of at least two literary devices present in the piece, each accompanied by at least one specific example from the text and a thorough, specific explanation of the meaning, purpose, and effect of each.

 

For this example:

Sentences 1-3: Summary, with connection to controlling idea and transition. (94 words)

Sentences 4-8: Discussion of first literary device, with example from text and explanation of purpose/meaning/effect. (97 words, + 25 quoted from the text; 122 total)

Sentences 9-12: Discussion of second literary device, with examples from the text and explanation of purpose/meaning/effect. (81 words, + 52 quoted from the text; 133 total)

Setnence 13: Connection to controlling idea. (17 words)

 

Total for one discussion paragraph: 289 words, + 77 quoted form the text; 366 total.

 

Total for entire anchor paper (estimated): 800 words, 200 quoted from the texts; 1000 total.