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Compose Yourself!: A Guide to Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing in Secondary School Paperback – July 19, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1608446452 ISBN-10: 160844645X

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC (July 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160844645X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608446452
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,261,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I never thought I would be a teacher or a writer; however, I come to both honestly--from a long line of university professors and authors (music, English, journalism, screenwriting, and foreign relations.) It was a profession that I resisted because I didn't want to follow a trodden path. But after working in education policy and coaching swimming, it became more and more clear that my vocation was teaching--teaching at the high school level.

My father was a diplomat, and I am lucky enough to have traveled all over the world. With my family I have lived in Burundi (where I was born), Zambia (where my sister was born), Iran (where we had to be evacuated during the Iranian Revolution), and India (where I met my husband). The wide-open education I received at the international schools I attended and the conversations I was privy to ignited my thirst to know and do--to make a difference in the world.

I firmly believe that one of the most influential ways to make a difference is education. Helping students of all backgrounds access the opportunities available to them is really the best way to address the issues of poverty and ignorance that affect the world. My experience preparing students to successfully complete the International Baccalaureate (IB) program has shown me what students need to succeed. I have broken it down and prepared materials that help students reach their goals.

My teaching philosophy is simple: all can learn. Some may take longer than others, but with systematic, explicit instruction and sustained practice thinking and writing are open to everyone. School was always just enough of a struggle for me that I have made it a point to break down concepts and skills so that all my students (and now my readers!) can have that "lightbulb moment."

Currently I live in Arlington, VA with my husband and twelve year old daughter. We have a cat, a dog, and occasionally a hamster and guinea pig (my daughter's friends bring them over just to add excitement). Our home is a hive of activity, but it keeps mind and body agile.

I look forward to writing more books that will contribute to strengthening teaching and learning for all.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Karin Chenoweth on August 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
Reading this book made me wish it had been around in high school when my teachers told me things like, "You have good ideas but you don't know how to write." If I had had this book it could have short-circuited many painful years. And if my teachers had had this book, they could have said, "Let me help you learn how to write."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Peck on September 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the mother of three (now grown) children, I would have been delighted to have had this book when they were in middle and high school trying to complete project after project. "Compose Yourself!" breaks down the process of thinking about a topic into easy to understand steps that would have helped calm the "night before" scramble of one child, and perhaps avoided the "Whoops! That was due today?!" procrastination of another. My one child who probably didn't need "Compose Yourself!" is now an English teacher who uses this book in her high school English classes to teach analytical writing. Once writers use the provided graphic organizers to think through the topic, Stempel shows them how to put it all together into a coherent whole. This book takes something that is considered mysterious, how to organize analytical thinking and writing, and demystifies it so all can do it. "Compose Yourself!" would have been a welcome tool in our house, but those in the trenches can use it now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Means on October 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Filling in bubbles on a standardized multiple choice test asks students to answer questions that already have answers. What really measures a student's depth of understanding is a well-thought-out and well-written critical analysis of the topic. Amy Stempel's workbook is a blueprint for teaching students to think logically, to analyze the facts, and organize their findings and conclusions into a coherent, readable essay. It is a step-by-step approach that can be used by teachers and parents to help students become fluent writers and thinkers. Although the workbook is designed for middle school students, the basic principles outlined in it are applicable to all types of writing, from high school essays to graduate theses and the polished communication expected in most careers. By mastering these few, simple rules, students acquire a skill that becomes automatic and is never forgotten, like riding a bicycle.

Teachers who fear that logical, structured writing stifles creativity will discover the opposite is true: students will achieve a level of expression that goes far beyond formulaic narrative, the kind of writing taught in elementary schools. Invariably, the most enduring works of fiction are built on a strong, though subtle and nuanced, underlying structure.

Disciplined thinking and disciplined writing should be required in every subject, including math and science. Giving students the tools to express themselves coherently and with ease is the best gift a teacher or parent could possibly give them. I wish my early mentors had been handed a copy of Stempel's guidebook.

I would like to add that a visit to Stempel's Web site (lightbulblearning.net) is well worth the time spent perusing her thoughts on education.

Community College Admissions Advisor
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Janice R. Alder on August 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
The ability to use language well is a fast disappearing art. As proof of her ability to teach you to write an analytical and well-organized piece, Ms Stempel has herself written an analytical and well-organized book. This cleanly written and concise book is a must-have for any one older than 12 who wants to learn to think clearly and write well. It is accessible but not dumbed down, practical but not rigid, and useful for all kinds of writing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nancy A. Dean on August 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Compose Yourself fulfills an obvious need. Too many high school students have never learned how to write clearly and concisely. This easy-to-follow workbook not only shows students how to overcome that barrier, it demonstrates how to use this new-found knowledge in all subject areas. It can transform that burden of fulfilling classroom writing assignments into no problem at all!
Nancy A. Dean
English Language Communication Specialist
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jill S, on November 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
Kudos to Ms. Stempel for recognizing the need for guidance in leading young adults on the correct path to critical thinking and analytical writing. She has set forth to clearly and simply synthesize the material in a manner that is not overwhelming for either teacher or student. The skills that will be gained will serve students well, as they embark upon the path to college and career. This book should be a must for those who will be writing essays for college applications, for creating papers in collegiate subjects and then again as a refresher and permanent resource guide in the corporate world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Soper on September 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
I love this book. It's full of clear examples, for one thing, so that the instruction about writing comes to life. It's complete without being overwhelming, and seems to be nicely geared to suit the strengths and needs of in-school teachers and home schooling parents. It takes all the mystery out of what makes an effective essay, and does it in a way that's good humored, clear, and organized. I can't think of a classroom that wouldn't benefit from this, especially with the emphasis on writing across the curriculum.
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