Touchstones are projects that illustrate your comprehension of the course material, help you refine skills and demonstrate application of knowledge. You can work on a Touchstone anytime, but you can’t submit it until you have completed the unit’s Milestone. Once you’ve submitted a Touchstone, it will be graded and counted toward your final course score.
For Touchstone 1, you will be writing two separate, distinct paragraphs. You will write one paragraph in the informative mode and one paragraph in the descriptive mode.
The informative paragraph must be written in a non-biased tone and explain, teach, or inform. The descriptive paragraph must use sensory details to describe a person, place or object.
In order to foster learning and growth, all essays you submit must be newly written specifically for this course. Any recycled work will be sent back with a 0, and you will be given one attempt to redo the touchstone.
Choosing a Topic
For the informative paragraph, be creative and choose a topic that you already know something about. (You do not need to conduct any research for this paragraph.) Be sure to write in an objective and non-biased manner with your intended audience and purpose in mind. You may write about any topic you wish that you know something about, however; below are some sample topics that may help you get started.
- The background, history, or rules of a particular game or sport
- The materials, tools, background or approach for a hobby you enjoy
- The action/process for an activity such as driving, planting a garden, grilling a steak, etc.
- The history of a place that you know a lot about (a city, state, natural attraction, etc.)
- A scientific process or concept that you are very familiar with
For the descriptive paragraph, use sensory language and vivid details to describe a person, a place or a thing. Sensory details describe how something looks, sounds, feels, smells or tastes. You should use precise language to “show” rather than “tell” about what you are describing. Be sure to write with your intended audience and purpose in mind. What you write about is entirely up to you as long as you use vivid details and sensory language to bring the description to life. However, below are some sample topics that may help you get started.
- Describe a room in your house
- Describe your favorite spot to spend time
- Describe a person who is special to you
- Describe a meal that you enjoy eating or cooking
- Describe a unique family tradition
Refer to the checklist below throughout the writing process. Do not submit your Touchstone until your paragraphs meet all guidelines.
- Does each paragraph include a topic sentence that depicts the controlling idea of the paragraph?
- Does each paragraph include supporting sentences that effectively support your topic sentence?
- Are all sentences or details in the paragraph relevant to the topic sentence?
- Does each paragraph include a concluding sentence that gives closure to the paragraph?
- Is the sequence of all sentences within each paragraph logical (topic sentence first, logical sequence of supporting sentences, concluding sentence last)?
- Are transitions used effectively to connect ideas within the paragraph?
- Is the paragraph easy to read?
- Are all sentences complete and correct?
- Are there any run-on sentences? Have you used conjunctions and correct punctuation between independent clauses?
- Are there any sentence fragments? Does each sentence have a subject and verb and express a complete thought?
- Does the writing “show” the reader details rather than “telling” about them?
- Does the paragraph describe a person, place or object?
- Have you touched on at least three of the senses in your use of sensory language?
- Does the paragraph clearly inform the reader about a topic?
- Is the paragraph based on information or facts rather than opinion?
- Is the tone of the paragraph neutral and objective?
- Have you checked your paragraph for grammatical errors?
- Have you used Spell-Check or another method to check spelling?
- Have you used punctuation correctly?
Before you Submit
- Have you underlined your topic sentence, one supporting sentence and your concluding sentence in each paragraph?
- Have you clearly labeled each paragraph as either “Descriptive” or “Informative”?
- Have you clearly identified the intended audience and purpose above each paragraph?
- Have you included your name, date and course at the top left of the page?
- Is each paragraph between 200-300 words?
- Have you answered all of the reflection questions thoughtfully and thoroughly?
- Are your answers to the reflection questions included on a separate page below your paragraphs?
- Have you met or exceeded the required length for each reflection response?
- What do you think your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of sentence construction and paragraph development? (1-2 sentences)
- Explain how writing for a particular purpose and audience shaped each of your paragraphs. (3-5 sentences)
- Discuss your feelings about writing in different modes. Is there a particular mode you enjoy writing in more than another? (3-5 sentences)
- Explain how different writing modes that you have learned about might be applied to scenarios in your real life. (3-5 sentences)
Your composition and reflection will be scored according to the Touchstone 1 Rubric, which considers your reflection, your descriptive and informative paragraph elements, structure and organization as well as your use of conventions.
- Each paragraph should be 200 to 300 words (approximately 1/2 page) in length
- Double-space the paragraphs and use 1-inch margins
- Use a readable 12-point font
- All writing must be appropriate for an academic context
- All writing must be original and written for this assignment
- Plagiarism of any kind is strictly prohibited
- Submission must include your name, the name of the course, the date, and the title of your composition
- Submission must include both your descriptive and informative paragraphs and your answers to the reflection questions following each
- Submit a single file only, including all assignment components
- Acceptable file formats include .doc, and .docx.
- Sentence Fragments
- Run-On Sentences
- Paragraph Development
- Paragraph Organization
- Writing Effective Descriptive and Narrative Paragraphs
|Proficient (90-100%)||Acceptable (70-89%)||Needs Improvement (50-69%)||Non-Performance (0-49%)|
Demonstrate command of standard English grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization and formatting. Formatting of paragraph meets requirements for appropriate line spacing, margins and font size.
|There are no errors or minimal errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization and formatting (line spacing, margins and font size).||There are occasional errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, formatting, and usage.||There are frequent errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization and formatting (line spacing, margins and font size).||There are consistent errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization and formatting (line spacing, margins and font size).|
Sentence Structure (15)
Sentences are constructed effectively and do not include run-ons or fragments.
|There are minimal errors in sentence structure involving run-on sentences or sentence fragments. Sentence structure errors do not impede understanding of the writing.||Some errors in sentence structure involving run-on sentences or sentence fragments may be present, but the writing is predominantly error free. Sentence structure errors occasionally impede understanding of the writing.||A significant number of errors in sentence structure involving run-on sentences or sentence fragments are present. Sentence structure errors tend to impede the understanding of the writing.||The majority of the writing contains errors in sentence structure involving run-on sentences or sentence fragments. Sentence structure errors consistently impede the understanding of the writing making it difficult to follow.|
Paragraph Structure (15)
Paragraphs include all required elements including a topic sentence, supporting sentences and a concluding sentence.
|The paragraph includes a topic sentence, supporting sentences and a concluding sentence. All elements of the paragraph are constructed effectively.||The paragraph includes a topic sentence, supporting sentences and a concluding sentence. Two of the elements of the paragraph are constructed effectively and one is not.||Only one of the three paragraph elements (a topic sentence, supporting sentences or concluding sentence) is present and used effectively. The other two elements may be absent or may be constructed ineffectively.||All three of the paragraph elements (a topic sentence, supporting sentences and concluding sentence) are absent or used ineffectively.|
Paragraph Cohesion (15)
Presents a coherent paragraph that includes effective transitions. Paragraphs are structured logically.
|The sequence of all sentences within the paragraph is logical and transitions used to connect sentences and ideas are effective such that the flow of writing can be described as smooth throughout.||The sequence of sentences within the paragraph are predominantly logical, and the transitions used to connect sentences and ideas are predominantly effective, however there are a few issues disrupting the flow of the writing such that the flow of writing can be described as predominantly smooth.||In multiple instances, the sequence of sentences within the paragraph is illogical, and/or the transitions used to connect sentences and ideas are ineffective such that the writing lacks a smooth flow.||There are many issues with illogical sequence of sentences and poor transitions throughout the writing making it difficult to follow or make connections.|
Descriptive Paragraph (15)
Presents a paragraph that effectively incorporates elements of descriptive writing.
|The description predominantly “shows” rather than “tells” using vivid sensory details (details that evoke sight, smell, sound, touch, or taste). Achieves the purpose of providing a detailed description of a person, place or thing, such that the subject can be visualized/experienced by the reader.||The description adequately “shows” rather “tells” but leans somewhat too heavily on “telling.” The writing still primarily achieves the purpose of providing a description of a person, place or thing, however the description is lacking in detail and immediacy, such that the subject can mostly be visualized/experienced by the reader.||The description predominantly “tells” rather than “shows.” The writing minimally achieves the purpose of providing a description of a person, place or thing, such that it is difficult for the reader to visualize/experience the subject||The writing cannot be considered a descriptive paragraph. It does not achieve the purpose of providing a description of a person, place or thing.|
Informative Paragraph (15)
Presents a paragraph that effectively incorporates elements of informative writing.
|The writing employs an objective or neutral tone and effectively incorporates plenty of informative details. The writing clearly achieves the purpose of informing the reader.||The tone of the writing is predominantly objective or neutral and incorporates some informative details. The writing adequately achieves the purpose of informing the reader.||The tone of the writing is not objective or neutral and does not incorporate informative details. The writing does not effectively achieve the purpose of informing the reader.||The writing cannot be considered an informative paragraph.|
Reflect on the writing.
|Demonstrates thoughtful reflection; includes multiple insights, observations, and/or examples. Answers all reflection questions effectively, following response length guidelines.||Primarily demonstrates thoughtful reflection, but some responses are lacking in detail or insight. Answers all reflection questions, primarily following response length guidelines.||Shows limited reflection; the majority of responses are lacking in detail or insight. Answers reflection questions inadequately: may not answer all of the questions and/or may not follow response length guidelines.||Does not answer the majority of reflection questions or the majority of answers do not follow response length guidelines.|