ENG 1213: Critical Thinking Exercise – Abstract to Concrete


  1. Read the section on critical thinking and reading in your handbook to guide you in this assignment.
  2. Review the “MLA Documentation PowerPoint” presentation if necessary.
  3. Read Lucien Stryk’s poem, “Cherries,” in The Power of Language or my annotated version. I've also provided a page of supplemental information.
  4. Summarize the poem in approximately 25 words, documenting it thoroughly in MLA style, and using a signal in and signal out. Remember the differences in summary and paraphrase.
  5. Following or incorporated with the summary, answer the following: How can you connect this poem to a current social issue in the world today? In other words, how might we apply Lucien Stryk’s message or theme to some of the reasons for our current problems?
  6. You will be graded on the following aspects:
    1. MLA documentation accuracy
    2. Following MLA style formatting
    3. Accuracy of your summary
    4. Completeness of assignment – did you finish all steps
    5. Depth of response: did you toss off a response or address this on a serious level.


For an example of this assignment, only using “Spring and Fall” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, go to http://kellimcbride.com/1213_hopkins_springandfall.htm


Note on response: Part of learning to think critically means to take an abstract concept, such as Stryk’s message in his poem, and apply it to a concrete situation, such as America’s current economic crisis. In doing so, you open up your mind to all possibilities. We only learn to do this well by actually doing it – working that brain. If you’ve not had much practice in this, then you will find it perhaps a bit difficult. You may make missteps or have a hard time coming to any conclusions at all, or feel completely unconfident about what you come up with. That is natural.


Here are some suggestions:

  1. Do your best to answer the assignment on your own and put your thoughts on paper.
  2. Use your peer group to give you feedback on your ideas. Post your interactions on the discussion board under your group name.
  3. Make any revisions you feel are called for.
  4. Critical thinking is something that takes practice in doing well. We all make mistakes, misinterpret what we’re supposed to do, or completely miss the boat in our analysis. That’s part of the game. But learning means that we pick ourselves up and try again. By listening to the ideas of others, we hone our own skills, seeing where we missed something important, or even learning to see things from other points of view that help strengthen our own ability to think. And sometimes, we simply have “well, duh” moments. I pride myself on being a strong critical thinker, and this still happens to me. Do not feel embarrassed or intimidated when it happens. We’ve all  been there, and still go there. ;-)