Writing Reports - Unit 6: Summarizing Multiple References
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February 2015 Newsletter

Writing Reports

Unit 6: Summarizing Multiple References
Dear Readers,

Although report writing can be fun and educational, it can often be challenging to students and frustrating to teachers. Whether you are a student or a teacher, consider these tips when beginning your report-writing process.

Tip One: Narrow your subject. A common problem with report writing is choosing a subject that is too broad. When you narrow your subject, research becomes more focused and productive. For example, if your student wants to write a 5-paragraph report on dogs in the United States, this subject needs to be narrowed down. Perhaps your student could choose a specific breed to research and write about instead. If your student expresses interest in the Civil War, maybe choose a specific battle or general, instead of trying to write about the entire war. If your subject is Robert E. Lee, your topics might be his childhood, his career at West Point, and his involvement in the Civil War. Narrowing your subject is important and will help both the research and writing process.

Tip Two: Take research seriously. Many students are eager to start the writing process and do not spend enough time in the research phase. If you are an advanced student, although you cannot write everything there is to know about the topic, always look at more sources than the required number to make sure you have found enough information on your topic. Remember that not all sources are accurate and worthy of being used in your report. If researching online, make sure you are using a credible site, and if something sounds questionable, verify the information by looking for the same information in another source.

Tip Three: Take the time to plan. This can be a very overwhelming stage of the report-writing process. You have a narrowed subject, and you have a pile of credible research, and now the writing task lurks before you. However, this does not have to be an overwhelming phase if you take the time to make an outline. Your outline will help keep you on track and organize your thoughts. The time spent planning will be time saved in the end.

Hopefully these tips will encourage you during the report-writing process. For detailed instructions on report writing, refer to Units 4 and 6 in Teaching Writing: Structure and Style and your Student Writing Intensive. As with anything, practice makes the process easier, so practice, practice, practice your report-writing skills!
Congratulations to our student writers who are published in this newsletter:
  • Colby Duke
  • Jackson Graham
  • Benjamin Ziesmer

Thank you to all who submitted work. Keep writing and submit again!
Upcoming deadlines for homeschooled students:
  • Unit 7 compositions – February 9, 2015
  • Unit 8 essays – March 9, 2015
  • Unit 9 critiques – April 13, 2015
  • Fiction – May 11, 2015
  • Journalism – June 15, 2015

Visit our website for writer’s guidelines and additional information:, and find us on Facebook for contests and sneak peeks. All submissions should follow the guidelines, and should be emailed to


Megan L. House
Magnum Opus Magazine Managing Editor
800.856.5815 x5101
An Extremely Monumental Character in History
by Benjamin Ziesmer, age 12
   The ship tossed. The waves crashed. The wind howled. As the rain poured and the thunder boomed, a lone sailor grappled at a hatchway, trying to climb beneath to relative safety. Washing violently across the deck, a wave dragged him towards the frothing sea. Just in time, the sailor grabbed a rope, which saved him from being tossed overboard. He flung the hatchway open, leaped down through it, and slammed it shut. “We are almost there,” he gasped to the captain. “I sighted India on the horizon!” The captain was Vasco da Gama. His early life had prepared him for wild voyages such as this. Currently, da Gama was sailing to India, because Portugal needed a trade partner in Asia. If he succeeded, he would gain riches and wealth beyond imagination.

   Da Gama’s upbringing revolved around sea life and the ocean. In the coastal town of Sines, which is in Portugal near the city of Lisbon, da Gama was born. The year was 1460. While being educated in the town of Evora, he predictably learned astronomy and navigation, since Portuguese schools followed the ideas of Prince Henry the Navigator. Da Gama became a sailor because Portuguese trade involved mostly maritime activities. Commissioned by King Manuel I, da Gama’s father prepared to command a voyage to India. Tragically, his father died before the voyage began. Da Gama was given charge of the expedition because he was an able seaman like his father. Da Gama’s early life had prepared him for the voyage ahead.

   The voyage to India was the longest, riskiest, and most difficult voyage attempted of any before it. Da Gama started on July 8, 1497, with four ships, which were manned by a total of 170 men. After leaving the city of Lisbon, da Gama’s ships sailed out into the mid-Atlantic, where they spent three months battling tempestuous storms. Eventually, they reached the Cape of Good Hope at the southern end of Africa. Since the natives were not happy with the sailors’ presence, the Portuguese left promptly after they had set up a stone marker claiming the Cape for Portugal. Upon reaching the Kenyan port city of Malindi, da Gama acquired two pilots, who guided the expedition across the Arabian Sea to India. Da Gama’s ships arrived in the major Indian city of Calicut on May 20, 1498. Desiring gold, the ruler of Calicut was not pleased with da Gama’s gifts of beads and trinkets because they insulted his position of authority. Realizing the city’s need for a European trade partner, he reluctantly agreed to open up trade with Portugal. The homesick sailors turned back towards Portugal, arriving on August 29, 1499. There were only fifty-five men and two ships left from the original expedition. Sadly, many had died from scurvy. However, the most adventurous episode of da Gama’s sailing career had been a victory.

   Because of da Gama’s successful journey to India, he commanded more nautical adventures and received riches and accolades in his remaining years. Commissioned to punish Calicut for violence towards Portuguese merchants, he sailed to India on a second voyage in 1502. When the expedition reached Calicut, they bombarded the city for two days despite the ruler’s pleas for mercy. Returning to Portugal in 1503, da Gama retired from the sea. Ceremoniously, he became a count in the year 1519, allowing him to collect taxes and rent from two small towns. In 1524, King John III titled da Gama Viceroy of India, since da Gama’s leadership had helped secure India as a Portuguese colony. In 1587, many years after da Gama’s death, Luis Vas de Camões wrote an epic poem about da Gama’s heroic voyages. Da Gama’s riches and titles after his magnificent voyage had given his exciting life a comfortable ending.

   Da Gama’s early life had been preparatory for his voyage to India. Being a very pivotal expedition, his voyage to India gave him riches and wealth. During his life after the essential voyage, da Gama was very luxurious and comfortable. If his sea-based early life was excluded, da Gama would not have been able to command the expedition, and if he had not commanded the expedition, he would never have obtained the magnificently large amount of wealth. Significantly, the most important part of his life was his upbringing because without it, Vasco da Gama would not be the great person whom he grew up to be. He was extremely monumental.

Works Cited
Doak, Robin S. Da Gama: Vasco Da Gama Sails Around the Cape of Good Hope. Minneapolis: Compass
      Point Books, 2002. Print.
Goodman, Joan E. A Long and Uncertain Journey: The 27,000-Mile Voyage of Vasco da Gama. New
      York: Mikaya Press Inc., 2002. Print.
"Da Gama, Vasco." The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 2011. Print.
Operation Overlord
Colby Duke, age 13
   In the pillbox the German soldiers sat—tired, wet, and uneasy. The bunker, which was cramped and filthy, was too much for one young officer. Stretching, he sat up and quietly stumbled outside to the fresh air. While the waves lapped gently on the shores of Normandy, the soldier stared out to sea, waiting for something to happen. The Germans had captured France in 1940. If the Allies invaded the country, they could easily charge straight to Berlin. Because a defeat would mean that Germany would lose WWII, the Nazis guarded France with all their might. But the Allies were ready. Certainly an attack would need strategic planning, airborne infiltration by Special Forces, and because the defenses of Normandy were extremely strong, a massive, full-scale assault.

   In 1942, the United States and British troops met in the United Kingdom to discuss the invasion of France. The attack, which was nicknamed “Operation Overlord,” was scheduled for June 5th to invade Normandy. While General Eisenhower briefed troops already posted in England, 950,000 more soldiers arrived there. Because the Germans knew that an invasion was inevitable, but did not know where it would take place, they reinforced all of the best landing points. Imposingly lying on the coast, the German defense, known as the Atlantic Wall, was strategically placed. Because it was lengthy, however, it could not be defended strongly in any one place. Obliterating anything in their path, British bombers attacked key targets, such as bridges and railways to weaken communication. Bogus equipment, supplies, and even boats were built outside of Kent, France. This fooled the Nazis. Now that the plan had been set into motion, it was time to begin the first phase of the invasion.

   Prepared for the coming battle in France, 9000 aircrafts were dispatched from the United Kingdom. The planes were mostly fighters or bombers, although a sparse amount of them were huge gliders. On June 6 at 12:16 p.m., three U.K. gliders silently slipped over the enemy lines under the cover of darkness. They landed in Caen, France. The goal of the operation was to destroy the vital Pegasus Bridge, which was located next to the town. Completely taken by surprise, the Germans were easily captured by the commandos. Signaling each other with fake metal crickets, a limited amount of U.S. paratroopers also attacked key positions. Because the attacks were planned so well, the United Kingdom and United States forces managed to capture two towns and a coastal gun battery in addition to destroying the Pegasus Bridge. After securing the positions, more troops and equipment were brought in by gliders. Because their air support now dominated major locations in France, the Allies were ready to deploy their ground troops.

   The seaborne division of Operation Overlord, which was nicknamed “Neptune,” was located outside of Normandy, France, with troops ready to attack the coast. From the banks of Utah Beach, the landing crafts drifted and waited for the signal to lower their ramps. Orders came at 6:31 a.m. Splashing to the shore, the valiant soldiers stormed the poorly defended beachhead, placing 23,000 men onshore, with only 200 casualties. Although the battle at Utah was a great success, Omaha Beach was not. Barely captured by the U.S., Omaha had the worst bloodshed of the day. After executing Operation Overlord, the Allies broke through the Atlantic Wall with 85,000 men, 150,000 vehicles, and 4,400 casualties. The Germans held back their reinforcements because they thought that the attack was still coming from another beach. With five beaches secured and a PLUTO (Pipeline Lying Under the Ocean) installed, the Allies had accomplished their goal. Although it would take time, there was no doubt that the Allies would win the war because of the bravery of the troops in the invasion of Normandy.

   Marching victoriously through France, the Allies, who had accomplished their goal, defeated the Germans. The landings were a complete success because the careful planning and airborne strikes were amazingly effective. Definitely, the most important variables in the attack were the perfect timing of the assaults, the confusion of the Nazis, and the fact that even with the odds stacked against them, the soldiers kept heart. Because Normandy was one of the greatest battles of World War II, it impacted the outcome tremendously. The war’s course was changed. In a world without Operation Overlord, the Germans may have won the war while destroying the world as we know it in the process.

Works Cited
"D-Day - the Greatest Assault." Reader's Digest Illustrated Story of World War II. Pleasantville, NY:
      Reader's Digest Association, 1978. 298-303.
Dowswell, Paul, Ruth Brocklehurst, and Henry Brook. "The D-Day Landings." The World Wars.
      London: Usborne, 2007. 204-07.
Strokesbury, James L. "D-Day." The World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 21. Chicago:
      World Book, 2012. 483-84.
Tolkien: Painter of Worlds
by Jackson Graham, age 15
   J.R.R. Tolkien was a wizard—a word wizard. While he captured the imaginations of millions of readers worldwide many years ago, he continues to do so—even though he no longer remains on earth. About seventy-eight years ago, Tolkien molded his world of Middle-Earth in his book The Hobbit, and many of his later works, such as The Lord of the Rings, quickly became a sensation. Readers have been transfixed by Tolkien’s way of writing ever since. Surprisingly, he came from very humble beginnings, and his talented mind helped him ascend from the station of lowly son of a down-on-his-luck banker, to an Oxford student, and finally to a writing legend, who influenced practically the entire world.

   J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892, to parents Mabel and Arthur Tolkien. On January 31, 1892, he was christened John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. His family had a German-derived last name. During his early childhood, he lived in the arid English West Midlands, in a town called Bloemfontein. He had a wild and tragic childhood. Surprisingly, he was bitten by a tarantula while playing in the bushes and was dramatically saved by his nurse, who sucked out the poison before the young Tolkien could be harmed. There is a theory that Tolkien based the giant monster Shelob, which appeared in The Lord of the Rings, on this incident. Another time, he was almost killed by his neighbor’s pet monkey, who escaped and found its way into Tolkien’s bedroom. Sadly his father died of rheumatic fever, and his mother converted to Catholicism and moved to Britain. As if Arthur’s death was not sad enough, not many years later, his mother died of diabetes, leaving Tolkien and his younger brother Hilary as orphans. Tolkien was twelve, and Hilary was not much younger. They were taken care of by a family friend, Father Morgan, who was a priest, and then moved to their aunt’s house for a time. Surprisingly enough, his aunt’s apartment was where he met his future wife. Edith Bratt was nineteen years old, and Tolkien was sixteen when they met.

   Eventually, Tolkien enrolled in Oxford. To many of his new friends’ surprise, he joined the rugby team, even though he was rather slim and lightweight. During his time at Oxford, Tolkien learned a plethora of languages—Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Finnish, Sanskrit, Gothic, Old Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Russian, and German. Often, he was inspired by the old Norse and Celtic poems and legends, which were some of the oldest poems in history. As a result of reading an interesting Celtic poem, he wrote “The Voyage of Earendel,” borrowing a somewhat mysterious character from the same poem. Marvelously, he delivered a 3-hour speech on the Modern English Language—part one of a series. His teacher had to stop him after the 3 hours had passed, because other students had to speak as well. All the students in his audience were astonished at his knowledge on the subject. After college, Tolkien married Edith Bratt when he was twenty-one. Soon thereafter, he was called off by the British army to serve in World War I. He was assigned the task of Infantry Subaltern, a soldier that used flags to communicate with other squadrons of soldiers. He particularly enjoyed this job, due to the fact that it was like learning another riveting language, and picked it up very quickly. He served from July to October of 1916 and left the army due to contracting trench fever.

   After his military experience, he helped put together the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, a deep pool of knowledge. During his time in bed recovering from trench fever, he wrote his first full length book, The Silmarillion. Unfortunately, it was not published until after his death. While grading papers one day—he was a teacher at Oxford for a short period of time—he noticed that one of the students had left his page blank. He just felt that he just had to write something on it, and he came up with this sentence: “In the ground there lived a hobbit.” This one sentence opened up a new section of Tolkien’s imagination, and out of this one thought, the profound book The Hobbit was born. The hobbits who are natural-born gardeners, lovers of nature, and merry folk, were based on Tolkien’s own personality. Vigorously, he hand-wrote the story of The Hobbit. After the dragon Smaug’s death however, he did not write the ending. Thankfully, as a result of his children’s increasing desire to know the end of the story, he composed the end of The Hobbit orally and converted his verbal conclusion to paper. It was published in 1937. The Hobbit became a worldwide sensation, and fans began to beg for more hobbit stories. To the fans’ joy, Tolkien laboriously hand-wrote The Lord of the Rings, which was so gigantic that the publishers had to break it down into three parts since they could not print such a big book all at once. The Lord of the Rings was published as a trilogy between the years 1954 and 1955. After the major success of The Lord of the Rings, he retired to calming country life and also retired from his second Oxford chair in 1959. He was even bestowed the honor of British Knighthood. Sir J.R.R. Tolkien died on September 2, 1973, on a Sunday.

   Clearly, J.R.R. Tolkien was a genius. Although he came from humble beginnings, Tolkien became one of history’s most influential writers. During his years at Oxford, he scrupulously gained an expansive knowledge of ancient languages and used this knowledge as a paintbrush—along with some inspiration from ancient literature—to delineate a vast world so unique that readers lost themselves in the culture and adventure of the story. His intellect and creativity sparked an immortal legacy, which will forever live in the hearts of his readers.

Works Cited
Collins, David R. J.R.R. Tolkien. Minneapolis: Learner Publications Company, 2005.
Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977.
Shippey, Tom. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. Boston, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.
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