Monday, July 29, 2013

Topic sentences: the heart and soul of each paragraph's idea

The topic sentence starts out each paragraph; it offers a general idea of what/why is important in the material that follows.  It stays within the boundary of the idea being presented.  It does NOT offer a full-blown explanation:  that is the work of the paragraph itself.  

Take each idea of the topic sentence and THEN explain the daylights out of it: what makes it important, why it's important, how it's important, who's involved in it, where it's important, and when it's important.  

Repeat with next paragraph's special idea. Repeat again until conclusion is reached, then re-evaluate thesis using ideas presented.  Presto!  (Like I've said, it's that easy.  Honest.  It works for ANY size paper--even those "I have to write TEN pages!" papers.)

Planning makes a Difference when Camping in the Wilderness

Each year, thousands of people throughout the United States choose to spend their vacations camping in the great outdoors.  With the great diversity of environments available, campers are not limited to woods, but can experience the challenges of deserts, mountains, and high latitude wilderness.  Depending on an individual’s sense of adventure, choices also include types of camping too:  log cabin, tent, recreational vehicle, and open-air sleeping bag.  

Of these, tent camping involves the most opportunities for “roughing it,” and with proper planning, the experience can be satisfying and memorable.  However, even with the best planning, tent camping can be an extremely frustrating effort due to uncontrolled factors such as bad weather, wildlife encounters, equipment failures—and a camper’s life and well-being. Failing to plan properly for tent camping can prove uncomfortable as well as deadly. (instructor note: that’s the thesis.)

(Topic sentence #1) Nothing can dampen the excitement and anticipation of tent camping more than bad weather and poor planning if one plans to camp in such conditions.  Even the most adventurous campers can lose some of their enthusiasm on the drive or hike to a planned campsite if the skies are dreary and damp.  After reaching the destination, campers must then “set up” in wet conditions that may make for poor decisions and results.  It is vital to keep the inside of the tent dry and free from mud or rock slides, keeping sleeping bags safe, and protecting any food from exposure.  If sleeping bags happen to get wet, the cold also becomes a major factor and difficulty: a dry sleeping bag provides warmth and protection; a wet bag means chills and no sleep.  Combining wind and rain can cause frigid temperatures that cause outside activities to be delayed or cancelled.  Even inside the tent, problems may arise from heavy winds.  More than a few campers have had tents blown down because of wind, leaving them exposed to the elements and struggling to reestablish a safe and secure tent.  Therefore, it is wise to check the weather forecast before embarking on a camping trip: Mother Nature is unpredictable and a compromised tent and its security cannot be overlooked.

(Topic Sentence #2) Another unexpected problem likely to be faced during a camping trip: run-ins with wildlife, ranging from mildly annoying to extremely dangerous.  Minor inconveniences include mosquitoes, chiggers, biting flies, and ants.  The swarms of mosquitoes can literally drive annoyed campers indoors.  If an effective repellant is not used, an unprepared camper can spend an unpleasant long night scratching and not sleeping.  In the northern-most states near the Canadian border, tiny black flies can inflict painful bites that torment animals as well as humans.  Ants normally do not attack campers, but keeping them out of food can be quite an effort.  Extreme care must be taken not to leave food out before or after meals—and that includes cleaning up afterward.  Food should optimally be stored off the ground (suspended from a tree limb away from the tent).  In addition to swarming the food, ants inside a tent can crawl into sleeping bags, shoes, and clothing.  

Although these creatures (especially insects) can cause various levels of discomfort, just as dangerous are spiders, snakes, scorpions, and centipedes.  There are many poisonous snakes in the U.S., such as rattlers, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral.  However, the large animals in a camping area should be the main concern for anyone in a tent—especially with food storage. 

Animal behavior in the wild can be deadly, especially from a bear, mountain lion, or moose.  An angry moose cow can stand 9 feet tall and weigh 1200 pounds, moving incredibly fast and furious if she defends a calf.  Her hooves and heavy antlers can kill a bear, let alone a human.  Bear sows too will chase down and attack humans who stray near cubs—and many foolish campers who wander upon “a cute little thing” are foolish to assume the mother is only silently observing—and not timing an attack.

(Topic Sentence #3) Perhaps the least serious camping troubles are equipment failures; these often plague inexperienced families camping for the first time.  Picture this: a family of five arrives at the campsite for the night and set up their large tent.  They then settle down for a peaceful night’s rest.  Then sometime during the night, a huge crash awakens them: a tree limb has come down during a downpour and collapsed one side of the tent.  Luckily, no one is hurt—but in the morning, everyone slowly emerges, stiff and wet—except for two, whose sleeping bag zippers are stuck.  They are freed after 15 minutes of struggling, only to realize that each of their bags has been directly against the tent walls.  A tent is waterproof only if the sides are not touched.  Now their clothes and sleeping bags are wet.  Totally disillusioned with the “vacation,” the frustrated family packs up immediately and goes home.  

What options are there? Regardless of animals, weather, or equipment, poor planning and decisions can be the ruin of any camping endeavor, especially in a tent.  A sense of humor can actually be a needed tool.  The bugs will still outnumber us, the animals naturally live outdoors, and anyone who can control the weather will have an Olympic-sized job.  So, pack that gear and keep an eye out for whatever comes your way, fellow campers—and may your socks be dry and the path safe.

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