Writing Answers

Writing Answers to Short Answer/Essay Questions

  1. Answers must be COMPLETE. All parts of the question must be addressed.
  2. Answers must be FULLY EXPLAINED. Do not assume the reader understands things you have not explained. There must not be any gaps in your reasoning or explanation. Explanations must be clear and logically organized.
  3. Answers must be PROVEN AND DEFENDED. You must give evidence for your answer including SPECIFIC DETAILS AND EXAMPLES from the reading. Imagine you are trying to convince a jury your answer is right – prove it!
  4. When requested examples may need to include exact QUOTES from the text, and CITATIONS of the page number where the quotation was found in the text. Quotes must directly relate to the question and directly support your answer.



Reason  Explanation  Examples   Details


EXPLANATION – Explain your answer and your reasoning. Your answer should include some kind of “because” statement. This statement will transition you from explanation to examples by giving a reason for your answer. “Johnny is an admirable character in the story because he makes personal sacrifices to make his friends’ lives easier.”

EXAMPLES – Examples should be specific and include facts and details from the story. You should have a “for example” statement in your answer. “For example Johnny gave half of his lunch to Stewart when Stewart could not afford to buy his own.” Additional examples strengthen your case and your answer. “Johnny also gave up going to the baseball game with his father so he could help Ralph clean out his garage.”

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie – Handout One

Question One:

Steven loves his little brother and feels like his protector. But he is also annoyed by Jeffrey. Jeffrey follows him around and destroys his stuff. For example Jeffrey used Steven’s special autographed drum sticks to make the “dangerous pie”.

Question Two:

Jeffrey worships and idolizes his big brother. He follows him around like he’s Elvis according to Steven. And he tells Renee that Steven is a “rock star”.

Question Three:

When Steven finds how Jeffrey has leukemia the first thing he feels is relief. He realized he wasn’t in trouble for Jeffrey’s nosebleed. He regrets this feeling a lot, because he was worried more about himself than Jeffrey. Steven isn’t a bad person, because he realized it was wrong to feel relieved.

Question Four:

Steven deals with worrying about Jeffrey by focusing on other things like playing the drums, a complicated math problem about tic-tacs, and Renee.

Handout 2

Question 2

The protagonist is Steven. The antagonist is Jeffrey’s cancer (leukemia). The conflict is person vs. nature because Steven is struggling to deal with Jeffrey’s illness. Another conflict is person vs. person because Steven is torn between worrying about himself vs. worrying about Jeffrey (selfishness vs. compassion).

Question 3

The tone of the story is humorous. Steven makes sarcastic jokes while telling the story. It is funny. The plot is sad however. The story is about his little brother battling a deadly disease.

Question 4

Steven deals with his stress by playing the drums, writing in his journal, making up math problems, making jokes, and even pretending Jeffrey’s cancer isn’t real (denial).

Question 5

Renee is more attractive, popular, fashionable, and confident. Annette is more awkward and unsure. But Annette is the more caring and compassionate person, and so she is the more likable character.


Handout 4

Question 1

Steven’s dad didn’t want to attend the concert, because he is a proud man who was embarrassed to accept charity. He felt that he should be able to take care of his family. He didn’t want pity. But he realizes it’s OK to accept help when you need it.

Question 2

The two wise characters in the story are Mrs. Galley and Samantha. Mrs. Galley tells Steven to focus on things that he can change, not to agonize over things he can’t.  Samantha tells him to always be there for his brother.

Question 3

Sonnenblick includes Samantha in a subplot of the story as a cautionary tale. She shows what can go wrong. Samantha shows us that leukemia is deadly, and that it is worse when family members turns their back on you.

Question 4

The key message of “Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie” is the advice from Mrs. Galley. Focus on the things you can change. Don’t agonize over things you can’t change. Steven can’t cure Jeffrey’s cancer, but he can be there when Jeffrey needs him. The message is repeated so many times that Steven knows it by heart.




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