Archive for the ‘Grammar & Style’ Category

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Ask Grammar Girl

posted: 2.5.08 by Barclay Barrios

Grammar Girl is a great podcast that answers questions about grammar, language, and usage. You might encourage your class to subscribe to this podcast but, even better, have students propose a question to Grammar Girl. Not only will this get them more closely engaged with the trickier issues of grammar but it will also provide you with a list of questions your students still have.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style, Teaching with Technology
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5 ways I help students with organization

posted: 1.31.08 by Barclay Barrios

I find that students often have trouble writing papers with strong organization. Sometimes, in fact, it feels like they could swap around all the body paragraphs and it would be the same paper—they don’t logically lead one to the other. Here are some exercises I use to help students focus on the organization of their papers:

1. Paragraph to Paragraph Transition
The most solid transitions, I suggest to students, comes from a statement that directly ties together two paragraphs. Start by having students review the material on transitions in the handbook. Then try this exercise. Have students take two paragraphs from their drafts. Ask them to write a one sentence summary of the first paragraph and then another one sentence summary of the second paragraph. Students should combine these two sentences into one, forming a strong and specific transition.

2. Rearrange the Order
Strong organization is self-evident. That is, when a paper is well-organized each paragraph clearly has a place in the whole. Have students test their organization by bringing in a draft for peer revision with the paragraph order switched around. If their peers cannot reassemble the original order then they need to work on transitions and organization.

3. Model Transitions
Have students locate examples of effective transitions in the current reading. Discuss what makes them effective—is it just the use of transitional words and phrases or is there a sentence pattern at work here? Have students apply what they learn by modeling one of these effective transitions in their current drafts.

4. Trail Markers
Trail markers make sure you don’t get lost in the woods; students can use the same technique to mark the trail of their arguments in their papers. Have students underline key sentences in each paragraph that “point the way” to the larger argument and/or to the next paragraph. If they can’t find sentences that work in that way, then that paragraph might represent someplace their readers might get lost.

5. All Outta Outlines
The strongest organization feels inevitable. Help students to locate that level of organization by having them produce multiple pre- or post-draft outlines, each with a different possible organization; you might in fact ask them to outline until they can’t outline any more. Do some points always need to come before others? Do they need to introduce a term, for example, before discussing it? Looking at multiple organizations can help students see the one that makes the most sense, the one that seems most inevitable.

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Grammar & Style, Writing Process
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Say What You Mean

posted: 10.22.07 by Barclay Barrios

I’ve found that syntax problems in student writing often result from their attempts to sound academic or to express a complex and exciting idea in too compressed a space. I tell students “Say what you mean” and encourage them to do that by reviewing material in the handbook on tone, conciseness, and jargon or, just as usefully, but having them reflect on the writing styles of the essays we read, which often use plain language to express very complex ideas.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Drafting, Grammar & Style, Revising
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Advertising the Power of Speech

posted: 4.9.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to choose a part of speech or a type of sentence and then design a print or radio ad that sells the benefits of their choice/“product” to the public.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Business Writing, Grammar & Style, Popular Culture
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Citing Error

posted: 3.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Before a draft is due, ask students to proofread their essays for grammatical errors. If they find any, they should copy them to a new sheet, correct the errors, and then provide MLA citations for the pages of the handbook that support those corrections.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Citing Sources, Drafting, Grammar & Style, Proofreading/Editing, Punctuation & Mechanics, Revising
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Transitional Paragraphs for Understanding

posted: 3.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to review the material in the handbook on clarity and transitions, and also ask them to come to class having identified a passage in the current reading that they found particularly confusing. In small groups, students should share their passages and then pick one to work on. The groups will then insert a paragraph before this passage that uses transitions and acts as a transition to help everyone else in the class understand the movement of the author’s argument in this place.

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Categories: Argument, Collaboration, Grammar & Style
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Web Grammar Research

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Ask students to review any Web sites about grammar listed in the handbook or on the book’s companion site. Then have them expand this list by finding other Web sites they think would be useful. Collect these and distribute a consolidated list to the class.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Grammar & Style, Teaching with Technology
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Audience and Argument

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the materials in the handbook on voice, tone, and argument. Have them summarize the argument of their current draft or the current reading and then reword that argument to be sent as a text message on a cell phone, as an instant message online, as a blog posting online, and as a note to their parents. How does medium change message?

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Categories: Argument, Assignment Idea, Document Design, Drafting, Grammar & Style, Rhetorical Situation, Teaching with Technology, Thesis Statement
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Careers and Grammar

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students contact a professional in their field or future career, using the resources of your campus’s career center if needed. Ask students to conduct a brief e-mail interview of no more than five questions asking the professional about how much writing she or he does in the workplace and whether or not grammar matters in the field.

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Categories: Business Writing, Grammar & Style
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Landmark Punctuation

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material on punctuation in the handbook. In small groups, ask them to explain how different punctuation marks function by linking them to local landmarks. For example, at Florida Atlantic University, I95 midday is like a comma, in the morning is like a semicolon, but with an accident it’s like a period.

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Categories: Grammar & Style, Learning Styles, Punctuation & Mechanics
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