Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

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TED Talks Grammar

posted: 10.28.14 by Steve Bernhardt

My friend and colleague, Barb Lutz, who directs the Writing Center at the University of Delaware , recently linked a Facebook post to TED Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing. A subset of lessons on grammar and usage are worth a look. TED-Ed brings together the volunteered work of educators and professional animators to create short (3 to 5 minute) lessons on a variety of subjects. The results are quite professional: brisk scripts, clever animations, high quality voice-over narration. [read more]

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Categories: Steve Bernhardt, Uncategorized
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Word Crimes

posted: 8.6.14 by Barclay Barrios

“Weird Al” Yankovic has a new video that swept the internet: “Word Crimes” a parody of Robin Thicke’s controversial hit “Blurred Lines.”  It’s a fun song and video with some interesting potential for the writing classroom. [read more]

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Categories: Barclay Barrios
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Language "Decline"

posted: 7.15.14 by Steve Bernhardt

After teaching English for 40 years, I’ve grown accustomed to the predictable responses I get when I meet someone and reveal my occupation. Many say “Oh, I better watch my grammar,” while others say “That was never my best subject.” Increasingly, the response I am getting goes something like this: “Isn’t it something the way students have lost the ability to write a decent sentence? They do so much texting and tweeting that all they know how to do is write shorthand messages, full of internet slang and acronyms.” I get this response from people outside the academy, but also from instructors in other disciplines. [read more]

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Categories: Steve Bernhardt
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Assignment: Make A Writing/Learning Meme

posted: 9.17.13 by Traci Gardner

I like to begin a term with composing activities that help me learn about students’ background as readers and writers. I usually ask students to write some kind of literacy narrative (which I wrote about in this month’s Ink’d In). I’ve also created and gathered prompts on writing about writing that I use as formal or informal assignments. [read more]

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I’ve Met Mad Libs!

posted: 8.2.12 by Andrea Lunsford

I must be the only person in the United States not to know about Mad Libs, but at last I’ve seen the light.  Sitting in the Chicago airport recently, I kept hearing someone say “adjective!”  “noun.”  Of course I looked around until I identified the source of these un-airport-like comments:  a girl of about six was sitting in the row behind me, across from her mother, and she was calling out parts of speech, to which her mother responded.  Being my nosey self, I got up and went to sit next to her, and that’s when I met Mad Libs. You know what I’m talking about.  A paperback book containing storylines filled with blanks that the writer fills in.  What a great way to pass time in an airport!

This little girl, Melissa, was working away on hers, with her mother’s help.  But she didn’t seem to be able to come up with a noun or adjective on her own.  Just as I was about to begin a short lesson, they called my flight—and I forgot Mad Libs.  But not for long, because I ran into some of them in a bookstore the next week or so and immediately bought several for grandniece Audrey.  And then the fun began.  [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford
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Exercising

posted: 7.12.11 by Steve Bernhardt

I am not very good about exercising. I like to be active, but the idea of doing a repetitive physical action is not appealing. I lack whatever discipline it takes. I am not very good about practicing.

So I have to think hard about whether I believe in exercises in the context of a writing classroom.  If I don’t care to do something, or lack the motivation, should I expect my students to exercise? Should I base a pedagogy on activities I myself avoid?

I suppose at some level most of what we instructors do is practice, since we typically invent writing tasks for our students. We don’t often encounter situations that call for writing to get something done—and when we do, we surely ought to take advantage of these natural contexts for writing and improving as writers. But that still leaves the question of whether we ought to expect our students to do practice exercises, especially those focused on discrete skills.

Working as an author on Writer’s Help has led me to keep thinking about such issues. I have learned that some instructors see great value in having students do exercises on comma usage, forming thesis statements, or distinguishing confusing pairs of words. These instructors then note what students have trouble with, either individually or as a group. They appreciate the sets of exercises on a wide variety of topics, and they assign and track student performance, expecting to see improvement through practice and feedback. [read more]

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Categories: Teaching Advice
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WAW as the WikiLeaks of Writing Pedagogies

posted: 12.16.10 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Downs pic for BitsDoug

In my comp classes, students read John Dawkins’s 1995 CCC article “Teaching Punctuation as a Rhetorical Tool.” Dawkins argues, contrary to every handbook you’ve ever read, even the good ones, that punctuation is based more on “tendencies” than rules (533). He also argues—in case that’s not sufficiently revolutionary—that “it is a mistake to assume that the sentence is the basic element in prose; it is also confusing, for it is the wrong basis for analyzing written language” (535). Dawkins prefers the independent clause for that, and works from the principle that “sentences . . . are but one way of punctuating independent clauses” (535).

I’ve come to summarize the crux of Dawkins’s article as, “Punctuation is optional.”

Having gotten students’ attention with semihyperbolic double entendre (I say it so that they can’t), we then examine how Dawkins’s work deliberately undermines the consensus established by People Who Make Rules, showing (arguably accurately) an important disjunct between how the “rule makers” want us to believe writing works, and how writing actually does work.

It’s hard to miss similar shifts happening beyond our classrooms, such as the WikiLeaks phenomenon. Wikileaks’s founding purpose was to publicize private information in order to undermine illegitimate authority—in much the same way that work like Dawkins’s does. And as WAW teachers, we do something similar to both of those examples: ensure that students have access to ideas that are often inconvenient to the authorities (classroom, campus, business, and cultural) who would prefer them silenced. [read more]

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Categories: Punctuation & Mechanics
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Selling the Value of Revision

posted: 12.3.10 by archived

I have used many technologies to comment on student drafts—green or purple (never red!) pen on paper essays, the comment feature in MS Word, Google docs—but my primary goal is always to open students’ eyes to possibilities for revision. I want them to experience the perseverance of trying to say, clearly and vividly, what you mean to say; the joy of deliberating over words like colors from a paint box, or moving sections of an essay the way you would play with building blocks; the sense of comfort that writing is not finished until you declare it final. But how do I go about teaching this? Surely not by grabbing the pen out of a student’s hand to “fix” his or her writing? I tell my students that words should drip off their pens like sand, that writers don’t work in concrete. But it’s a hard sell.

When I hear my students say, “I’m done. It’s finished. I said what I want to say,” I wonder about the sources of their intractability. Part of it is boredom, no doubt, with topics they don’t care about (maybe because they didn’t spend time enough at the invention stage, or because assignments boxed them in too tightly). For some, the demands of busy lives or old-fashioned laziness may be factors. But there’s also the sense, for many, that they only need concern themselves with “fixing errors,” that correct spelling and mechanics are the chief goal in writing. [read more]

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Categories: Holly Pappas, Proofreading/Editing, Revising
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Choosing Verbs

posted: 11.17.10 by Barclay Barrios

This post is part of a continuing series on building a course around the textbook Emerging. For previous posts in the series, see here, here, and here.

The success of any given assignment depends on a number of factors, but often hinges on the choice of a certain verbs. Whenever you write assignments, therefore, pay particular attention to (and consider the possible implications of) the verbs you use. For example:

  • Explore. “Explore” is a useful verb in assignments because it asks students to use analytical skills.  However, you might find that assignments using this verb produce papers that are meandering, since “exploring” does not require students to locate a central argument.
  • Reflect. “Reflect” implies both regurgitation and interiorization, neither of which is consistent with the goals of these courses. Just as importantly, this verb does not ask student to enter the conversation of the texts.
  • Discuss. Like “explore,” this verb may produce generalized papers without any clear focus.
  • Argue. While we certainly wish students to make arguments in their papers, using this verb suggests a black or white, win or lose position.  Students are more likely to use personal attacks against the author, force the evidence, or ignore contravening pieces of text when arguing their case.
  • Defend or refute. Like “argue,” these verbs can be combative. [read more]

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Categories: Emerging, Grammar & Style
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Warning: Your Usage May Vary

posted: 3.20.09 by Traci Gardner

Garment Warning TagWhen I read the tag attached to a new flannel shirt, I thought about student texts that needed a similar tag. It would read something like this:

A note about this text
The differences in spelling or word choice, the appearance of unusual sentence structure or grammatical constructions are all part of the natural beauty of language. These linguistic characteristics are an important part of the style and enhance the beauty of this text. These VARIATIONS are not considered defective.

In a world that expects standardization, it’s hard to explain that language has few absolutes. Most writing teachers know that language use comes with color, shading, and finish that to a purist seem like errors.

The regional, cultural, and social variations we read in student texts, like the “fabric slubs and gentle wrinkles” of my new shirt, are all “part of the natural beauty” of the final products that we see.

The challenge in the classroom is helping students identify the times when the variations don’t fit the overall fabric of the text. We accept a few wrinkles in a journal entry or email message, but we generally expect the formal essays students turn in to be more polished. Here’s one way to show them:

[read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Grammar & Style
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