Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This is why we teach allusions

"...the Oedipal energies of Drydenesque tragicomedy lose their original usefulness as a lever against Cromwellian tyranny."
  Duane Coltharp, "Strategy and Ambivalence in Dryden's Tragicomedies"

Without any kind of context via allusions, this would be jibberish to the reader.  In some ways, it still is to me.

You know how you get to the point where you're so mentally zapped that you read the same sentence over and over, and the more you read it, the less it makes sense?  I daresay also, the funnier it gets?  I'm there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


If there's one thing about this research in composition class that has served me in my pedagogical outlook, it is that I feel strongly compelled to use more writing in the classroom.  I'm sure we'll never feel like we do enough, but I need to push myself (well, push the kids) to do even more.

I need to really use writing as a learning tool, encouraging students to write out ideas in order to share them or reflect on class.  I want more pens-on-paper without requiring a grade, just to practice writing with no performance pressure.  I want real, functional, writing workshops in which students learn from one another and hold each other accountable.  I want more context for their writings and a recognition of the reality of an audience: have them send letters, essays, etc. to kids in other schools or the local newspaper or somewhere it would be read.  I want to create an in-class literary magazine, where they can publish some of their favorite works and preserve them in my classroom for all time, for peers, parents and future classes.

More, more, more!  I liked that I pushed my kids to really produce some deeper literary analyses.  I like that I also allowed them to explore a variety of writing styles through writing workshop.  But I could always do so much more.  It's easy to shy away from writing because I think of how long it's going to take to grade.  But maybe I should stop taking it up for a grade, which only reinforces the idea of Teacher As Audience, and instead have them share amongst each other or parents/guardians/mentors.

I know, I'm starting to sound like an idealistic first yearsie, aren't I?  Mainly my point is: I need to have more writing.

Complete sidenote:  Someone in our class mentioned an interesting way of grading formal essays.  Give the essay two grades: one for mechanics, and one for content/argument.  I really like this idea.  Have you ever encountered something like that, either received a grade or given one like it?  Thoughts?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Grammar Girl

I knew she was out there and had even used her a few times myself for some quick grammar references.  She has very easy-to-follow tips and her sentences are unusual (not as unusual as GrammarBytes!, but still, clever).  I want to pick up a copy of her book to put in my classroom, right next to the dictionaries and thesauruses, so kids can learn that grammar has handy reference guides, too!

I had teased the idea of using her podcasts in the classroom, but honestly I didn't quite see the point.  It felt like I would be using technology just for the sake of using technology, not because it actually enhanced any of the learning.  How is her 7-10 minute quick lesson any different from my own mini-lesson?  It's one the kids would only listen to.  Perhaps I could give them a handout or put up a powerpoint to show the sentences she makes reference to, but again how is that different from my own?

The thought occurs to me that "it's different."  Just by virtue of being not me, it could be interesting for the kids.  Other than that idea, however, I have little else that springs to mind in strong support of it.  Still, I think I'd like to use it, but I want to use it in a valuable way, not just for the sake of technology.

So, any of you used Grammar Girl or any other podcast in your room?  How did you use it?