Wednesday, June 23, 2004


All those Education terms that get thrown around like "whole language" and "fluency" are popping up in our textbooks. I have to admit that it's not the "anything goes" approach to teaching writing and grammar that I once thought, but I'm still not completely sold on using it full steam. That's okay, though, because we're told we can choose to structure our classrooms with a mixture of the various methods we'll encounter. The method we are currently studying is especially centered on teaching the student to become a part of the writing process through workshops, small group exercises, and yes, even some didactic instruction.

Some of the techniques we are reading about and discussing in class are very familiar to me. I used to make students read their papers aloud (a fantastic way to hear the "voice" in your paper and begin to catch mistakes) when I worked in our college's Writing Center. Another great way to edit "final" drafts is to point out an example of a frequent grammatical error in the paper and ask the student to find more like that on his own. These all work very well-- as part of the final stages of the writing process-- once the students have gotten the material down on paper. However, sometimes students (and I've done this myself) get so caught up in making sure every sentence is perfect during the first draft that can't actually write anything-- it stifles the activity of putting words to the page. Of course, this is where the whole idea of freewriting comes into play, mainly as a pre-writing exercise, where you just write whatever comes to mind for a set amount of time. I first encountered it in my freshman composition course, and still have to remind myself to use it when I get stuck while staring at a blank computer screen.

As an aside, and I know it has been mentioned before, but I still have to plug Zarafa Tutorials. It's a great resource for young writers and I don't want to lose the link!

Mainly, though, I wanted to share something the author of our "Teaching Grammar" text, Constance Weaver, wrote. It is a hilarious take (at least, in my opinion) on our tendency to strive for "correctness" over content. Apologies to Lewis Carroll.


'Twas class time, and the eager youths
Did squirm and wriggle in their seats:
All ready were their fresh ideas,
And their paper was clean and neat.

"Beware the Error beast, my friends!
The jaws that bite, the claws that rend!
Beware the Run-0n bird, and shun
The frumious frag(a)ment."

They took their eraser tips in hand;
Long time the maxome foe they sought--
Then rested they from the Error hunt,
And wrote awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought they wrote,
The Error beast, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through their ballpoint pens,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And back and forth
The eraser tips went snicker-snack!
They left it dead, and to their teach,
They went galumphing back.

"And have you slain the Error beast?
You'll pass this year, victorious youths!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
She chortled then, in truth.

'Twas class time, and the stunted youths
Did slouch and huddle in their seats:
All shortened were their sentences,
And their words had met defeat.

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