I haven’t posted anything in a while because I have been so busy. It makes me feel bad because my students suffer when I am too busy; although, I got to say, I have been pretty good, I think, about “teaching.” I went over paragraphing with them using a really interesting technique I learned in my practicum class.

I had students come up to the board and list their favorite sandwiches, and then explained to them how they wouldn’t mix ingredients in the sandwich, so they shouldn’t mix their paragraphs. I think the students had a good time, and I think they might have just learned something.

After this, we went over thesis in more details and desperation writing: We looked at a particularly bad piece of writing and mined it for good content; then we went over and compared that good content and discussed some possible thesis that could be written.

This all ended with looking back at the bad piece of writing (and now with a strong thesis), we created a reverse outline and began to re-write the essay with better focus. Tuesday they have their peer reviews, so we’ll see if any of this stuff about writing sunk in or not.

In other news, I went to the RMMLA and presented my paper on “Sonny’s Blues”–I posted a rough draft of this paper here— It went well, and New Mexico seems like a cool town. I did love the food; it had been so long since I got to eat some real, authentic, fresh Mexican food.

Back to reality again, I am broke, and I need to get some stuff done. My teacher cancelled class on Tuesday to let us work on our project, so I hope to be done with this thing by Wednesday morning. This is all I have the energy to share today. With things kicking back up tomorrow, this week should be blog and reflection filled.

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This week’s reading is something that I always struggle with when teaching new students how to write better. With so much to cover in class, it is hard to focus on sentence level issues sometimes, so like my colleague Phillip, I also have to ask “what is an important mistake?”

I try to impress on my students that good sentences have their strength in active verbs, and I also try to tell them that most times the less words a sentence uses the better, and then I show them a list of redundant redundancies and we go over my pet peeves, for example: “Due to the fact that” which can be replaced, simply with “because”– some other ones, just to give an example are: • (absolutely) necessary • connect (together) • during (the course of) • separated (apart from each other) • (unexpected) surprise • write (down)

Basically, I don’t know how to teach my students to be better writers, and sometimes I feel that ideology gets in the way of true pedagogy, so I try to mix in all the different methods I can.

I found the Lundsford article on errors very interesting. It is interesting to note that essays have grown in length. In our composition world where we ask students to write 3,000 words is this because a study has shown that writing more improves writing? Are we sacrificing quality for quantity? Would it be easier to grade 3 page papers (rather than 5 page papers?), but take a closer, more involved look at the shorter paper? Maybe this way we could avoid reading the redundant redundancies?

I wonder how much “computer speak” is influencing student writing on a basic sentence level, which makes me wonder if maybe we shouldn’t go back to teaching basic sentence structure, and while the errors have changed, I wonder just how much the writing itself has changed? Where do we see if the actual writing, in terms of quality, has changed over time? And if so what has changed, how has it changed, and what methods were used to teach the better essays? I constantly hear that student’s today aren’t as smart as students of the past, but I wonder how much of that is true? Is it that technology has made students lazy?

While I couldn’t find the original article, here are some possible reasons why students are studying less:
http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/8-Theories-on-Why-College-Kids-Are-Studying-Less-4235

Also, as the Lundsford article mentions, the mistakes have changed, and while there are less “spelling” mistakes, there are more wrong word mistakes, so I always show my students this fun reminder of the importance of proofreading:

The grad life is well under way. This week has been rough. I have been going to orientation/new teacher training all week from 9am-5-ish. Nothing new there; it was all the stuff I expected it to be. We got the break down on the major project we are going to be teaching with lots of helpful sample schedules, advice, writing prompts, in-class activities, etc. Today, I was able to finish all my syllabi, work out my project one schedule, and set up my rosters and most of my blackboard stuff. I am looking forward to the challenge of teaching these new essays.

I am worried it will be a disaster. I have the students reading some essays on the shifting perspective of histories. The idea is to get them thinking about how history is an event to be interpreted. I also have them reading a couple of feminist/women’s rights article because I want them thinking about how the culture, society (that is, how history) changes in a specific event. I haven’t worked out all the details, but the idea is that for the next essay, they are going to look at two ads from different time periods and explain how the context of the ads affects the rhetorical choices the ad makes. We’ll see how that all turns out. I am happy that I got a really helpful mentor and that all the other mentors are approachable and helpful as well. I don’t think teaching here will be a problem.

What does have me worried is that the theory people (that the mentor’s mentioned) sounds like they aren’t really all that approachable, “Not a people person” was the term I believe they used. This could be a problem since theory is so hard to understand that having someone to go to and think out problems always helps. At least I have my old theory professor who is really really approachable and awsome

I digress, after yesterdays session, a bunch of people went over to a bar down the street from campus. I got to talk with some colleagues, drink some beers, and eat some pretty good wings. Everyone seems really friendly and nice (but they always do at the beginning.

I am a little anxious about the whole thing, but I always am. When the semester starts, you always have all these high hopes and you want to do all these things with your class, but there is only so much time to do it all. And there is all the work and readings you have to do for your own classes– it is hard to fit it all in.

The last couple of days I have been watching (in the background as I cook, eat, get ready for the day) Examined Life, but more on that later…