Tags: teaching

eloquent with rage


It's quite daunting to teach English in an environment that constantly bombards young people, already pushed quickly through school and creating their own abbreviations via Twitter and Facebook, when the language continues to deteriorate around us.

In a recent blog, a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless for privacy reasons) wrote this while waxing about his decades-long love affair with Madonna: "So they were playing 'Express Yourself.' It was a club remix. One that I had not heard before." The third "sentence" is what's known as the "added-detail fragment" (according to John Langan, author of English Skills, a McGraw-Hill college-level remedial English text book, p422). Langan says: "People often write added-detail fragments [because] they think the subject and verb in one sentence will serve for the next group as well." But as we all know, every true sentence must have a subject and verb, and it must be a complete thought all its own. "One that I had not heard before," certainly does not qualify but would be very easily remedied by either connecting it to the previous sentence with a comma (and lowercase O), or rewriting the sentence as "I had not heard that one before." BOOM! Done.

Then we have the misplaced modifier. Take this example from today's Philadelphia Inquirer, from the article "Beyond the pale, among the tea set" by Annette John-Hall (B2): "Before I left, I had to talk to the guy carrying the biggest sign on the mall: 'Exercising Our 1st Amendment Rights doesn't Make U.S. Racist!' it read. [New paragraph begins here.] A sign so big, the wind nearly knocked it—and him—over." We can tell what John-Hall was trying to say, but it doesn't read the way she meant it. As shown, "A sign so big" is an appositive for "the wind," which is obviously incorrect. "A sign so big" actually renames "it" in the sentence, but John-Hall forsakes grammar for dramatic effect. The correction is so elementary, it's almost painful to introduce. Still, it would have read correctly as, "The sign was so big, the wind nearly knocked it—and him—over." Is that so difficult?

With less and less attention placed on the proper use of English anywhere we look, how long will it be before English professors everywhere are out of jobs, for good?

My friend Andy started his own site called "Sex and the Married Idiot," which describes the trials and tribulations of a middle-aged, sexually naive and frustrated husband and father of five daughters. His blogs are entertaining and racy, discussing the ongoing process of his education in the realm of everything outside plain, vanilla sex as viewed through his admittedly pedestrian eyes. Perhaps I should begin "English and the Frustrated Educator" (soon to be "Former Educator") about my love/hate relationship with our language and everything it's losing with the advent of fast-food-style education, the Internet and text messaging. But then, who's left to read it?

A different kind of help

Hey, folks. I'm in the process of making lesson plans for my summer course. I want it to be lots of fun for my kids, which will mean keeping them engaged in class since I KNOW I won't get them to do a lot of homework during this 8-week course. So I'm concentrating on lots of in-class activities. So, keeping in mind that this is the pre-English 101 class I teach, considered remedial level...

Does anyone have any favorite essays or articles, ones that are universal in themes, or should be, that they would like to recommend?

Any particular poems you like, whether you're a poet or not, that are accessible to folks who may know nothing of poetry except (ahem) Eminem or Lady Gaga? Is there a piece of artwork you think is discussion worthy? A film (appropriate for class discussion) that we could watch (over the period of a few days; can't watch all in one shot... not allowed!)?

What grammar errors do you see consistently in your daily life, in work or in print, that I should work on to keep these kids from making the same mistakes?

If you can think of any of these things, or something else that you think might be a good idea for a course titled "Reading and Writing 2," again, a prerequisite to English 101 for kids who didn't pass the entrance exam, please share with me. I'd very much appreciate it.

PS: No pressure; if you can't think of anything for me, if you don't have time, or if you're not interested, thank you anyway.

eloquent with rage

Read this... write that...

Hey, folks... if you can recommend any short essays (essay as in non-fiction) for my class, I'd appreciate it. I'm trying to focus more on reading short, focused pieces, more like the students are supposed to write, rather than the longer stories or novel, though I'll have a bit of that. But if there are any you can recommend - even of your own! - I've love to know. Send them my way!

Edit, later that night: Scan some of the comments if you're not sure what I'm looking for; I've answered some questions for other folks. Thanks!