Talking about Writing
is for high school teachers and students who
|1. ||need a common vocabulary with which to discuss written language; |
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| 2. ||desire a working knowledge of the chief elements of sentence structure, grammar, usage and punctuation as they apply to the writing process; |
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|3. ||demand an integrated approach, and a sequenced format adaptable to individual lessons; and |
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|4. ||appreciate the help of an Answer key. |
A mechanic immersed in the intricacies of engine repair does not ask for a "thingummy" or a "whatsit." He or she names the tool and holds out a hand to receive it.
In the same way, teachers and students poring over the products of the writing process need a basic common vocabulary with which to discuss the work. They need to make mutually understandable statements which will clarify and improve the material under review. For example, "This sentence contains a misplaced modifier" is more helpful and precise than 'Don't you think putting this bit in a different place will make the sentence sound better?' Talking about Writing supplies this basic vocabulary.
The text has a simple format. It teaches the recognition of the nine sentence errors which writers commonly make. It integrates the grammar necessary to understand each sentence error. Sentence combining, usage, and punctuation exercises strengthen writing technique.
Talking about Writing fills a need for both a concrete objective in English language study and a teaching plan. It provides a method of entry - the nine sentence errors - which is useful to many: beginning teachers, for example; teachers of other subjects who have been asked to pick up one or two blocks of English in the timetable; teachers who wish a clear explanation of the language in the writing process; or parents who run home school.
A further advantage is to make a connection between the teaching of English language and other languages; such as, French or Spanish. Students studying a second language are expected to recognize, for example, a direct object or a past participle in order to make the necessary agreement. The grammar component accompanying each sentence error encourages the transfer of this knowledge from one language to another.
Talking about Writing is sequenced and self-explanatory. In each chapter the material progresses in simple and logical increments to the desired end; namely, to recognize a sentence error in order to discuss written work, practise effective writing techniques, and empower communication. The sentence errors progress in difficulty from grades 8 to 12. The format is adapted for individual lessons.
Curriculum guides tend to be written in generalities. Talking about Writing provides the teacher with a pattern. Having experienced the focus of this programme and the integration of the topics, he or she then knows how to access additional material to suit a student's individual needs.
How Talking about Writing is organized
Students are taught to recognize the nine major sentence errors: two in each of grades 8 to 11, and one in grade 12, as follows:
|Grade 8- || Run-on Sentence, Sentence Fragment |
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|Grade 9- || Lack of Parallel Structure, Misplaced Modifier |
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|Grade 10- || Dangling Participle, Lack of Agreement |
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|Grade 11- || Indefinite Antecedent, Incorrect Tense |
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|Grade 12- || Wordiness |
The grammar necessary to understand the sentence error is integrated with appropriate punctuation and sentence combing techniques.
A pre-test and a post-test accompany each sentence error, and exercises accompany the grammatical explanation.
A usage section is included for grades 8, 9, and 10, and a review of punctuation for grade 11.
The unit for grade 12 includes instruction on writing forcefully as well as supplementary exercises on the topics learned in grades 8 to 12.
The grade levels are colour coded for accessibility and interest.
How to Use Talking about Writing
This text is intended to provide a finite amount of essential information for the designated grade. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
In contrast to the leisurely musing which characterizes the composing process, or the angular discussion which accompanies literary analysis, the pace of a language class is rapid. Two to five minutes is adequate for a short Practice Exercise. It is left brain activity. Students are learning how to organize and sharpen their written work. So the teacher is encouraged to push forward quickly - not a wasted minute. 'Down time' encourages boredom. Keep the class at a gallop.
Language study is fun. Every exercise is a puzzle. Encourage the students to play with the concepts. Be patient with 'wrong' answers. Support inquisitiveness. Allow for possibility. If students come away with some knowledge of the intricacies of the language, and some respect for the ways it may be shaped, then the class has achieved its objective.
Students may mark their own or others' work. The overhead projector may be used to demonstrate in sequence the various 'jobs' requested in the Practice Exercises; for example, underline, circle, and draw arrows. Each 'job' may be given one mark and then the Practice Exercise scaled down by division to a reasonable worth. Encourage neatness and the use of a ruler.
At the conclusion of each sentence structure, grammar, or punctuation topic, students are asked to memorize certain aspects and to write definitions in their notebooks. In this way they keep their own record of what they have practised and have study material for tests.