How can you tell whether someone has truly mastered a skill? What is the measurable indicator that a person really knows how to do something? These questions should be at the heart of every teaching decision . . . and every evaluation we make about the success of an educational program. Yet for many educators, and certainly for most parents, answers to these questions are anything but clear. Most of us have grown up in a “percentage correct world” where 100% correct is the best anyone can do. But is perfect accuracy the definition of mastery? . . . In fact, we see many children and adults who can perform skills and demonstrate knowledge accurately enough – given unlimited time to do so. But the real difference that we see in expert performers is that they behave fluently – both accurately and quickly, without hesitation.
Month: September 2016
Europe in the Modern World – Instructor Edition
Check out the prices — Europe in the Modern World is $49.95
Sentence combining & Marilyn Monroe
I was talking to Katharine about flow and sentence combining today.
Her take on the writing process:
- First combine as many sentences as you can.
- Then go back and un-combine the ones that need uncombining.
This reminds me of Marilyn Monroe’s principle for getting ready to go out.
Here’s how I remember it.
- Get dressed.
- Stand backwards in front of a full-length mirror.
- Turn around fast, glance at your reflection, and take off the first piece of jewelry that catches your eye, because that’s the piece that’s too much.
Why it’s hard for a memoirist to write non-choppy prose and sound like a normal human being
I mentioned the other day that in trying to revise the dyslexia passage I became convinced I couldn’t do it just by rejiggering the sentences.
That was a shock. I thought all choppiness, in all cases, could be fixed via sentence combining and de-combining. Now I’m not so sure.
Is sequencing sentences no longer a writing skill?
In the following questions, the first sentence of a paragraph is given. Your job is to “unscramble” the rest of the paragraph by putting the next five sentences in the correct order.
Get me rewrite
The other night, trying to revise the dyslexia passage, I convinced myself it couldn’t be done without adding new content.
I’m sure that’s wrong, but I’m finding it much easier to fix the start-stop quality (technical term: choppiness) of the original by changing the content, not just the syntax.
Let’s resurrect sentence-based rhetorics
Part of what’s distinct about Catherine’s and my curriculum is that we’re zeroing in on the basic building blocks of writing–phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.
Where are the Share buttons?
They show up when you click on a post.
As a writing instructor, I’ve been chronically frustrated by the fact that composition textbooks use words they don’t define.
Flow, for instance.
What is flow?
What is a paragraph apart from a list of sentences separated by white space from a bunch of other lists of sentences inside a longer text?
The answer the books give is that a paragraph has a topic (what’s a topic?) and the sentences about the topic have flow.
But that’s no help because now we’re back to flow, and the books don’t tell us what flow is.
Then there’s the universal awkward, awk for short.
What is an 18-year old college freshman who writes awkward sentences to make of the word awkward?
Ed just walked in with a copy of the book!
I’ll take a photo first thing in the morning.
How to turn a list of sentences into a paragraph
I came across this passage in a Times story by the mother of a high school student who wrote letters to successful dyslexics asking for advice, and thought it would be fun to see if I could punch it up a bit using principles Katharine and I teach in Europe in the Modern World:
Revising history (example 1): how and why
In my last post, I revised a passage from a high school history book using techniques that Catherine and I teach in our exercises for Europe in the Modern World. I also promised to discuss the specific techniques I used and why I used them.
Rewriting history–revision of example 1
In my previous post, I excerpted a passage from McDougal and Little’s World History. I proposed that this passage could be enlivened by revisions in sentence structure and paragraphing–using some of the techniques that Catherine and I cover in our exercises for Europe in the Modern World.
I came across this passage from the novelist Nicholson Baker yesterday:
To find their way in American life, high-schoolers need to be able to speak English, to read, to listen to and respect other people’s opinions, to have a command of the basic elements of courtesy and, to a lesser extent, to write. (They do not need to know how to write a thesis sentence. More injury is done to high-school essays by the imposition of the thesis-sentence requirement than by any other means. The trick, kids are sometimes told, is to begin with a word like “although.” No.)
Fortress of Tedium: What I Learned as a Substitute Teacher: A novelist’s education in the classroom by Nicholson Baker 9/7/2016
Very droll! That final no is one of the funniest I can remember.
Funny, but wrong.
Number one, thesis sentences are a good thing. More than good, they’re essential. Katharine has a terrific story about a friend who couldn’t finish her dissertation because she couldn’t state, in one sentence, what her argument was. I know the feeling.
And, number two, although is an excellent word to begin a thesis statement with. As a matter of fact, Katharine and I teach the although- construction in our curriculum.
More in a bit.
Rewriting history, example 1
Sentence structure, paragraphing, cohesion—these are some of the things that Catherine and I focus on in our exercises for Europe in the Modern World.