What I’ve been thinking about for the last 6 months (besides SentenceWeaver)

Some things that have been on my mind:

  • Catherine and my many recent conversations about the new SAT reading sections
  • Related thoughts we’ve had about SAT vocabulary challenges
  • Thoughts on verbosity and hedges (“obviously”, “apparently”).
  • The Dreamy Child Syndrome, aka Multi-Factor Introversion (not autism, and not in the DSM!)
  • Beyond background knowledge: other background variables in reading comprehension
  • How the Curiosity Mindset (or lack thereof) affects comprehension
  • Clues that “kids these days” are doing less and less careful reading
  • Clues that they’re getting less and less writing instruction
  • Thoughts on “Why do you think that?”, “Yeah!”, “It’s a good question”, and “one less thing to worry about”
  • The ongoing recovery of the English language from the Norman Conquest (or is it something more sinister?)
  • J’s adventures as a college undergraduate

For now, I’ll share the following email exchange—a sign, perhaps, of things to come:

E: Katharine, happy to meet with you. I will have my new assistant help us. Amy, can you help set up a meeting with Katharine next week?

E: I forgot to cc Amy.

K: Great—Thank you, E! Next week I am quite open Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

A: Hi Katharine. Just wanted to check in and confirm what action you’d like me to take.

If this is an entirely new meeting you’d like me to get on the calendar, just let me know “Amy, please schedule a meeting” and CC in the people you’d like to meet with.

Alternatively, if you’d like me to make any updates to an existing meeting, could you please resend this message in the original thread for that meeting?

For now, I’ll take no action on this.

Amy

E: Katharine, Thank you for your patience with my new assistant. I guess “forgot to cc Amy was not understood.”  So trying again. I will take over if it doesn’t work.

Amy can you please schedule a meeting with Katharine next week?

Thank you.

A: Hi Katharine,

Does Monday at 11:00 AM EST (Eastern Daylight Time) work?

Alternatively, E is available Monday at 2:00 PM or Tuesday at 10:00 AM.

The meeting will be a web conference.

Amy.

At this point I was ready to type an exasperated “As I said…”– but something made me to look back through this bizarre exchange.

It turns out that Amy, whose last name is Ingram, has an email signature that concludes with the following details: “Artificial intelligence that schedules meetings. Learn more at x.ai”

 

 

Dual-language news at the Times

We’re spending 6 weeks in France this summer, so, in theory, I’m going to improve my French before then.

Either that, or spend a lot of time tracking down websites, books, software, and apps that would undoubtedly help me improve my French if I stopped looking for resources and started actually using the resources I’ve got.

Maybe tomorrow!

Anyway, in the interests of saving other people time tracking things down, I’m posting the URLs for Times articles in French and Spanish:

Nos reportages et tribunes en français 

AL DÍA

As far as I can tell, all articles have been translated from the original English to Spanish or French (possibly vice versa for some). So you can put the two side-by-side in a table, et voilà: dual-language news.

The Times also has a guía de The New York Times that doesn’t seem to be translated. However, the headlines are so familiar you can probably guess your way through and not be wrong. (“Las polémicas de Trump” anyone?)

What I really need, of course, is dual listening, and I think I’ve got the resources for that. Will post later.

Cat and lizard

One of the first things I do, teaching English composition, is to give my students Whimbey and Jenkins’ “Cat and Lizard” to chew over:

A cat chased a lizard. The cat was big. The cat was fat. His fur was thick. The lizard was tiny. The lizard was a chameleon. A chameleon can change color. The color will be whatever the lizard touches. The lizard ran. It ran from place to place. It ran so fast. The colors even became confused. It was green. It should have been brown. It was red. It should have been grey. It was polka-dotted. It should have been striped. The lizard ran under the steps. It was safe. It would rest in the shade. The cat was frustrated. He yawned. He stretched. He curled up. He would sleep in the sun. This game would continue. It would continue the next time the cat saw the lizard.

Whimbey, Arthur and Jenkins, Elizabeth. Analyze, Organize, Write. Revised ed., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1987.

Students always know something is horribly wrong with this piece of writing, and they can tell me what’s wrong, too, whether they’ve ever heard the word “choppy” applied to writing or not. (Usually they haven’t.) That’s what makes “Cat and Lizard” so useful as a starter assignment: they get it. And, of course, since the solution to Cat-and-Lizard’s horrible writing is sentence combining, and I teach sentence combining, all the better.

So I always look forward to Cat-and-Lizard day, and I am never disappointed.

This year, though, one of my students offered up the single best off-the-cuff analysis I’ve ever heard and ever hope to hear.

What’s wrong with “Cat and Lizard”?

“Too many periods.” 

Brilliant!

Famous first words

Looking for private-school reading lists, I’ve just come across a series of “Great First Lines” posted by St. Ann’s School, in Brooklyn. (I think one of Katharine’s close friends teaches there … and a friend of mine sent her son to the school … )

I love this one:

“All this happened more or less.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

This, too:

“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Book ends.

Injunctions of yore

I may have jumped the gun re: Common Core and injunction-spotting:

David Mulroy, the author of the 2003 book “The War Against Grammar” and a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, . . . asked his students to analyze the opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, without telling them what they were reading. One mistakenly interpreted it as, “When dealing with events in life, one should drop preconceived knowings and assume that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and basically life goes on.”
Modifying the Subject by Kate Zernicke – New York Times – 11/7/2004

And see:
Reading and writing in the second person 
Common Core in the 2nd person
Injunctions of yore

Common Core in the 2nd person

This morning, texting with Katharine about second-person reading & writing and why I’m suddenly seeing so much of it in my students’ work, I began to think that Common Core probably overdid the argument-with-evidence business:

The fifth point is about writing. Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? Texting someone said; I don’t think that’s for credit though, yet. But I would say that, as someone said, it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sheet [I didn’t hear ‘sheet’ but that’s what the transcript says] about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” That is rare. It is equally rare in college, by the way. So a group of Minnesota professors got together and they very, very wonderfully created a program called “Ready or Not,” where they accepted essay submissions from around the state from high school seniors to see whether they’re college ready or not. Ninety-seven percent of what was provided to them was narrative and 97% of that was deemed not college ready. The core standards thus mark a shift. They do support training in narrative throughout K-12 but what they make primary as you grow is the ability to write an argument based on evidence and convey complex information. This is an essential shift. [emphasis and some punctuation added] – David Coleman “Bringing the Common Core Standards to Life” | April 28, 2011

2nd-person writing, I think, is entry-level argument.

Or, more to the point, 2nd-person writing may be what New York state teachers and textbooks counted as argument once the Common Core shifts-and-standards crash-landed onto their home planet from the heavens above.

Advice is always (usually?) an argument, at least to some degree. When you give a friend advice, you are asserting that your take on the world and the way people ought to comport themselves is a) different from what your friend is doing now, and b) better.

It’s an argument.

I wonder whether New York classrooms shifted from personal-narrative writing to personal-advice writing (and reading?) in response to the new standards.

And see:
Reading and writing in the second person 
Common Core in the 2nd person
Injunctions of yore