Monday, January 13, 2014

starting over -- hair

A sample of the Process

The instructor assigns the topic "hair"

STEP 0 -- Consider a specific topic (maybe 5 words, not a perfect sentence) and start collecting ideas (hopefully 12 or more).

I chose "my hair evolution"

My hair evolution
Marine Corps
childhood blond
above the ears, behind the neck
longer, then shorter
very fine
bald since 26
change the part

childhood blond
very fine
longer, then shorter (high school, then college)
Marine Corps
   --- notice balding
   --- started moustache
change the part
bald since 26
above the ears, behind the neck

STEP 1 -- Write something that looks like a paragraph from your ideas.

My hair evolution
My hair has really evolved since my childhood. As a small boy I had short very blond hair, like my brothers. In high school I let my hair grow longer, over my ears. It was the fashion in the 1970s, but my hair was very fine, it got curly, and I didn't like that. After my first year of college I went to the US Marine Corps Officer's School, where of course I got a short hair cut. There I first noticed that I was balding in front. I started my moustache in my last day of Marine Camp.  Back at college I grew hair, but kept it pretty short. Balding continued, so my hair stylist recommended moving the hair part from left side to right, as I had more hair to brush over from that side. But by the time I was 26 I had lost everything on top, so I quit brushing over and just brushed down -- I was officially bald! In my 40s I discovered that I was losing my hair over my ears and at the back, and by 50 it was starting to turn silver.

(see my photo on the right!)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 13: Unlucky Misunderstandings. Starting anew.

I'm sad to say that, after looking at your notebooks today, there is a problem. Of the 26 notebooks I received, only one seems to be doing the process correctly. So we need to look at the process again.

The two classes each had a separate topic area for development of a new paragraph:
"Lucky" for one class; "Misunderstandings" for the other. Your homework was to do Steps 0 (ideas) and Step 1 (create something like a paragraph from your ideas).

It seems there is confusion about how to start.

From a general topic area, you must create your own topic for writing.  As I pointed out in class today, that should be limited to 5 words or so (don't worry about grammar).  Examples
  • Topic: Lucky -- "Seven is my lucky number"
  • Topic: Misunderstandings -- "Wife misunderstands my need to travel"
(Note: misunderstanding is not the same as "not understand" -- misunderstand means she thinks she does understand what I'm thinking, but in fact we aren't thinking the same thing.)

With a topic, we can then do our brainstorming/mind-maps, or whatever we do, and record our ideas.  Hopefully there are 12 or more ideas listed, because later we might decide not to use some. Remember, in brainstorming, we don't judge ideas, just write them all down, because even "bad" (or silly) ideas can help us think of other (good) ideas.  This ideas time is STEP 0.  I should be able to find STEP 0 in your notebooks today, but half of the notebooks did not have it, or it was AFTER the first try to write a paragraph (STEP 1).

Let's look back at the Steps listed on this blog.  (I added the Step 0 the next week.)
0.  Collect ideas about your topic. (brainstorming, idea webs, research, etc) Which seems more interesting and useful?
1. Write ideas in narrative. (something like a paragraph)    [REVIEW]
2. Reconsider ideas, re-sort the order?  Re-write.   [REVIEW]
3. Develop further, re-write. (add more content)   [REVIEW]
4. Corrections, re-write for a "Final Draft"   [REVIEW]
5. Make it "perfect" as a FINAL SUBMISSION    [SUBMIT]

In class today our job was to write a short and simple topic under our Step 1 paragraph. WHY? The reason is because many students are not writing topic sentences that set the boundaries of the paragraph. In this class I am not interested in introductory sentences or transitional sentences. Forget about essays, focus on a single paragraph. Immediately tell us what you are talking about.  Not too wide, not too narrow. (Remember, more words in the topic sentence will often narrow the boundaries.)

Today I asked students to review their own Step 1. That means, which of my sentences do not fit inside the boundaries of my topic sentence? Step 1 is not about grammar, but about my ideas and my topic. Could be sorting "which should come first?"  Of course, if your topic sentence isn't clear, it's hard to know if the sentences should be changed here!  I asked you to put a line through the beginning of a sentence if it wasn't connected to the topic. But very few notebooks had these lines. Review after Step 1 pushes the writer to Step 2, when a new writing is based on the evaluation of the ideas written, and the order they are written.

Peer Review is DIFFICULT. It is not a time to say "I like flowers too!" You talk about the information, the ideas, how they fit to the topic, is the writer communicating well the ideas, are there ideas missing? You are not "enjoying the writing." You are the mother bird that kicks the baby out of the tree. FLY!!! You must push them to be better. Tell them which are good ideas, tell them which ideas need to be cut out or changed. Many students did not write their name for their review. So I can't give any points!

Tuesday we will start with a new topic. When Steps 0 and 1 are not successful, you can't go forward...

So, again
Step 0:  collect ideas about your topic (your simple 5-word topic)
Step 1:  convert ideas into something that looks like a paragraph, including a topic sentence (not an introduction or transition)... don't worry about grammar too much, just pick your ideas and put them together somehow.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Strongpoint is _____ (an Example of first thoughts) - Step 0

My strongpoint is Public Speaking

(an example of the first thoughts -- Step 0)
  • I'm confident
  • enjoy
    • the time on stage
    • the excitement of before (preparation)
    • the attention afterwards
  • strong voice
  • enjoy creating ideas
  • enjoy sharing ideas
  • enjoy connecting with an audience
    • less fun when can't see (strong lights)
    • less fun on TV
  • I like convincing other people I'm right
  • usually I can simplify thoughts so others understand
  • I can share original thoughts and my own opinions
  • now I have reputation as a good public speaker
  • played music when in Jr/Sr High School, univ
  • hated "selling" but liked helping people find what they want
  • teacher as public speaker?
    • yes, because
    • no, because
  • mother thought I would be a priest or lawyer, because always talked
  • sometimes nervous before
  • sometimes overheated after, especially if debate-style

Really, your thoughts would not be in neat bullets. This for the web. but my thoughts above are not "organized" - whatever came first, went there.  Only the "subpoints" were organized for pretty.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Focus! My strong point

Focus on what you want to say in the paragraph. Narrow focus. Don't talk about things more distant from your topic.

Your topic should be very specific. Remember, in an essay you might have three or more paragraphs to talk about each particular area. So we want one narrow area.

Our topic for the next writing project is "My strong point is _____."

We want to find at least 15 ideas related to our strong point (this is brainstorming, etc, the "step 0" for our writing process).

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Teatime and paragraph visual formatting

The teatime story should be tightly tied to a single event.
If every sentence starts on the left, like here, then the paragraph is formatted wrong.
We want one sentence to start one space after the previous.
This is the "visual" part of paragraphing.

Let's look at one example of a teatime story.

When Pam invited Mitch to sit down for a cup of tea, he happily said "Yes, thank you." His clear brown eyes followed Pam's curly red hair as it bobbed up and down. He could imagine her eyes looking for things even though she could not really see. She reached for a teapot, and easily filled it with water from the sink. She felt for the stove, put the pot on top, and fumbled as she turned on the flame. Yet her hands moved smoothly across the cabinets and counter-top to grab several packages of tea, a jar of honey, and a bowl of sugar. "Oh, I don't have any lemons," she said. "Would you like Japanese Green Tea, Woolong Chinese Tea, or Lipton's Tea?"

124 words, 8 sentences, approximately 15 words per sentence.

(We can continue the story if you like.)

The main point here is that we want "richer" sentences, more adjectives and adverbs. We "color" the message (rather than black and white line drawing, we look for a color photograph). In addition, we connect ideas in sentences, and connect sentences (through the story, or with Connections words like "yet").



As we work to enrich our paragraphs, we should consider how are ideas are pulled together. We aren't just building a bullet list of individual thoughts (a sorted brainstorming list?). Nor are we hoping for 11 short sentences (we call that "choppy writing"). Instead, we use various types of connectors to build longer sentences and to tie one sentence to the next.

Here is a bullet list of some popular conjunctions
  • and
  • but
  • or
  • nor
  • for
  • yet
  • so
  • although
  • because
  • since
  • unless
  • provided that
  • as long as
  • in order that
  • so...that (surrounding an adverb or adjective)

A choppy paragraph has many short sentences. Each could be longer. Each could be connected to another sentence. They seem to start and stop quickly. It gives the reader a headache. We don't like that.

35 words / 6 sentences

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jan 3. Sugar and spice and everything nice

The spice of life.

A good cook knows when to use which spices as he or she cooks, and how much (and how little).

In writing, modifiers are spices.  Adjectives (words that modify nouns and some other words) and adverbs (words that modify verbs and some other words) affect how we see (or taste) the main points in the sentence.
The tall and slender teenaged girl ran quickly and happily down the steep hill to her loving family.

How many spices you use in your sentences is a matter of taste.  Too little is like plain white rice with no side-dishes, or a fried egg without salt or veggies.

Perhaps a good target for level A paragraphs might be
  • 7 or 8 sentences
  • 100 words
  • 9 modifiers

? ? ?