Food for Video?

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So… I’m digging into the essays, and I decide to type up a few sentences from each student.  There are some doozies.  Some are horrific, 71-word run-on sentences that occupy several lines of typed text.

Also the illegal govenrment could be good and the illegal govenrment would not have been in power if people could not have been in its favor so there is no such thing as an illegal government because people where in favor of it and made it rise to power it is just a bad govenrment that was chosen so I would not go to civil war against a government that was chosen by the people that want the civil war against it.

You’ll notice that there’s not a single reference to Rome, Julius Caesar, Pompey, Cicero, or any of the other authors we read this term in that entire sentence.

On the other hand, the phrase “illegal government” appears three times, and the word government appears five times.  The phrase “civil war” appears twice.  Since the essay question was based on Brutus’s question to his friends in Plutarch, “which is better, a civil war or an illegal government?” I guess I should give them a modicum of credit for at least knowing the terms… oh wait, these terms are the ones from the essay question.

Sentence fragments. Two words… the student memorized a list of words relevant to the essay, but then had no idea how to construct them into a sentence.  There are comma splices, these things are so bad that it took me ten minutes to figure out how to do one to show you.  Spellign erars ov evan cmon worsd.

And I thought… here’s a set of videos!

Now, I don’t have time this week to turn all fifty-one of these ghastly clunkers of sentences or paragraphs into sentences. But I bet I could turn a lot of them into short explanatory videos over Thanksgiving, and put them on the kids’ user pages on the wiki.  In some obvious place, of course. Where they’d have to notice them.

I could give them all a copy of the “worst clunky sentences” of the exam, and they could see how they read in the public eye.

But I like the idea of making the sentences into short videos, and explain how to fix their critical problems.  Do you, my readers, want to see?


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I’ve not been writing much this week because exams have occupied much of my attention.  From Tuesday through Saturday this week, students at my school are sitting for an hour and a half at a time, scribbling in answers to multiple choice questions, answering cloze questions, and occasionally writing essays.

My students wrote essays.  The minute-glass was there.  It turned over three times.  They wrote three twenty-minute-long essays, and then each of them wrote some comments on one essay from a classmate.

I hate to say it, but the short-form comments were way better than the long-form essays.  Of course they were. That’s the format that students write in today, in the form of Facebook comments and text messages.

Afterward, most felt they had done best on the second essay, after they’d gotten warmed up.  It had taken them 20 minutes or more to feel that they were “ready to write”.  The first essay was terrible, they’d felt.  The second essay was better, they decided; the third, as their attention and interest flagged, was not as horrible as the first but not as good as the second.  We spent some time in class graphing these experiences yesterday, since we still had some regular classes after the exams.

In truth, I found that they’d analyzed themselves pretty well, but incorrectly.  The second essays tended to be better in terms of writing skill.  But they had less meat in them — fewer details, less understanding of the texts.  The first essays tended to be the ones that they’d studied hardest for — they had the names of specific historical figures, references to specific events.  The third essays were ok in terms of writing, but the least meaty.  So, in general, my students wrote three essays on Tuesday: a poor essay on something they knew well; wrote a good essay on something they knew less well; and wrote a mediocre essay about essentially nothing at all.


And people wonder why teaching is such a difficult profession.