- Boundary Markers: An Alternative to Classroom Management - March 10, 2016
- International Mother Language Day-February 21st - February 25, 2016
- "Dear Future Me..."A Great Reflection Assignment for Students - February 1, 2016
- Thank You In Advance: The Power of Expectation - January 15, 2016
- Under the Guise of Inclusion - November 20, 2015
- Therapy Dogs and Schools - October 15, 2015
- SUPERPOWER Schools - October 13, 2015
- When Life Happens While You Teach - September 22, 2015
- "I'm Her Favorite Student!" - August 31, 2015
- Good Writing vs. Great Writing: Leading the Way - April 27, 2015
Teaching writing is probably one of my most favorite activities on the planet! It's my passion! If someone truly wants to be a good writer, it is honestly a simple process that could be accomplished with a just few polished steps. What it takes is concentration, aptitude and deftness. When people bring me their work to edit, their response after I'm finished is usually something like, "...and when I got it back, it looked like a blood-bath..."
But honestly what I could easily write at the top of almost every paper is: 1. Use a higher language with more descriptive words. 2. Watch your punctuation. 3. Keep your format in line. 4. Watch your tenses. 5. Edit, edit and edit again, read it back to yourself out loud, and then ask someone else to edit for you one more time. Writing is how we communicate with one another, and so many people really want to be good writers, so I'm going to teach you a few neat tricks that will help you to become just that...from one teacher to another.
1. Use a Higher Language with More Descriptive Words.
We all have different ways of talking, depending on who we are communicating with, however when it comes to writing, you need to become a different person all together; Channel your inner writer, so to speak. In other words, don't necessarily write how you talk, but write as a writer. Communicate in a higher language. We as teachers have become proficient with using a higher vocabulary to introduce new words to our student's "toolbox" of language. Yet, at times, when we write, we forget that using a higher language can make our point more palpable. After all, synonyms exist for the purpose of being more clearly understood. Instead of using the word "good," use the word marvelous, satisfactory, or superior. For that matter, avoid saying "It was good" altogether. Say something like, "Although the meal came later than expected, we still enjoyed it immensely." "It" became "the meal," "came later than expected" fills in a void and gives more of a description and word picture for the reader to envision, and "was good" became "still enjoyed it immensely." Channeling your inner-writer may not be your everyday voice, but it's still a part of you...it's just a part of your "inner-writer".
2. Watch Your Punctuation.
Punctuation, by far is the most difficult thing for a new writer (or even old) to grasp. Almost everyone understands periods (.). No problem. Question marks (?), not an issue except we hurry and forget. Exclamation marks (!), not usually a problem except when people e-mail or text and use them too much (GUILTY!), but everyone understands them. Semi-colon (or as my students have been known to call them, "the dot, comma thing") (;) can be much trickier. Semi-colons are actually a beautiful thing as they can allow you to express yourself in various ways. They allow you to mix things up a bit. Just remember that the semi-colon almost always takes the place of missing words, for example: "The meal was quite enjoyable; it came later than expected." In this sentence, the semi-colon allowed me to omit the word "although". My professor in college liked to say that it can mean "in other words". "The meal was quite enjoyable (in other words) it came later than expected. It allows two complete sentences to be joined together without a conjunction such as "and, but, or". It also works nicely to break up a confusingly long sentences. Either way, semi-colons make your writing very expressive! A colon (:) can mean that a list of things are coming up, or it can mean an introduction to a quotation, such as I used in this paragraph earlier. Those last two items are quite tough, I will admit! Where people fumble the most, however, is on the lowly comma. Commas are on the number one hit list of being the most difficult punctuation to grasp. I would urge you to read a previous article that I wrote on the subject. It need not be a difficult thing, but rather a thing of beauty!
3. Keep Your Format in Line.
I never cease to be amazed at how much I use format in all my writing to keep it under control, even when I'm writing a simple e-mail. Format is huge, it's there for your benefit and just as in math, it can keep you in check if you use it. Please read my previous article on format. I cannot stress enough how much learning format will help you become the writer you've always wanted to become.
4. Watch Your Tenses.
When it comes to great writing, don't forget to keep your proper verb tense (past, present, future...simply put) consistent. It will make all the difference in the world in your writing. If you feel like your writing just doesn't flow, it's probably because your tenses are just not right. Without getting complicated on tense, a nice easy rule is to make sure that if you start a piece of writing using past verbs (was, went, played), then stay in that tense. Alternately if you begin writing in the present tense (is, go, play), then stay in that tense. It's EASY to get off track; it can happen to the best writer, but stick to this simple writing tool and you will be a writer of works that people will truly want to read.
5. Edit, Edit, Read it Aloud, Edit it Again and the Ask Someone Else to Edit it for You One More Time.
I have graded hundreds and hundreds of essays and honestly, the most basic writing problems can be solved if people would slow down and check their work. Recently, I graded an essay from a very proficient student and it was riddled with poor writing. I ended up reading the paper out loud to her, and followed it by asking, "Does that make sense?" "No" was her reply. If she had simply read the paper back to herself, she could've easily spotted several mistakes and brought home a higher grade on her paper. However, we've all been there where we become "too close" to our writing, and we simply insert missing words and punctuation that are not there. This is where bringing in a third party can help. Sometimes we just need a "fresh set of eyes" to look at our work. If there is no one you can trust to help, put your writing away for another day and look at it again. Often times you will then spot mistakes that you had previously missed.
Writing is a beautiful thing. It's what I love, it's my passion! Perhaps that's why I love teaching it so much. I am fully confident that almost anyone can become a better writer if they just apply these simple steps, if they would just channel their inner-writer...from one teacher to another.