Writing Tips from the Lab

What I should do….

Bucky says, “Determining the factors that will be most powerful is on of the greatest pressures.”

Megan says, “Reread to find mistakes like writing you, it, and thing.”

Shustyn says,” Stop generalizing everything at the beginning of the post.”

Chetter says, “Make more debatable topic sentences.”

Sarah says, “ Quit writing (x=x) statement!”

Amie says, ” Write defiant opinions from within yourself. Tie into personal experiences.”

Myles says, “make sure your make contains more voice.”

Justin says, ” Avoid A vs. B in halves.”

Jordan says, “to start putting personal experiences.”

Conor says, “Make better thesis.”

Yarmz says, “Align picture” or “In the life there is a lot of decisions to be made.”

Kaitlyn, “I have been through an experience with cancer, one that I have learned from, knowing the consequences and fears it caused.”

Jacq says, ” I’ve been in my living room for countless hours working on this work of art.”

Brett G. says, “Start with an example of your own voice.”

Owen says, “he had afflicted lost of pain.”

Derek says, “The best way for the boy in the story stains to learn a life lesson.

Aubrey says, “Make your topic sentences.”

Tanner says, ” use your own voice.”

Nicole says, “I have long pondered over an invention that could make me famous.”

Chantal says, ” In my spare time I really enjoy reading stories and novels because they help me to leave doctor mode and just enjoy my spare time

What I need to stop doing…

Bucky says, “Emotion and feelings play.”

Chetter says,” Both John and Jonny attend a banquet.”

Tanner says, “there are any issues.”

Shustyn says, “possessing values is a key part in my life. My everyday decisions are based on my values.’

Megan says,” There are many pressures in the teenage life styles.”

Sarah says, ” There is a way” or “Somehow”

Justin says, ” What their beliefs are.”

Amie says, “The characters in the story.”

Myles says.” ThiS way we can make the right decisions.”

Curtis says, ” There are many similarities, along with many differences.”

Conor says, “There are always.”

Jordan says, “I think.”

Jacq says, “Being surrounded by the people who love them can help the person pull through the tough times.”

Kaitlyn says, “differing life views can affect the decisions made.”

Yarmz says, “stop putting elementary words, start using high school words. start to not put x=x.”

Owen says, “He has to learn from mistakes.”

Brett G says, “Avoid thing all time and places.”

Derek says, “Use words that are grade 10 appropriate.”

Aubrey says, “Don’t argue the obvious.”

Jason says, “stop writing good inconstantly.”

Nicole says, “almost always.”

Book Reviews for LA 9

Today I was asked: “How do I write a book review?”

Here’s a quick trip about what I found: 

My first stop was at Amazon. With each book is a snippet of a responses from readers/buyers/sellers. The purpose of the reviews are simple – take a few seconds to write a sharply worded sentence or two and recommend the book for sale. In a few minutes and swift clicking I can read hundreds of reviews. The reviews are brief, many amounting to glowing praise or stark rebuffs. Some attention is made by review writers to carefully craft sentences, few reviews amount to more than a sternly worded paragraph. The reviews are focused on the text and personal preference, but with so many sweeping generalizations there was rarely a focus at all. Little is learned about the reviewer. These “pesky” reviews are not what we need to mimic.

My second stop was the more personally focused site, One Minute Reviews. The reviews here are written by one reviewer. The reviews range in length, depth. Some a few sentences to recommend a sale, others quite elaborately synthesize a variety of information. The summum bonum of the experience is to grow in an understanding of the reviewer. I like this approach to the book review better. However, I could not relate to the bulk of the experiences of the reviewer, and shared few if any common interests. The focus was too narrow and I lost interest in the site. 

Quality Book Reviews was just too busy. Too many links, too many distractions, too many book reviews. It would take a while to find a reviewer I liked as the “finding” would be left to chance. Something this big is more than I need. Searching for author, title, reviewer is useful, but I need a smaller focus, a more modest audience, a warmer welcoming.

Real Reader Reviews looked the most familiar to what I’d expect for beginning reviewers. But again, the focus was amiss. After a few clicks, it felt like I was reading the same review over and over again, with no real exposure to the personality of the reviewer.

The Teen Book Review is by far the best fit in my hastily assembled survey. I spent so much time reading and marveling, that I have run out of time to write much here.  The focus was clear. The text easy to read. The text linked/bolded. There were no distractions in the sidebars. The post layouts were simple and varied. The variety of posts reflected the author’s identity. The personality of the reviewer beams through: “Gone is a huge book, over 550 pages, but the time passed so quickly while I was reading it, and I just couldn’t put it down! Last night, taking a break from my history homework, I picked it up, intending to read a chapter or two and then  get my brain back on track. Instead, I read two hundred pages. That’s how absolutely engrossing this book is!”

Have a long close look at Teen Book Review. These are reviews we should mimic.

Writing Tips

I found a scribbled, hastily assembled, crumpled piece of paper simply titled “Tips” in my desk today.

As far as I recall, it was the product of grading a set of essays a couple years ago on the novel Wild Geese by Martha Ostenso.

A common practice of mine after reading/marking a set of essays is to assemble a list of “pet peeves,” or writing errors, or tips that emerge from the set.

Here is the list:

  • practice writing a thesis/topic statement that can be parsed
  • the inclusion of a detail must support it’s purpose
  • structure, connect, state clearly, order, each subtopic as it develops the thesis
  • avoid “if…then” as logical proofs of what is
  • when discussing technique, consider the degree of complexity
  • avoid pronoun shifts: “you”
  • avoid plot summary
  • develop a Linking Lexicon
  • avoid dropped quotes
  • No X=X (see Rule 3 of 6):
    “These things…”, “There is nothing…”, “… shows us something important…”, “In this essay…”, “Many examples…”, “The quote…”, “In the book…”, “On page…”, “… the same thing…”, “I don’t think…”, “This is the end of my essay…”, “She was herself…”, “As a human…”, “… the way it did…”, “… start doing things…”, “… many times…”, “After reading…”, “I will be writing…”, “These symbols are the things…”, “… good with the bad…”, “It made things…”, “They did what he told them to do…”, “Her true feelings…”, “… an effective way…”, “… a secret way…”, “… the way…”, “… many ways…”, “… a different way…”, “… it speaks…”, “We, as readers…”, “… finished reading…”, “… the ideas of…”, “… something in the end.”

This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases [X=X] can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain. George Orwell

Semester Begins: Overcoming Tech Obstacles

Welcome to new STJ bloggers. No doubt you are learning new skills very quickly, but take your time to figure it all out, depend on each other, and ask questions of your teacher.

Grade 9 bloggers overcame a snag in the STJ email server(again!). The server simply stopped sending email until our division techies fixed the clog(again!). Emails sent out at 9:15AM Thursday did not get to their inboxes until Friday morning. I was able to sign-up bloggers manually but bloggers need to now edit their user profiles to set their password and website URL, … a task handled by the auto-magic email registration/confirmation before. I see a couple duplicate users/blogs now as students responded to late arriving emails, so I’ll be sorting that out right away.

Grade 10 bloggers for the most part were already registered but hit a snag of a different sort. The topology of the STJ LAN has all school workstations accessing the Internet through a single IP address, a common scenario. This requires me to make sure that the IP address of the STJ outgoing server is entered into the firewall of the stjschool.org incoming server so it doesn’t ban our IP for exceeding the limit on simultaneous connections. Our division techies changed our outgoing IP in December, … stjschool.org firewall now has the correct IP to bypass. Coincidentally, a major failure in the mediterranean undersea Internet cable caused higher loads on many router/server farms so diagnosing the problem had some sluggish “trace-routes” as well. Did you know you can monitor the health of the Internet in real time?

The “tens” are sharing their first posts and comments as well, but we’ll soon be in the regular classroom continuing our study of Julius Caesar. Blogging about Shakespeare, an anachronism that is not so out of place.

I wonder what challenges this week will bring?

Now, the “niners” are adding friends to their RSS aggregators and blogrolls. And sharing their first posts/comments with each other.

I’d like Grade 9s to trackback their first post here.

Hamlet: Final Response

Choose a focus for your final response to Hamlet.

Synthesize alternative points of view, (include links to sources: your posts, STJ blogs, etc.).

Review your responses throughout our study:

Writing tips:


PS: “To thine own rubric be true.”

November 9th is the “cut off” day for submission of my marks to the office.
Any assignment to be (re)submitted for grading must be “in my hand” before 2:00PM November 9th.

Student blog will win $10,000 Scholarship

One blogger chosen by “the internet” will win $10,000 US scholarship … for keeping a blog.

As the ratio of high school student blogs I read to the number of college student blogs I read approaches infinity, I think it a good time we troll a few of the best college bloggers in the US.

All STJ student bloggers have been involved in assessment of one another’s blogs since the beginning of STJ iblogs in 2006. I’m certain we’d pick a deserving “Final Four” from the list of 20 finalists.

I’m curious to know for what blogs STJ bloggers vote.

Submit your comment (or trackback) here with a brief reason/detail/example justifying your vote for the $10,000 US scholarship.

Consider our recent emphasis on structure and voice: How are these college bloggers defining themselves through voice? What structures/patterns do successful bloggers adopt? What role do comments play in the development of the blog?

Yaaar, there be pirates in one of the blogs . . . but don’t let that influence your vote.

LOTF: Focus on Voice

How do we live with the consequences of our decision making?
Related Questions:

What are the consequences of an important decision that you have made recently?
What are informed decisions? What are uninformed decisions?
What role does foresight play in our decision making? What are the advantages and disadvantages of hindsight?
What is the effect of making a decision when we are uncertain of the consequences? What are the consequences of making decisions which go against what other people think? What price do we pay for each decision we make?
What role does emotion and feeling play in our decision making?

Choose a focus. Write a post. Trackback.

Blogging Tips:
Pay particular attention to your own development of your voice in your style. Attempt to engage your audience to comment critically on issues of your choosing.

When commenting on another’s blog, look for the issues that invite your critical response.

Outcome-Illustrating Verbs

AKA Strong Verbs

  1. Knowledge of terminology; specific facts; ways and means of dealing with specifics (conventions, trends and sequences, classifications and categories, criteria, methodology); universals and abstractions in a field (principles and generalizations, theories and structures): Knowledge is (here) defined as the remembering (recalling) of appropriate, previously learned information: Arrange; defines; describes; duplicate; enumerates; identifies; labels; lists; matches; names; order; reads; recall; recognize; records; relate; repeat; reproduces; selects; states; views.
  2. Comprehension: Grasping (understanding) the meaning of informational materials. Classifies; cites; converts; describes; discusses; estimates; explains; generalizes; gives examples; makes sense out of; paraphrases; report; restates (in own words); select; summarizes; traces; translate; understands.
  3. Application: The use of previously learned information in new and concrete situations to solve problems that have single or best answers. Acts; administers; apply; articulates; assesses; charts; choose; collects; computes; constructs; contributes; controls; demonstrate; determines; develops; discovers; dramatize; employ; establishes; extends; implements; includes; informs; interpret; instructs; operate; participates; practice; predicts; prepares; preserves; produces; projects; provides; relates; reports; schedule; shows; sketch; solves; teaches; transfers; uses; utilizes.
  4. Analysis: The breaking down of informational materials into their component parts, examining (and trying to understand the organizational structure of) such information to develop divergent conclusions by identifying motives or causes, making inferences, and/or finding evidence to support generalizations. Analyze; appraise; breaks down; calculate; categorize; correlates; diagrams; differentiates; discriminates; distinguishes; examine; focuses; illustrates; infers; limits; questions; outlines; points out; prioritizes; recognizes; separates; subdivides; tests.
  5. Synthesis: Creatively or divergently applying prior knowledge and skills to produce a new or original whole. Adapts; anticipates; assembles; categorizes; collaborates; collects; combines; communicates; compares; compiles; composes; contrasts; creates; designs; develops; devises; expresses; facilitates; formulates; generates; incorporates; individualizes; initiates; integrates; intervenes; manages; models; modifies; negotiates; organizes; plans; prepares; progresses; rearranges; reconstructs; reinforces; reorganizes; revises; structures; substitutes; validates.
  6. Evaluation: Judging the value of material based on personal values/opinions, resulting in an end product, with a given purpose, without real right or wrong answers. Appraises; argue; assess; attach; choose; compares & contrasts; concludes; core; criticizes; critiques; decides; defends; evaluate; interprets; judges; justifies; predicts; rate; reframes; supports; value.
  1. Adapted from: Bloom, B.S. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals: Handbook 1, Cognitive Domain. (New York; Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1956).