Remember when I told you about a few apps that my students taught me to love? Well I just jumped on the bandwagon and realized that one of them is going to change the way I assign vocabulary study. No matter what words or book you are using for vocabulary, you have to check out this tutorial on quizlet:
What do you think? Would you use this in your classroom? Do you think your students would love it and/or find it useful? Let us know in the comment section below!
Have you checked out Secondary Solutions reading guides recently? They offer some amazing, insightful, standards based, questions and you can check them out here. These resources can save teachers a ton of time in planning, but we still have to teach the students to engage and respond well. If we want a quality product, we need to spell out our expectations. Today, I want to share with you some of my rules for answering questions about literature. Please leave a comment with any additions or questions you have! Together we can make a master list and raise the bar in classrooms around the country! (PS The word document version is attached to the bottom of this post so you can print and edit for classroom use.)
How to Answer Questions about Literature in This Class:
Always use complete sentences. In addition to the typical grammar rules, this means always using proper capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
Answer the question. This sounds obvious, but when we get in a hurry or forget to pay careful attention, we can easily answer the question we want to answer instead of the one being asked.
Beware of sentences that begin with the following words: because, that, and so. Only yield those powers if you can control them.
Generally, authors should be referred to by last name. You may not refer to them by first name only and you should avoid Mr. and Ms.
Know your audience. If you are not directly speaking to me, avoid use of second person (you). If you are referring to a play or speech, you probably want to discuss the audience. If you are referring to a book or story, you may mean the reader or another character.
When discussing poetry, do not confuse the author and the speaker.
Always use precise vocabulary. Instead of saying that something is good, try to say that it is significant or ethical or delicious.
Remove slang, clichés, and emoticons.
Use strong verbs. Avoid words like said, quoted, or this also shows…
Pay special attention to parallelism.
Avoid unnecessary cheerleading. I know Harper Lee is awesome, but let’s stick to a more sophisticated analysis of her work.
When quoting, be sure select quotes that actually prove your point.
When quoting, select short phrases and smoothly embed them in your sentences. Generally avoid long or stand alone quotes.
When quoting, use an ellipsis (…) to omit words from the middle of a quote.
When quoting, use [brackets] to add words that clarify within the quote.
Generally, literature is referred to in the present tense. It is important that tense stays consistent in your work.
English/Humanities courses abide by MLA format. When in doubt, check The Owl @ Purdue.
Sample Question and Answers:
How does Robert Browning use language to set a tone in his dramatic monologue, “Porphyria’s Lover”? Be sure to name that tone.
Browning creates a foreboding tone by personifying the “sullen wind” as it “tore the elm-tops down for spite” and “did its worst to vex the lake” (Browning 42).
Note the smoothly embedded quotes, strong verb and precise language.
Browning sets an ominous tone as he describes the speaker’s “heart fit to break” and Porphyria’s struggle with “pride and vainer ties” (Browning 42).
Note the attention to the speaker and parallel construction.
Robert says, “sullen wind” as it “tore the elm-tops down for spite” and “did its worst to vex the lake” (Browning 42).
Do not refer to an author by first name. Also, “says” in this case is a weak verb and the embedding is not smooth.
Browning sets a bad tone.
This answer lacks evidence and uses imprecise language.
Browning gives you scary tone with “sullen wind” as it “tore the elm-tops down for spite” and “did its worst to vex the lake” (Browning 42).
“Gives” is a weak verb. Take out you. Embed quotes more smoothly.
Browning writes a beautiful poem by personifying the “sullen wind” as it “tore the elm-tops down for spite” and “did its worst to vex the lake” (Browning 42).
The cheerleading does not answer the question.
Browning sets an ominous tone when “she put my arm about her waist” (Browning 42).
The embedded quote does not support the answer and if it did, it sill needs some work with brackets to clarify and smooth out the sentence.
The kind folks over at Grammarly recently let me try out their service with my high school English classes. The service offers to help students continue to develop writing skills through automated instructional feedback in grammar and word choice, as well as plagiarism tracking. I tried out the teacher/student version, which you can learn more about at Grammarly.com/edu. Check out the video tutorial below and the pros and cons list. Please let me know if you have questions or comments and remember to check back weekly for more teacher tips, tutorials, and tirades.
Grammarly Pros and Cons from my perspective:
Students can submit their papers multiple times to receive maximum automated input that is more effective than a simple word processor grammar check.
The grammar checker saves time for me as it catches many mistakes. I am all about saving time as we all know that English teachers have enough on our plate already!
Grammar explanations give students clear guidelines.
Plagiarism checker prevents unintentional plagiarism and takes away the excuse of ignorance that students sometimes claim.
There is a blackboard option and convenient roll out instructions.
Some grammar suggestions misunderstand student intention, which can confuse the paper further.
The teacher side of the website is limited in information. I could see how many times a paper was checked, but I couldn’t see the actual mistakes or plagiarism to tell whether they were valid or not. I had to have students print their reports for me, which seemed like a lot of paper.
The plagiarism tracker is limited to online sources and is not the key component to this service (as opposed to services like turnitin.com).