Do you remember Barney and his Backyard Gang?
” I love you – you love me”… the song was infectious and the children’s show a simple reminder that children could play and learn together within a variety of age groups- whom ever happened to people their neighborhood. I had been doing graduate work in both anthropology and linguistics- plus education, as they are indeed entwined- and the furor caused by the introduction of Barney’s little sister and whether she, TV character and role model that she was, should speak English “properly” or the way a two year old might actually articulate continues to resonate – particularly when writing conferences happen and student’s wish to “break the rules”. Sociolinguistics is a field of practice that looks closely at speech patterns, the ones we actually use when we communicate together. And writers tend to listen and observe these speech patterns too. For this reason characters to be believable must sound like they would if overheard on the street. Since few children at age two have their grammar in sync with the adult world and even adults do get confused over the “proper” use of the word “me”, hearing a TV character proclaim “me want to go too!” may have rung “true” to the majority of the watchers as to how a child would talk, however, being a role model (even if a furry dinosaur), the prescribed “I want to go too”, became mandatory for the show to be labelled enriching, and to be “OK” for kids as an educational viewing.
Problem- overuse of the word “I” has meant that one hardly ever hears anyone use the word “me” anymore- and while I can’t track this to the above mentioned Barney TV show- I do know that students of all ages have trouble placing the object in its expected situation because they rarely hear it in use outside of grammar books- The ubiquitous “I” is the noun now that often causes the most confusion- “Please give it to ______? (me- belongs in the blank) – so simple refresher here:
you and I – can we substitute the word “we”
you and me – can we substitute the word “us”
And if writing dialogue and you “just know” that is how a person really would speak- by all means share the sounds as you have heard them; however, if answering a formal set of questions where grammar is expected to be “just so”- then review the basic expected constructs and create a few simple guidelines for yourself. For example, if there are particular structures that you find a reader/teacher nearly always circles and suggests could be improved, focus on these to begin, reminding oneself- “check the verb tenses”, or “have I looked it over for transitional connecting sentences between paragraphs?” By recognizing one’s own form of practice it can be easier to begin the needed proofing of a draft- Oh hadn’t I mentioned this? yes- after the brainstorming and the rough draft comes a mini-break- then the proofing and editing / and most important of all- the handing it in!
Story sequences: mystery suspense:
Overheard “I find it INTOLERABLE that she didn’t do the work”
Who might have been talking?
Can you flesh out a story from the opening line?
Some writers will claim that they began their novel based on a simple blurb about an incident that they had read in a newspaper, or based on a snippet of conversation overheard in passing.
Slowly characters began to take shape, interacting and developing the plot.
Needed: A setting – remember – time, place, season, (time can be hour of the day or actual calendar year)
Characters: will you add dialogue?
Problem? What might happen? When? To whom? Is there a why?
Solution: resolution- not all stories are completely resolved- one aspect of a problem is usually cleared up; other aspects may be continued in sequels, or left for the readers to consider.
Prompts for story writing needn’t be the typical SAT form- argument/example; prompts to encourage a variety of writing styles can be culled from multiple resources.
How to begin: see earlier blog- “brainstorming 101”…
“whoosh” I hear a sound- a lovely children’s book first reader*, not the sound of your brain exploding at the thought of writing an essay- though we do say “brainstorm” for a reason.
The more ideas you put down on the paper (or type into the computer) the better chance you have to clearly focus an essay. And focus is key to composing a clear thesis.
Whether you prefer a Tbar or a mind map or a series of doodles, please remember we can’t comment on a blank page, and as students, one learns from the teacher’s comments. So please do get something onto the paper– and then begin: 1) do I need to research this? 2) is it in keeping with the class assignment? 3) can I find enough information from in-class readings to support my points? 4) why am I interested in this topic? and 5) write as much as possible for a few minutes without researching to determine if you do have points to make- these free style paragraphs later offer insight into where you thought you were headed with the essay and help you when you need to respond to exam questions or formal tests- writing is an action and in the doing, fear about “making a mistake” can be alleviated – simply seeing the words on the page may help one to begin the process of eliminating extraneous material and zeroing in on that important focus which will establish the essay topic.
So… please let the sounds appear in print; clear the brain by depositing the words onto a page, and recognize that revisions, organizational structure (read- outline) and basic housekeeping (grammar, punctuation, citing sources etc.) are Step 3- they come later- more about Step 2 in tomorrow’s entry.
an all time favorite if you have a little one