Monday, November 10, 2008

Covering the (wrong) bases

From a second-year college student's paper:

Physical Activity is one of the most significant aspects of a child's health while their young. A child who doesn't participate in physical activities while there young has a high percentage of becoming obese.

Apparently she wasn't sure how to spell the word, so she chose to use two different spellings in order to cover her bases, but as Husband said when I showed it to him, "She covered the wrong base."

Another gem from the same essay:

A child who is social with friends is more likely to be a more content child and can even avoid a child from becoming obese.

The entire essay was poorly written, and by the time I finished reading it, I was mentally drained and had to stop grading for the night. It would not have been fair to the next student to grade his or her paper when I was in that mental state.

From another student's essay that I had read earlier that day:

" . . . less than five percent of the worlds scientist where present at the meeting."

The sad part about this is that this sentence was part of a direct quote from a source. The student had the correct sentence in front of him but still made mistakes.

Some days when I'm standing at the whiteboard trying to write something for my students, my mind draws a blank, and I can't figure out how to spell the words. And when I'm typing, I find myself spelling even simple words incorrectly. I feel that I'm becoming dumber and dumber with each poor essay that I read. I'm going to have to spend more time reading good writing, or my mind is going to deteriorate. I can see that in order to preserve my sanity, I'm going to have to spend more time on my personal reading.


Tony Arnold said...

I don't think it is teaching, or the dumb essays hurting your ability to think and spell, it is word processing.

Two helpful tools available in computer software that have negative side effects are spell check and auto correct for grammer.

They are great tools but they remove the practice of grammer and spelling from the individual. Those tools can also make an absolute fool out of you when it comes to homonyms.

I used to be able to spell very well and my grammer was very good, especially when writing. I have grown steadily worse since the advent of word processing. Lazy dependence on a tool erodes knowledge and we are all falling victim. The pace of society is also a problem. Too busy, too hurried, so we make mistakes and don't check them.

Your students are falling prey to the spell check and grammer correction problem.

Also they wait until the last minutes so they are hurried and haste makes waste. If they even bother to proof read, they are doing it quickly and immediately after they just finished writing. They see what they think they wrote rather than what they actually wrote.

To really proof-read correctly, time has to elapse so you forget exactly what you wrote and it is easier to not verify your own mistakes.

Even the best writers will tell you that if you read their initial draft of something, it would be ugly.

JMG said...

I agree with you on spellcheck. I have fallen prey to dependence on that wonderful tool to tell me whether the word dependence ends in "ence" or "ance." But I never use grammar check because it will make some horrible suggestions.

I tell my students to proofread backwards--read the last sentence first, and then the next to last sentence, and so forth. That takes each sentence out of its context so the writer can tell whether it expresses a complete idea.

For a great video on proofreading, go to Youtube and look up a video called "The Impotence of Proofreading."

Tony Arnold said...

You know, maybe we ought to just post and comment to each other via email. We are the only ones commenting on each other's blogs. :-)

Maybe we have lurkers, but would be nice to know if anyone gets anything out of my blog.

JMG said...

Good thing we're not trying to make a living at this!

JMG said...

BTW, Jetty Betty is over at Facebook all the time. I've found that I get to talk to her more often over there--I chatted with her just last week. You might consider joining.

Tony Arnold said...

I am on Facebook, but don't do a lot with it. Pretty new at it all.

I need to add a link to it to my blog. I have a link to the blog on Facebook.

We can be friends now.

JMG said...

We can be friends now.

I went and requested you as a friend, but until you click the button and confirm me, we aren't really friends.

It's wonderful that Facebook came along to make all our friendships official. I've been friends with my mom for a few months now!


Tony Arnold said...

You crack me up! Words are truly an amusing thing.

I am a little worried that there is some truth to your joke creeping into the social network.

It ain't officical unless you are connected. Worse, the word friend is being reduced in its meaning; less to do with a real relationship.

JMG said...

I was only half jesting with my comment. My students and I have had conversations about this phenomenon. Lots of students won't "friend" people that they haven't met IRL (in real life). What's really interesting to me, however, is that many of my students say that they use Facebook as a way to screen their "friends." When the meet someone IRL, they then go to that person's Facebook profile to see what they have in common. People who don't share common interests are weeded out as potential "real" friends.

If I had employed their method of screening my potential friends and relationships, Husband and I probably wouldn't have ever gone on the first date.