Failure Story

Posted on April 4, 2011Filed Under Outside links, Seventh Grade Behavior, Writing | Leave a Comment

Usually I like to highlight my many and various triumphs in the classroom, and offer tips for the unwashed masses; you know, success stories. ūüėČ

Let’s call this one a failure story.

They say that in science, a failed experiment will teach you as much as one that succeeds, maybe more. Hmmm. Let’s hope so.

Every year I try to make sure, even though there’s a definite routine I follow,¬†that¬†I still have room to mix it up and try out new material.

(Aside: Believe it or not, I wrastled for awhile about where to put the word that in the previous sentence. Wait, I’m talking to English teachers. Of course you believe it. But try it. Should the word that go after the word sure, or where it ended up–after the second comma?)

This year, like always, we have the 600 Words/Week going. And, as always, they need something to do while I check on them every Tuesday. Usually what I have done is give them time to write toward next week’s 600 words, and a list of suggested topics that they can do with what they like: use, mutate, ignore, combine, whatever. I don’t care; just write.

This year I have been taking advantage of my back-catalogue, so to speak. Each Tuesday I have been giving them a writing exercise culled from various ones I have used over the years. They start it in class, and we share some, and then it’s completed by Friday for a ten point grade. Ten points in my class is a very small amount, meant only to do cumulative damage, if you know what I mean. And the writing counts for their 600 words.

I already shared one of these with you guys: the no boring verbs exercise. That one always works out lovely. I’ve done it a dozen times. They whine, they cry, they tear their hair out, and then they start to think about it. This next one was brand new, and it ¬†didn’t exactly go as planned. Let’s call it a¬†failed experiment. They say, though, that there’s no such thing as a failed experiment; you always learn something from it. I certainly learned what to do and not do next time with this one.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail asking me to download a sample lesson called Sentence Samurai. At first I was going to delete it as spam, which technically it was, but the e-mail was so NOT ‘bot-generated, that I actually checked out what he was shilling. Here’s a link to the pdf.

Basically he took a long sentence, and chopped it up into the individual words, assigned a point value to each one, and said, “See what what you can make out of these words, using proper grammar and punctuation.”

I liked the concept immediately. I often use sentence combing and sentence scrambles as writing/grammar/punctuation exercises, and this was taking it down to the most basic level. Actually, the first thing I thought was…EL kids, especially with the whole cutting and actually rearranging the words thing.

Then I got all sporty.

Of course I CAN”T just use something as is. Nooo. I have to mutate it in some way to make it my own. I can USUALLY add my own twist or extension, and in my opinion, make things more effective. USUALLY.

So I started adding academic words to the list and some extra the’s and some other stuff I thought might be fun. What I didn’t do was actually write a sentence first and then give them those words.

D’oh!

Here’s what I gave them: mrC’s Sentence Samurai!

Of course, when I handed it out, I played up the competitive nature of the thing; make the longest, most valuable sentence possible; beat your rivals.

In this case, another mistake. They truly stretched the envelope of what exactly makes a grammatically correct sentence. Some samples follow.

“They work at a media business, and it is a tradition to acknowledge the courage the teachers, not parents, finally incorporate to the money incident.”

“The parent teacher’s business, enhanced and got the wish to give money to the media too ¬†try not to stop tradition work from incentive.”

“I know your business incentive is to acknowledge parent teacher’s tradition at work to enhance the money subsidy at the media.”

“I stopped to work at our media business and finally incorporated an inferior teacher to his incentive, giving incidental subsidies to enhance the courage he could get trying a traditional excuse to go.”

“The teacher is finally making courage to stop his excuses, I know he is trying to cover the acknowledgment to enhance our wishes.”

I think you’re probably getting the idea by now, but I’ll leave you with one¬†final¬†thought. (I especially like the use of parentheses.)

“I acknowledge your work (as an inferior business) and try to cover the subsidy from them, the media’s money stops.”

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