Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Greatest Song Ever

The best trick I have found when tutoring is to read the whole paper before “fixing” anything. This is not always feasible, as some papers are very long, or because some papers have major zombies right from the get-go. The thing I try and do with most short papers is read the whole thing with the student and make little marks on the page to remind me of things we need to talk about. This makes the process go much faster. When I first started tutoring, I would read through, line for line, and discuss issues as I saw them. This took way too much time, and my sessions were a lot longer than they needed to be. By reading the paper as a whole, I can easily see patterns that need fixing as well as get a feel for the big-picture issues like organization and whether or not there is a strong Thesis. If I notice the student has an issue with punctuating introductory phrases or dependent clauses, I can discuss the rules for these after we finish and the student will often catch the rest. This helps the student learn and practice a rule, rather than just “fix and forget” the problem.
A tip I use when explaining punctuation is that a period is like a stop sign. It makes the reader stop and pause. Then, I explain that a comma is like a yield sign. The reader, upon encountering a comma, must slow down, but can continue without stopping. A colon is like a gate. The reader can’t just keep going, but must realize that something big is coming after it. Lastly, I explain that a semicolon is like a rolling stop. It is both a stop sign and a yield. In driving, rolling stops don’t exist and so they shouldn’t be used much in papers either. They are very hard to pull off, and more likely than not, you’re going to end up getting in more trouble than it’s worth. You might as well stop if you can. This seems to help the students realize that semicolons are hard to use and not worth the risk. If you don’t know the rules, you probably shouldn’t try it. This is a fun analogy to use and it seems fairly effective. Every student I have told this to seems to understand the idea and what punctuation actually does for a writer.

As has become my tradition, I will include an awesome youtube video. Here is perhaps the greatest song ever written - but for a writing setting, it could be considered a run-on sentence. Watch and Enjoy!


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