Friday, April 29, 2011

Literature and Masterpiece Theater

Question: How can students learn to appreciate literature through TV adaptations?

Answer: By studying both the printed literature and the adaptations in presentations by Masterpiece Theater.

Quote: “There are more than 30 teacher’s guides on the Masterpiece website ( Practical and comprehensive the guides provide insightful before-and after-viewing questions, as well as innovative activities designed to help students discover themes, find points of connection, identify and understand literary elements, and understand the art of adaptation. As one teacher said, ‘Masterpiece … works are often the first time students have seen literature interpreted visually. It gives them a deeper appreciation of the work, helps them understand how a film is a collaborative effort, helps them to interpret more deeply, and makes them think about other points of view.’ By ‘reading’ both forms of media side by side, students come away with a better understanding of the choices an author, screenwriter, or team of filmmakers must make to communicate successfully with an audience.” P. 17.

Comment: ‘Nuff said. A great idea with opportunities for learning and comparing forms of expression and the literary work. RayS.

Title: “Masterpiece at 40: A Celebration.” Carol Jackson Cashion. English Journal (March 2011), 15-17.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Writing Process Dramatized on Network TV

Problem: “I have been looking for movies or television episodes that dramatize the writing process for a long time. Now that I have found one, I use it every semester.”

Problem Resolved: An episode  in the show Friday Night Lights. Tyra is trying to write her college essay. Shows it to Landry, a junior on the football team, who hates what she has written and says so (Season 3, Episode 12).

Quote: “…Most students realize that Tyra began by writing what she thought an admissions counselor might want to hear. Eventually, even the females [who don’t like Landry’s brusqueness] will admit that Landry’s prodding brought Tyra to a point where she could be totally honest and then writes, instead, about the change in her life that has allowed her to reinvent herself and has inspired her to dream of college—and beyond.” P. 307.

Comment: Well, it’s not exactly the entire writing process, but the need to express oneself honestly is certainly part of it. Worth tracking down this dramatization. Also, finding dramatizations of English-related episodes in popular TV shows and movies is worth sharing with others. Thanks, Jim [the author].RayS.

Title: “A Writing Session on Network Television.” Jim LaBate. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2011), 306-307.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Introduction of Quotes in Research Papers

Problem: “One of the tough things for many students to grasp is how to weave sources into their own texts smoothly. Many simply drop a quotation into the text without any transition or introduction.”

Solution: The author uses NPR radio in which the text can be heard and read on the NPR Web site as a model for how to make the transition or introduction to a quote.

Comment: That problem—and it is a problem—can  be resolved by calling attention to writers’ use of transitions or introduction to quotes in printed text. RayS.

Title: “Using an NPR Story to Demonstrate Integrating Sources in a Research Paper.” Jeffrey Klausmans. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2011), 305-306.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Essay Tests in All Disciplines

Question: What Is an “Essay”?

Answer/Quote: “In reviewing the data that emerged from the current study, there is one issue that seems to merit further consideration and research: the question of what constitutes an essay and what criteria do instructors of various disciplines expect students to meet when they ask them to write an essay. Within the context of this study, the essay was indicated as a common form of writing assignment across disciplines.

“However, a question arises: what do instructors actually mean when they say that they assign ‘an essay’ in their classes? According to the survey question, ‘What are your minimum expectations for the writing tasks that you assign? … English professors indicate that an essay should be fully developed with an introduction, body, and conclusion and should sometimes include citations. On the other hand, respondents from the business department indicated that their minimum expectations for an essay is one paragraph. History and social science department respondents indicated that an essay is either one or multiple paragraphs.

“Clearly, the question of what constitutes an ‘essay’…needs further investigation. The researchers believe that this may constitute an important piece of the puzzle in discerning what ‘real’ academic writing requires, particularly in the two-year colleges.”

Comment: Interesting question. I suggest that the essay answer to a test question begins with the thesis, with no interesting introduction, followed by paragraphs introduced by topic sentences with an optional summary—up to the teacher. Question: What were the causes of X War? Answer as a thesis sentence(no interesting introduction): The causes of X War were the need for expanded territory, diversion from problems at home and the ambition of the King. Each of the points in the thesis becomes the topic sentence of paragraphs for each cause of X War. RayS.

Title: “Preparing ESL Students for ‘Real’ College Writing: A Glimpse of Common Writing Tasks ESL Students Encounter at One Community College.” J Carroll and H Dunkelblau. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2011), 271-281.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Question: What are some contemporary clichés?

The Philadelphia Inquirer for Friday, April 22, 2011, p. A15, published an article entitled, “In Clichés, there’s Hardly a Deficit,” by Kevin Horrigan. Mr. Horrigan prefaces the body of his article with the following: “To help guide us through negotiations over the federal budget deficit, the committee has invited Mr. Arbuthnot—the world’s foremost cliché expert and a creation of the late Frank Sullivan, of the New Yorker—to testify.” Then Mr. Horrigan, in Q & A format gives us a good sampling of the modern cliché. I have excerpted some of the clichés as follows:

Unsustainable; crushing; massive; unprecedented; back-breaking; structural; mortgaging the future; a mountain of debt; our children’s and grandchildren’s future; in the red; for every man, woman and child; red ink; oceans of red ink; growth in federal spending; reckless spending; explosive growth, skyrocketing growth, unrestrained growth; entitlements; deserving seniors in their golden years; deserving poor; able-bodied deadbeats; equal-opportunity; straight as an arrow; discretionary spending; we live in a dangerous world; wasteful programs; bloated programs; cutting the fat; tightening the belt; families have to live within their means, so why not Uncle Sam? Shared sacrificing; hardworking achievers; fat cats; on the backs of the poor; revenue enhancements; level the playing field; wealth of experience; outside the box; everything is on the table; bottom line.

Comment: That’s a pretty good collection. The whole Q & A article is hilarious. RayS.