Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Professional Journals on Writing 02

Question: What can be learned from professional educational journals about teaching and learning to write?

Answer. Note from RayS: I will shift my Q & A on Writing column to summarizing the more interesting ideas from professional educational journals on the teaching of writing. While these articles will be primarily of interest to teachers from kindergarten through college, they might also be useful for the general reader.

What is the difference between a synopsis and an abstract? Synopsis defined: chronologically ordered summary of the main events of a novel, short story or play. DM Guinn. College Composition and Communication (Dec. 79), 380. Abstract defined: Summarizing a sequence of ideas. Two types: descriptive and informative. Descriptive concentrates on topics covered by the writer. Informative concentrates on what the original says. DM Guinn. College Composition and Communication (Dec. 79), 380-381.

How help students develop sentence variety? Have students select individual sentences from their writing and try to reorder the words in them in a more interesting way. R deBeaugrande. College Composition and Communication (Oct. 77), 240-246.

Why teach grammar? The goal then of learning the rules is to render them invisible. A reader does not see correct punctuation; only mistakes show. Correct spelling is an invisible conduit through which the writer’s point of view flows to the reader…. A misspelled word, rendered visible, draws attention to itself, invites a judgment and distracts the reader from the writer’s point of view…. I tell my students…I want you to know that I lost sight of your point of view because what I was seeing was the errors in spelling. If it’s OK with you that your point of view goes down the drain…. If it’s not all right with you, then in your next paper do whatever you have to do in order to make your spelling invisible and thereby supportive of what you wish to communicate. BJ Mandel. College Composition and Communication (Dec. 78), 368.

What does research tell us about teaching grammar? Reports of grammar’s uselessness in improving writing are based on research that is neither thorough nor completely convincing, with generalizations usually drawn from one study—the Harris study in 1962. The Elly study (1976) draws the conclusion that the study of grammar does not help students in editing, an interpretation that goes beyond the data. Suggests that maybe one valid conclusion from the Elly study might be that grammar should be introduced at the later junior and high school levels. J Neuleib. College Composition and Communication (Oct. 77), 247-250.

How practice sentence combining? Students “deconstruct” professionally written sentences as they would for sentence combining, then reconstruct them. J W Ney, 1976. College Composition and Communication (May 77), 189.

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