Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sometimes . . .

. . . I want to teach my class whatever is left on the whiteboard from the class before us, even if I have no idea what the terms, diagrams, or scrawls means.

. . . I want to buy the items off a found grocery list (lost by someone else) and do something with those items.

Today . . .

. . . I found a list in the deli, and I actually picked it up. The list was on a heavy piece of rectangular paper, about 3 inches wide and 5 inches tall. It listed the following in block letters (with weird capitalization) in heavy black marker:

PARSlEY - frEsh
ICEberG - LettucE
MAJic SizinG - Light
CAlAmARi - Frozen

(Unfortunately, I can't reproduce the underlining here.)

Then on a Super-Sticky Post-it Note (the real expensive thing!) that was positioned perfectly on the paper so that it touched the bottom and side margins (by the way, this part was in cursive and in pencil):

Spray Sizing (light)
2 Large Dove Bars
IceBerg LETTuce

When I flipped the list-card over, there was a printed line drawing of an Old Spice cologne bottle. I figured this must be one of those papers you get when you're testing out scents. I sniffed the paper. It smelled like the sharpie, the marker used to write the first part of the list.

Observations: 1) the owner of this list likely bought something (something from the deli) not on his/her list; 2) Dove Bars, Iceberg Lettuce, and Spray Sizing were important enough to be written down more than once; 3) if I were to buy the items on this shopping list, I could have nicely pressed shirts, skirts, and handkerchiefs; I could give friends candy bars (I'm not too fond of plain chocolate; although Dove is pretty good) or make Texas Chocolate Chip Cookies (this looks similar to the recipe I have); I have no idea what I would do with the calamari; and lettuce and parsley are easy enough to find something to do with.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Random things . . .

1. Betty told me that to avoid near collisions when walking (I always seem to choose to walk the same direction the person about to crash into me chooses to walk), I should look at people's feet. Whichever way their feet are pointing, they will walk. I've discovered that this method works most of the time. And it's a far better method than watching faces.

2. I invented a new term--symmetrical rhyme--which takes into account both visual and sound properties (granted these are a stretch) of certain words. (Why is it that we only ever talk about the sounds words make and their meanings? Why don't we talk about the shape of the letters? The visual patterns?)

Symmetrical Rhyme: a word where the first 1/2 of the word when read front to back (e.g., cot) rhymes with the second 1/2 of the word when read back to front (e.g., not (being the reverse as ton)), as in the word COT-TON.

And while we're at it, here are some other terms:

Asymmetrical Rhyme: a word that has the same properties as symmetrical rhyme, except that one of the rhyming units is longer than the other.

Symmetrical Half Rhyme: a word that has the same properties as symmetrical (full) rhyme, only either the vowel sound or the consonant sounds rhyme (not both; otherwise, it would be full rhyme). Some examples of symmetrical half rhyme: FAT-TEN (fat and net are half rhymes with the t-sound rhyming; if you want to get technical, they're an example of consonance); MIR-ROR (mir and ror are half rhymes (consonance)); BUT-TON (but and not are half rhymes (consonance)).

And then, of course, you could have asymmetrical half rhyme.

I know that these terms would not be all that useful to poets, as we never pronounce the word COTTON as cot and not. But, I still think that the visual properties, and their resultant sounds, are important. I'm just not wise enough, however, to know how.

3. The difference between a candy orange slice (which seems rather soft) and a jelly ring (which seems firmer), is the thickness of the candy. The thicker the jelly, the softer.

4. If someone offered you five beautiful rings--all of gold bedecked in jewels--and the only catch was that you had to grow an extra finger for that fifth ring, would you do it? (They won't let you put the ring on your thumb.) There's a billboard in SL that says you'll like their stuff so much that you'll wish you had more fingers. (And I know I'm not supposed to take it literally, but I just can't imagine ever ever ever wanting more fingers, unless I had lost one in a tragic Lemony Snicket-esque accident.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

The problem with rubrics . . .


This is in progress. I would appreciate your ideas/thoughts at any stage of this blog entry's life.

To become educated is to become an independent thinker and learner, a person who knows how to analyze, search out relevant information, investigate, reason, and discover.

To me, giving a student a writing rubric is like handing over the CliffsNotes to a novel. Don't bother about grappling with the raw voice in Catcher in the Rye or weighing through the imagery-laden scenes in Moby Dick; read the CliffsNotes; let Cliff guide how you perceive and understand this book.

In all fairness to Cliff, literature classrooms advance certain ways of seeing, but they also encourage discussions, original thinking, exploration, analysis, and discovery.

Moby Dick is more than what happened (see CliffsNotes' Chapter Summaries) and who key characters are (see CliffsNotes' Character Analyses) and the "symbolism of Queequeg’s coffin" (see CliffsNotes' Critical Essays: Major Symbols).

And creative writing--the personal essay, short story, or poem--is more than development, structure, voice/tone, style, and technical elements.

The problem with rubrics is that they promote the middle-class thinker. Most everyone--at least in the batch of contest entries I just "judged"--has ________________

The problem of the transition. On the rubric I used, low scores were given for essays with "inappropriate transitions" (no papers fit into this category); mid-level scores were given for essays with "insufficient transitions" (but the paper had to have "a sense of beginning, middle, and end); and high scores were given to well-organized paragraphs, "flowing progressively with smooth transitions."

Here's the problem. If I really judged that category by the letter, then every single--and I mean even the worst essay in the stack--would have earned high scores in that category. Yes, the paper that said, "First I am going to tell you this, then I am going to tell you that, and then I'll follow it up with that" and then matching transitions in the body of the essay was absolutely clear and even smooth. They were just predictable and boring. There was no art to them.

Okay, I know there's a category for that--on the rubric--is style. So the best

To really assess an adequate transition (or series of transitions) by rubric, we'd need an algorithm:

Back to the writing rubric.


Elementary school reflections contest
Privileges mediocrity or average-thinking / ability
. . . or as Andrew Bird says, "Can't have the cream of the crop when the cream and the crop are the same."

Transitions, in writing (in PowerPoint presentations, in films, in talks, in life), are a good thing. I won't dispute it.