Teach students sketchnoting to help them remember

Ever hear of sketchnoting?  It’s a way of taking notes which is part words and part pictures, arrows, colors, and any other kind of graphics that help students remember what they are learning.  According to a 2018 study,* students who used sketchnoting were almost twice as likely to remember compared to students who wrote words only.

 Suppose a teacher is explaining the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  Here is a sketchnote  of important facts to remember.   Notice how sketchnoting takes advantage of a student’s visual learning skills and in this case, artistic learning skills.

For more about sketchnoting, go to https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-and-why-introduce-visual-note-taking-your-students?utm_content=linkpos1&utm_campaign=weekly-2021-04-14&utm_source=edu-legacy&utm_medium=email 

*The Surprisingly Powerful Influence of Drawing on Memory by Myra A. Fernandes, Jeffrey D. Wammes, Melissa E. Meade.  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963721418755385

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neopronouns–what are they?

Today I heard a grammar term I have never heard before:  neopronoun.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, you might want to continue reading, because you will be hearing the term “neopronoun” in the future.student thinking about what to write

A neopronoun is a word created to serve as a pronoun without disclosing the gender of the person identified by the pronoun.

Take this sentence, for example.  “Chris ate dinner.”  Now suppose Chris is male.  To replace Chris with a pronoun, you could say, “He ate dinner.”  Or if Chris is female, “She ate dinner.”  But if Chris doesn’t want you to identify Chris as male or female, you could say, “They ate dinner,” or “It ate dinner.”  Or you could use a made-up word to mean a non-gender pronoun such as “Ze ate dinner,” or “Xe ate dinner,” or “Ey ate dinner.”  These made-up words—ze, xe, and ey, for example—are neopronouns.

Ze, Xe and Ey are subject pronouns.  But these and other neopronouns have object forms such as ze/zir/zirself, fae/faer/faerself, and innit/innits/innitself.  If you are wondering how to pronounce these new words, anything goes, at least for now.  With time, some of these neopronouns will stick and become part of our language while others will be quaint relics of our past.  Those that stick will develop standard pronunciations. 

These pronouns are being used by some transgender people (especially young people) to refer to themselves.  If I understand correctly, one transgender person might use one set of pronouns, and another transgender person might use a different set of pronouns. 

Related to neopronouns is the title Mx. (with or without the period and pronounced as “mix”).  You use it as a title for a person who does not want to be identified as male or female, or for a person who considers itself/themselves/xeself? non-binary.  This term dates back to the 1970s and has been included in some recently published dictionaries.

And what is non-binary?  People who identify as not exclusively male or female refer to zirselves as nonbinary.

If all this seems strange to you, I can remember when the title “Ms” was introduced in the 1970s.  What a hullaballoo it created.  Now, it’s as accepted as Mr., Mrs., and Miss.  Soon, perhaps ze or innit will be that acceptable, too.

Rules Hemingway wrote by

Did you watch the new PBS documentary on Ernest Hemingway which premiered on Monday?  If so, you heard Hemingway say “the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing” came from the Kansas City Star stylebook. He reported for the Star 1917 to 1918.

Detective with a magnifying glass inspecting a newspaper.Here are some of those rules:

  • Use short sentences.
  • Use short first paragraphs.
  • Use vigorous English.  [Use active verbs.]
  • Be positive, not negative.
  • Never use old slang.  Slang, to be enjoyable, must be fresh.
  • Watch your sequence of tenses.  [Be consistent.]
  • Don’t split verbs.  [Put adverbs before a verb phrase.]
  • Be careful of the word “also.”  “Also” modifies the word it follows, not the word it precedes.
  • Be careful of the word “only.”  “He only had $10” means that he alone had $10.  “He had only $10” means $10 was all the cash he had.
  • Don’t split infinitives.
  • Avoid using adjectives, especially extravagant ones.
  • Use “none is,” not “none are.”
  • Animals should be referred to with the neuter gender unless the animal is a pet with a name.
  • Break into a long direct quote early in the quote to identify the speaker.
  • Avoid expressions from a foreign language.
  • Collective nouns take singular verbs.

Jane Austen’s naming style

We writers can learn to compose better by reading the work of recognized authors.  One of my favorites is Jane Austen.  Lately I’ve been thinking about the names Austen uses, and what I can learn about naming my own fictional characters from her novels.

Austen (1775-1816), chooses names from common English first names for her main male characters such as Charles Bingley (Pride and Prejudice), Charles Musgrove Sr. and Jr. and Charles Hayter (Persuasion); John Dashwood, Sir John Middleton, and John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility) and John Knightly (Emma); William Collins, Sir William Lucas, and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) and William Elliot (Persuasion); and George Wickham (Pride and Prejudice) and George Knightly (Emma).

Similarly, Austen reuses common names of women for important characters:  Elizabeth Elliot (Persuasion) and Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice); Mary Elliot Musgrove (Persuasion), Mary Parker (Sanditon), Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility), and Mary Bennett (Pride and Prejudice); Kitty Bennett and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Pride and Prejudice); Jane Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) and Jane Fairfax (Emma); Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice) and Charlotte Heywood (Sanditon); Georgiana Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) and Georgiana Lamb (Sanditon); Anne Taylor Weston (Emma) and Anne Elliot (Persuasion).

Why does Austen repeat the same names when so many others exist?  Tradition is one reason.  Austen writes about “three or four families in a country village” where traditional values are shown by fathers passing down names to their sons and mothers to their daughters.  Names hold communities together. 

(I am reminded of the naming tradition in the Irish hamlets my grandparents came from.  Children would be known by their own first name as well as their father’s and grandfather’s names.  I would have been known as Kathy Tommy Johnny.)

Love of family is another reason Austen repeats names of characters within a family.  Isabella Knightly (Emma) names her children Henry (after her father), John (after her husband), Bella (perhaps after her mother), Emma (after her sister), and George (after her brother-in-law).  Characters’ respect for the royal family is another reason for choosing names.  Many men in Austen’s books are named George. (George I, George II, and George III all served as kings in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when Austen was writing.)

Sometimes Austen shows who the outliers are in her books by giving them unusual names, such as Augusta Elton.  Women of fashion are named newer names such as Louisa, Caroline and Lydia.

Almost none of Austen’s characters are known by nicknames.  Elizabeth Bennett (Lizzy, Eliza) and her sister, Kitty, are exceptions.  The novels come from a time when people addressed each other by their family names (Mr. Collins, Mrs. Dashwood) or by their titles (Sir William, Lady Catherine).  In a culture of such formality, nicknames were used only at home, and not always then.

In the months before her death in 1816, Austen began Sanditon, a novel set in a fictitious seaside resort which was literally financed and built by characters who come from elsewhere and are not bound by tradition.  For this book, Austen breaks with the traditional names she uses in her earlier books and gives many of her characters names she hasn’t used before such as Clara, Esther, Arthur, and Sidney.  The names seem to say change.

What worked for Austen might not work for us.  But what we can learn is that none of her characters are named randomly.  The name of each character serves a purpose.

For more information see http://www.JASNA for an article in issue 19 of Persuasions by Susannah Fullerton as well as several online articles.

Offer students check lists to help them evaluate their essays

Much of my time as a tutor is spent helping students revise essays they have written.  To aid my students, I have written a check list they can use to analyze the organization of various essays.  Below is such a checklist for an informational essay.  You might find it useful too.Detective with a magnifying glass inspecting a newspaper.

[ ]  Is a thesis (an overall topic sentence for the whole essay) included at the end of the introduction (usually at the end of the first paragraph)?  

[ ]  If there is no thesis, write one.  This declarative sentence should tell the reader what you will prove in the rest of the essay.

[ ]  Is the thesis repeated or paraphrased in the subtopic sentence (usually the first sentence) of each body paragraph?

[ ]  If the thesis is not repeated in the subtopic sentences, repeat it.  Or if such a sentence is missing, write one.

[ ]  Does each subtopic sentence break down the thesis idea into reasons, examples, or parts?

[ ]  If not, identify how you are breaking down the thesis in each body paragraph. 

[ ]  Do the details in each paragraph support the subtopic sentence for that paragraph and support the thesis?  Delete those which do not.  Write details that do.

[ ]  In the introduction, do the sentences leading up to the thesis tell the reader the broad topic of your essay?  If they don’t, make them.

[ ]  In the conclusion, is the thesis broadly repeated?  It should be.

[ ]  Does the conclusion provide a satisfying ending.  It might look to the future of the thesis claim, or give an anecdote, or elaborate on one of the supporting ideas, but it should not include information that has not already been stated in the body.

I find that check lists like this one offer students independence and save me time.  Students learn to repair their essays’ shortcomings–at least some of them–without a teacher’s help.