Thursday, February 21, 2008

I Was Thinking about Letting Class out Early

My students had a paper due today, and five of the fifteen of them were giving presentations. When I started class, only six people had showed up--and only two of those who were supposed to be giving presentations. I keep a few worksheets and activities on hand at all times in case my lesson plans run short, but I wasn't sure I could justify an hour of busywork. And these six students were the ones who actually showed up, so they deserved to go home early, assuming that's what they wanted.

Most of the rest of the class showed up fifteen minutes late. We did get to see all five presentations, and there were only fifteen minutes left at the end. I got up to clarify something from one of the grammar presentations (on pronoun-antecedent agreement), and next thing I know students are asking questions about semicolons. So we talk about semicolons and other ways to connect independent clauses. And then a comment about colons. By the time I briefly cover the grammar questions, we're out of time.

For those who have taught college writing, this is probably not surprising. Students want grammar. They know (or think) they struggle with it and want to be able to follow the rules. However, teaching grammar is not hip in composition circles. And of course, I'd never teach grammar at the expense of other elements of writing. I insist that one of the requirements of a good paper (not even excellent, but just good) is that it actually be interesting.

If only I could get them to pay as much attention to discussions about other issues as they pay to explanations of punctuation.

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