Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Commas, commas, and more commas

We've been scoring the Grades 3-8 ELA assessments for the past two weeks and are finally down to the final two days - if the weather doesn't jinx us for the third time this year!! Seeing the continuum of student writing across these grade levels has been very eye opening and has me thinking quite a bit about the recent conversations around handwriting as well.

Some random writing thoughts from scoring:

(1)The students seem to be writing more than in previous years - which I think is a very good thing!! While they are not always on the right track - they are making great attempts at all grade levels to include more details, provide topic sentences (even for the shorter answers), and connect their thoughts to the reading/listening passages.

(2)Our districts have done a great job in mixing up the teachers at scoring this year. They are not just sending teachers from the grade level that we are scoring, but teachers from the grade before and/or the grade after. This has really opened some eyes and started conversations about the idea of "curricular years" we have been talking about for a while in our region.

(3)Our students are still practicing rampant homophone abuse. Whether they are changing the correct word to the wrong one in the editing passage or experimenting using every possible spelling of "their" the wrong way in an extended response, the just are using the words correctly.

(4)The ability to begin sentences with "And" or "But" still does not sit well with teachers. NYSED does not count this as a grammatical error so students cannot be penalized - but it still panics teachers. I wonder why when it seems to be present in almost everything I read - more as an element of voice than anything else.

(5)I will never, ever understand why so many commas have become optional. My issues with commas are well documented in this blog and I share them openly. I know that I abuse them, I know that I don't always use them correctly, but I do remember the rules from my high school English teacher about when they were required. Apparently, those rules are not iron-clad. Serial commas, commas before conjunctions, and commas following introductory phrases of five words or less are now optional. Huh! That must be why I put them all of the other places they shouldn't be - they are homeless!!

On that note - I'd love to hear what others are noticing as they score. And because I am feeling edgy (can you tell by how I started this sentence?) I share with you this link to a song on the Oxford comma (which according to Wikipedia is another name for the serial comma.) WARNING!! The song does contains a certain shocking curse word which may be offensive!!


Jennifer said...

Homeless commas! Bwaha! That's great. On my next walk in New York, I think I'm going to start taking cell phone pictures of the misplaces commas I see.

Jennifer said...
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