Tuesday, October 28, 2008

They Said What? A Look at Election-Speak

I am fascinated by how technology allows us to analyze text. Besides some of the snappy tricks I have learned in using Word (where was auto-summarize when I was in graduate school?), tools like Wordle allow us to create visual representations of text in order to analyze word choice. One of the most fascinating things I have done with Wordle is to take the text of a presidential candidates speech during the primaries and put it into Wordle while working with social studies teachers.

I have officially been "one upped" by the creators at this site who have done a full scale lexical analysis of the presidential and vice-presidential debates this year. In addition to a sometimes mind-numbing analysis of the words that are used by each candidate, the following image was also shared:

I am not a huge fan of Venn diagrams in writing but I thought this was a very interesting image to share with students (please visit the site- there are many, many more!) and to have them think about what this analysis might mean in the context of persuasive speech.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dangerous Extremes

Last week, I was given a little momento from my summer writing experience. A nice purse/pocket sized copy of The Writer's Life: Insights from the Right to Write by Julia Cameron. I've decided to randomly open to a page and read when I am feeling like a little inspiration. And today, I opened to this:

"Writing is communication, yes, but that communication begins internally. The Self communicates to the writer and the writer communicates to the Self. The gist of that communication is what the writer communicates to the world. When the world is allowed to interrupt too early, the Self withdraws. Showing our writing to hostile or undiscerning readers is like lending money to people with terrible fiscal pasts. We will not be repaid as we wish. Our work will not be valued. They will respond in dangerous extremes, "brilliant" or "awful." (Long experience teaches that extremes of any kind, high or low, are dangerous to the writing process because they create self-consciousness.)"

This really hit home after a discussion this afternoon in our regional ELA forum around editing and revision strategies. The teachers were great to share ideas and questions but it made me think a great deal about when in the process we start asking students to edit or revise their work. Are we sometimes in a rush to get a "finished product" that we don't allow ideas to linger, the words to ferment and really come of age? Do we ask students to do peer editing without really having them understand what they are looking for in someone's piece of writing? Do we focus on too much when we review student writing - rather than narrowing in on one or two elements that their skills and egos can handle?

I also started thinking about how often we share our own writing with students. Not just the finished, polished piece but the evidence of our own struggle with the writing process. The notebook full of crossed-out words, arrows, and frustrated scratch-outs so deep they wear a hole in the paper. Do we share on a regular basis that writing is hard? Do we let them edit our work or suggest revisions?

I wish that I could say I was better at this - at showing that I struggle with it just as much as they do. But somehow, when I am invited into classrooms or work with teachers I am considered the expert. I need to be better at sharing my writer's notebooks and rough drafts - at saving the drafts and modeling the reflection that went into each revision. And most importantly, I need to show how we can avoid the dangerous extremes of "awful" and "brilliant" in order to really value writing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

25 Words of Wisdom - Slideshare

Thanks to all who contributed some words of wisdom for writers! As promised here is the compilation of advice!

Monday, October 13, 2008

25 Words of Wisdom

It seems lately that brevity is the soul of wit in my life. Whether it is six word novels, 140 characters on Twitter or capturing the essence of my status on Facebook, the fewer words the better. (A very poor excuse for lack of regular blogging however!!)

I've been thinking a great deal lately about how the technology tools I use change not just my relationships with people, but also how I write. I no longer feel the need to write the great American novel, or any other novel for that matter. Instead, I think about who I am writing for and which tool is the best place to capture that writing.

I am always looking for ways to have students think about their writing and I come across some pretty powerful stuff in my feeds. This is one of the most recent ones to catch my eye:

That 25 word challenge had a focus on things we see too much/too little of. I am thinking of a different 25 word challenge here: What words of wisdom do you have for writing?

Post your words in the comments section and I'll create a similar slideshare for everyone!