Archive for the 'Tips and Tricks' Category

Give Your Writing A Dash—of Creativity

writing-675083_960_720By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Earlier today, a student raised his hand and said, “You commented on my paper that I should be using the dash, but I’m actually using a hyphen. But I don’t know how to make the dash.”

I said, “I know Google Docs is not set up to make it, so you will need to modify your settings so you can turn – into — .”

Although an en (word-space-hyphen-space-word) dash and em (word-hyphen-hyphen-word) dash are automatically created in Word, they’re not in Google Docs (where my students craft and submit drafts). At this point, I paused class and asked each student to set up the em dash on his or her Google Doc preferences.

A student Googled how to do this. He said, “Go to tools, then preferences, then add the two hyphens in the left column that says ‘replace’ and paste the em dash into the right side that says ‘with’.”

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To paste the em dash, students went to “insert” and then “special characters” and typed “em dash” where it says “search.” This allowed them to copy and paste the em dash into the “with” column. I told students they could also paste the em dash from a different document or from a website that used the dash. I reminded students they needed to select “save” in order for the changes to update.

After updating Google Doc preferences, students went into a Google Doc, keyed in two hyphens and saw the dash automatically created. When some students couldn’t make the dash, others commented they needed to “hit the spacebar.”

One student with a Mac said she uses “shift-option-dash” to create the em dash in both Google and Word. I said, “Depending on your device, you might need a different keystroke.” I told my students to Google “How to make the em dash on [insert your device/program here]” if they still struggled to create the em or en dash on their device and/or document.

Then, I spent time reviewing the different dashes. I projected examples so the students could visually see the difference as well as the dashes and hyphen in context. I said, “The em (—) dash is the longest; en dash (–) is slightly shorter; even shorter is the hyphen (-). Remember, the dashes are different from a hyphen which connects compounded words like Wi-Fi or e-mail. And an en dash is used with numbers or dates (as in July–October 2010 or 1999–2002) while the em dash is what you’re frequently using in sentences.” Students then wrote sentences that used the em dash, en dash and the hyphen.

The em dash is what I primarily focus on in my classroom. At the beginning of each semester, my students read excerpts from On Writing Well by William Zinsser. In his “Bits & Pieces” chapter, he discusses the dash:

Somehow this invaluable tool is widely regarded as not quite proper—a bumpkin at the genteel dinner table of good English. But it has full membership and will get you out of many tight corners. The dash is used in two ways. One is to amplify or justify in the second part of the sentence a thought you stated in the first part. “We decided to keep going—it was only 100 miles more and we could get there in time for dinner.” By its very shape the dash pushes the sentence ahead and explains why they decided to keep going. The other use involves two dashes, which set apart a parenthetical thought within a longer sentence. “She told me to get in the car—she had been after me all summer to have a haircut—and we drive silently into town.” An explanatory detail that might otherwise have required a separate sentence is dispatched along the way.

My students and I discuss how and why a writer might use dashes instead of commas, parentheses, or colons. We discuss the value of varied punctuation and the effect each piece of punctuation can have on readers. And on this particular day, I reviewed the differences in the em and en dash as well as the hyphen. I am hoping this mini, impromptu lesson will inspire students to dash into drafting with a greater understanding of punctuation—and how to both make and use it correctly.

 

Autism Society of Wisconsin’s Annual Essay Competition

notebook_diary_pen_cover_page_focus_pens_style-1382680By Elizabeth Jorgensen 

For the past 13 years, the Autism Society of Wisconsin has hosted a student writing competition. According to their website, “The Annual Autism Essay Contest is a great way to facilitate a meaningful dialogue about how schools, teachers, and students can support those with autism in the classroom. The contest is designed to assist students in gaining a deeper understanding of autism and how their peers with autism experience the world.”

I encourage my students to write essays and enter this competition. This writers’ market provides students with an opportunity to research, express or reflect. Some students have written about siblings with autism; others have written about friends with autism.

Last year, one of my journalism students, Bella, interviewed an elementary school student with autism; her essay was chosen as the first place winner. This year, she did a similar interview and essay and again, her essay was selected as one of the winners.
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In addition to Bella, a student with autism in my creative writing class wrote about his own experiences. Although his essay was not recognized as a winner, one of the judges said he “had a really wonderful essay about his own experiences and what friendship looks like to him…He did a wonderful job writing a thoughtful essay.”

What I learned about my student—and about what it means to have autism—continues to resonate with me. As you likely have students with autism in your class, I wanted to share excerpts from his entry in hopes it can inspire you to understand one student’s experience:

...When I was taking a composition class, we were asked to write an introductory memoir about ourselves. I took advantage of this assignment and talked about my autism and how I cope with my differences. After completing this assignment, we were asked to read our memoir in front of the class. I believe this was one of the first times I discussed my autism to a large group and not my family or close friends…

I have a difficult time coping with change and sometimes my frustration leads to yelling and pounding. When this happens, I really cannot control it, but regret doing it minutes later. This is a big deterrent to making friends. I want everyone to help each other out when they need it most and to make the world a better place for all men and women, no matter the color of their skin, no matter their race or the religion they support, and no matter what is unique about them. I want everyone to treat others with respect and kindness…

I had an abundance of friends, yet most of them changed when they came to Arrowhead High School. From what I remember, I do not think I changed. I was shocked to see the majority of my friends, whom I knew for so long, become (sorry!) more foolish and did not appreciate their education like I do. They still are my friends today, but it was surprising at times to see them behave this way. I, though, became a more serious and hardworking student when I got to high school. I truly was worried when I started high school that I was not going to do well at all.

This characteristic of being a serious student has also affected my friendships. Most fellow students cannot relate to my personality in class of always wanting to do the right thing, being responsible at all times, and following the same process…

My autism has been an important part of me, and what I want students to know is that my brain works differently, and it affects the person I am. To help me, they will have to treat me and other people with respect because it kills me to know that bullying still exists today, and it shines in this campus. To me, it should not. I also want other students to know the same goes with homework; ignoring it just will not do. Accomplish your homework and feel proud.

I want other students to know that I am like everyone else physically, but slightly mentally different. I am glad I found out about my autism, because otherwise, I would not be where I am today.

Although autism has changed my life, it is a journey I continue to learn from. Knowing about my autism has made my life better and it defines who I am. It is still important to me to this day and I am enjoying my life so far. I will continue to enjoy it, no matter what challenges face me!

 

What Every Author Shares: Rejection

stamp-2114884_960_720By Elizabeth Jorgensen

YA author Erin Hahn (@writer_ep_hahn) tweeted, “Every author you respect was told no. Their email alert dinged and it was bad news. They entered their work into a contest and heard crickets. They cried buckets over a bad review. They felt inadequate. But they didn’t stop writing and you shouldn’t either.”

When my mom and I completed our manuscript, we submitted it to publishers, agents and editors. The rejections continue to flood my email and mailbox, forcing me to ask, Is our memoir good enough? Does it have a place in the market? Will anyone want to read it? Despite rejections, my answers remain yes, yes, yes.

In alternating voices, our memoir follows the story of my sister. It starts in 2010. Twenty-four-year old Gwen rebuffed USA Triathlon when they recruited her for a sport she never heard of. Eventually persuaded, Gwen dabbled in swim-bike-run and surprised herself with success. She quit her job as an accountant to train full time. As she pursued the Olympic dream, our family agonized over her bike crashes, her relocation abroad and her competitive losses. But, we celebrated her new skills, races won and finally Olympic gold. More than a sports tale, our memoir is an inspiring family story about one daughter’s/sister’s quest for the ultimate in sport and our family that supports her in that journey.

I envision mothers, book clubs and memoir fans delving into our family’s story. Gwen is followed by 42,000 fans on Twitter, 65,000 on Facebook and 138,000 on Instagram. Some of them must be interested in reading about the upbringing and support that led her to Olympic gold?

After seeing Hahn’s tweet, I googled “rejected manuscripts famous authors” and saw a list that included Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, Louisa May Alcott, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stephen King, Sylvia Plath. Many were told their ideas would “not sell” and “I wonder if any publisher will buy it.” I am not comparing myself to Vonnegut, Hemingway or Alcott—or have ideas of grandeur for my own manuscript—but rejection connects all writers.

One rejection letter called our manuscript “delightful” before admonishing: the book won’t sell. Another editor said we submitted “a very worthwhile submission, particularly in memoirs” but reminded us that “because of the limited number of trade and regional titles” he would have to decline.

Each rejection challenges my mom and me to keep writing, keep believing, keep working. And to keep reflecting, perfecting, polishing. Is our memoir good enough? Does it have a place in the market? Will anyone want to read it?

Yes, there’s a place for my family’s story. Women want to read about other women, uplifting, supporting, cheering each other. They want a glimpse inside an Olympian and the family that brought her to the pinnacle of sport. They want to peer inside sponsorship, agents, media tours. They want to know what it’s like to experience the Olympics, your sister/daughter the gold medal favorite.

Yes, our story has a place on library shelves, on Kindles and in book clubs. Hahn reminds me it’s okay to feel inadequate, but I have to keep believing, keep writing and keep working until I find the perfect publishing house who believes in our memoir’s story as much as we do. And that’s the message I relay to my students when they doubt themselves and ask, Is my writing good enough? Does it have a place in the market? Will anyone want to read it?

Yes. You just need to find precisely the right publisher who will believe as much as you do.

 

A +/- Approach To Assessment

grade-156087_1280by Elizabeth Jorgensen

A retired colleague entered my classroom today, grunting, his hand in the air. He’s now long-term subbing at a neighboring district. “You know what’s stupid?”

“What?” I asked.

“Rubrics. I was reading short stories and assessing them using the teacher’s rubric. Creative writing earned a four; highly creative writing earned a five. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the difference between what’s creative and what’s highly creative.”

“Yeah, that’s my problem too. Too subjective.”

He told me after his first attempt at scoring, he had a conversation with his students. “The kids, they all agreed that they didn’t know the difference between creative and highly creative either. So I told them we’d scrap that rubric and I’d score the papers differently.” He went on to remind me of his assessments: he awards positive points for everything students do well (stylistic devices, action verbs, entertaining openers) and negative points for errors (run-on sentences, incorrect punctuation, clichés).

When I started teaching thirteen years ago, he shared a favorite assignment with me. In this exercise, students told the story of three people trapped in an elevator. The students wrote in narrative format with correct indents and punctuation and the dialogue tagging rules.

He told students, “You are in charge of this story. You can add as many details as you wish. The rules of reality are also up to you. Maybe people change into sandwiches on this elevator. Whatever! The reason the elevator stalls is also up to you. But your story tells what happens on that elevator with those people. Don’t focus on people outside the elevator, like rescue squads or repairmen. Write about what the people in the elevator say and do.”

He gave students three rules: “1) No ultra-violence. No guns. No bombs. No strangling. Don’t kill off your characters. Be a more astute writer and don’t rely on death to solve your story; 2) No telling the reader what a person thinks or feels. Show us through the character’s actions or words; 3) No graphic sexual scenes!”

And then, he explained his scoring: “You will begin with 50 points and earn your grade accordingly: +3 for each piece of realistic diction used in dialogue; +3 for impressive description that is not overdone; +3 for a WOW (something funny or deep); -3 for repetitive or incorrect tags; -3 for any incorrect grammar, spelling, punctuation or indentations; -3 for inappropriateness or immaturity; and -3 for telling.”

Students, if they felt he missed something when scoring, could argue for more points. He encouraged students to score their own essays before handing them in. Finally, he gave students an example featuring Britney Spears, Elvis, and Buzz Lightyear:

Britney squealed as she twirled her kinky, blond hair and snapped her gum. “Um, like you guys, I think that, um, like, the elevator has like stopped or something. Like hit that button one more time.”

“Hey, baby, how about you and me stop at the Heartbreak Hotel after we get outta here? Priscilla won’t mind,” said an overweight man in a sequined jumpsuit, gyrating his hips so fast it shook the entire elevator.

From out of nowhere, a one-foot tall plastic space man flipped open his space helmet. “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue! This is an intergalactic emergency! Push the button, blonde girl!”

“Like I’m not a slave for you; I’m not a girl, not yet a woman. Treat me with some respect little space man or I’ll send my bodyguard after you!” she said as she applied her pink lip gloss.

And on and on…

My colleagues all grade differently. Some use rubrics; some use the four point system I outlined in an earlier blog; others use the plus and minus system my former colleague favors. No matter your method of assessment, grading challenges instructors to communicate achievement accurately and effectively. I hope your method doesn’t make you throw your hands in the air and grunt.

The Perfect Book for the Perfect Time

Claudette_Colvin

Claudette Colvin

Bill Waychunas

I was unpacking some boxes the other week and I came across a box (one of too many) that contains some of my “teaching stuff.” Every teacher has these boxes stashed somewhere, and I’ve even heard nightmare stories of former teachers finishing their careers with storage units full of these boxes. Anyways, in this particular box was a book that I used last year in my 9th grade Activism and Social Justice class called Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice written by Phillip Hoose. It’s a story about a teenage hero who’s name you probably don’t recognize. She was an African American teen living in Montgomery, Alabama, who stood up against segregation by refusing to give up a seat on a bus before Rosa Parks.

That’s right. Before Rosa. One could even argue that Claudette inspired Rosa.

As I pulled the book out of the box and flipped through the highlighted and dog-eared pages, I thought to myself about how perfectly relevant this book and this story are at this very moment in time. As we transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, here is Claudette Colvin, the perfect figure to bridge between the months as a Black woman (though she and this book are great for any month of the year). But even more striking to me is how after the rash of mass shootings which our country has recently faced, we’ve seen teens leading the charge towards justice, just as Claudette Colvin and so many other young people have done throughout history.

It might seem obvious by now: I’m recommending this book. If you are a middle school or high school social studies or ELA teacher, you need to consider using this book in your class. Heck, if you are a human being with a pulse, you should probably pick yourself up a copy. First, it’s a Newberry and National Book Award winner, so you know it’s good. Second, it’s only about 125 pages long and written in a style that lands somewhere between a narrative and non-fiction, making it the perfect length and genre for hitting those oh-so-important teaching standards.

But even more important is the way that this book speaks to students by allowing them to connect with a true story about the challenges and opportunities to make the world a better place. The discussions and writing that I saw from students when reading this book were truly incredible and even beyond the typical subjects that one would expect to arise when reading a book that takes place during the Civil Rights Movement. In a quick thumbing through the book, I’m reminded of following topics which either students were able to connect to in this story or that I was able to provide supplemental materials to deepen understanding: school inequity, the criminal justice system, confronting stereotypes about light skin and dark skin African Americans, debating the straightening of hair vs. natural African hairstyles, teachers as activists, diversity in the teaching force, “hidden figures” of the Civil Rights Movement beyond MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks, sex education, adoption, and–most importantly–the difficult individual choices that we all make in pushing our world towards or away from justice.

I’m honestly disappointed that I’m not sharing in that experience with a new group of kiddos this year. But maybe after reading this, I’ve convinced a few more people to give the Claudette Colvin story a read and hopefully get it into the hands of more young people.

 

Supervisors and Supervisees: Advice from an Alumna

We caught up with CECP alum, Jaimie Hauch, to see how her career post-Marquette has been going!

Can you tell us a little about yourself? What’s your title, brief job description, academic background?

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I wear many hats at my current job. I am an individual provider (certified to work with both the mental health and substance abuse population), oversee our Intensive Outpatient Program, supervise interns, and engage in some administrative duties. I enjoy wearing many hats because no day is ever the same! I received my bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Business Management from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. Then I came to Marquette where I received my master’s in Community Counseling.

 

How did your time at Marquette prepare you for your career? Were your expectations on target based on your experiences?

My time at Marquette provided me with a solid foundation to build my practice and career on.

How does your experience as a supervisor differ from your time as a supervisee? Does it affect your interactions with other co-workers?

It is very different being on the supervisor side vs. supervisee side, but I enjoy it. I feel my time as a supervisee has helped me grow into the supervisor that I am. I took away things that I enjoyed from my experiences as a supervisee and changed the things that I did not find helpful or found frustrating as a supervisee. For me personally, my role as a supervisor does not impact my interactions with my co-workers and I am grateful for that as I know it can be a difficult area for people. I have been blessed with a great team at West Grove Clinic and they all support me as a supervisor, which is great! I love knowing that if I need assistance, am having a hard day, or want to share accomplishments as a supervisor, I have co-workers that I can turn to for support.

What is your favorite Marquette memory?

My absolute favorite memory is getting to see Sara Bareilles in concert at Marquette.

What recommendations do you have for students and/or professionals supervising students?

For supervisors to remember their own experiences and to incorporate what they liked and to change what they didn’t like about their supervision experience. Additionally, to give constructive feedback – so share areas for the supervisee to improve on, but also high light their accomplishments. When the supervisee only hears poor feedback, I believe it reflects in their work. For supervisees – utilize the supervision time you are given and to come prepared to learn and have questions. To a certain extent, you get to make your supervision experience what you want it to be. So, if you are not actively engaged in your supervision, you likely are going to walk away from the supervision experience feeling a lack of fulfillment.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology program by visiting us online!

Students Explore Ideas, Make a Difference and Win Money in Teen Ink’s “If I Were Mayor…” Competition

LJ 1By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Teen Ink is a monthly teen magazine with over a half million readers. In addition to publishing student work online, Teen Ink also prints a monthly subscription magazine.

According to their website, Teen Ink is “devoted entirely to teenage writing, art, photos, and forums. For over 25 years, Teen Ink has offered teens the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on issues that affect their lives—everything from love and family to school, current events, and self-esteem. Hundreds of thousands of students, aged 13-19, have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 55,000 teens since 1989. Distributed through classrooms by English and Art teachers, and available in libraries nationwide, Teen Ink magazine offers some of the most thoughtful and creative work generated by teens today. We have no staff writers or artists; we depend completely on submissions from teenagers around the world for our content. Teen Ink has the largest distribution of any publication of its kind.”

In addition to publishing student work, they host writing competitions.

During the fall of 2017, Teen Ink editors asked students to compose an essay on this topic: “If I Were Mayor of My Town…” Students, in an essay of 1,000 words or less, wrote about which issues they would address and why. The winner, according to Teen Ink, would receive not only publication, but also $500 and the opportunity to interview Congressional candidate David Kim; $100 would be awarded to the second and third place winners; and seven honorable mentions would be recognized.

The deadline to submit essays was November 30th, 2017. And then, in the January 2018 issue, five student essays were published. One of my students, senior Cole Siepmann, was published. You can read his essay here. Readers were asked to vote for their favorite essay—with the winners and honorable mentions to be announced at a later date.

I want my creative writing students to engage in purposeful writing assignments. In this particular contest, I encouraged my students to first educate themselves on local government. We discussed the mayor’s role and read about famous mayors. In class, we spent time looking at the Waukesha County’s Mayor website. Students learned about what the mayor can and can’t do and made plans for what they would do in that role. As a class, we discussed how each student could use his or her passions to craft a successful essay.

I enjoyed hearing about what each student would change if they were mayor and I was impressed with my students’ ideas and passions. Each student had something to say—and something they wanted to contribute to their community. In addition to writing about their passions, the prize money and the chance at publication served as motivation for my students.

In his essay, Siepmann stated why he would be a good mayor: “I would improve the lives of Milwaukeeans by addressing the three major issues that influence our society most: drug abuse, education, and road repair.” Siepmann also stated how important the improvement of drug education is: “In addition to the drug treatment center, I will expand drug education and addiction programs in schools so children in our community know the lasting effects of drugs and addiction.” Siepmann also stated how roads are a major issue in the state of Wisconsin: “The amount of traffic in Milwaukee creates accidents, and is not what will bring our city future success. Rather than spending money on the inefficient and impractical trolley system, I will focus on decreasing traffic, making our roads safer, and making travel in and out of Milwaukee easier.

I am eagerly awaiting the contests results and even if Cole (or any other student of mine) doesn’t win, I am proud of his accomplishment.


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