Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Trait: WORD CHOICE

Have you ever checked your horoscope? I imagine the answer is yes. If so, you know that there are some basic algorithms used to generate your "individual" horoscope. I would suggest that they are a little more accurate than  the possibility of a fortune in a fortune cookie coming true, yet it's all good fun. Well, there is a little meme generator called I Write Like  that's a step up from those fun algorithms, but I wouldn't bet the farm on its accuracy. It's just for fun, and this web application has a useful educational side effect...learning about writing through famous authors.

Just by entering a sample of your writing, you can be assured that your writing will be compared, using an algorithm. The author suggests that

...[c]urrently it analyzes vocabulary (use of words), number of words, commas, and semicolons in sentences, number of sentences with quotation marks and dashes (direct speech).
Your writing will be compared with a basic group of fifty authors, and you will receive a badge with ways to share your discovery with your friends and fans on your blog, Facebook, Twitter and other online networking venues.

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I was intrigued when one of my colleagues shared this web application, so I tried it. I must say that I was unfamiliar with the author that I write like: David Foster Wallace. Once I read a sample of his book, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, I understand how his Midwestern choice of words and our shared love of irony could match the "I Write Like" word choice and voice algorithm.

Others in my Personal Learning Network discovered that they wrote like Stephen King, Vladimir Nabakov, Cory Doctorow, as well as Dan Brown.

Some tried a variety of writing samples, and their results were often different. That's where the fun comes into play. It was fun to see which author would be selected using the I Write Like algorithm, and I think your students would think it's fun also. What's even more interesting is that you might just spark a student's interest in learning about various authors.

The I Write Like meme was created by the founder of Coding Robots, Dmitry Chestnykh, who shares basic information about this meme generator, as he expands the number of authors. If you have suggestions, please send them to him at Coding Robots,
a small friendly team of software developers founded in 2002. Our mission is to bring more fun to this world by producing handsome and handy pieces of software.
This meme generator is going viral, so watch for its exponential growth and development. It was released less than a week ago, and people are already interviewing the author, trying to find out the "secret" to the algorithm. Others just never heard that saying, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth!". They are complaining about such things as the few number of women authors and the variability of the algorithm. If you want to know more, read Dmitry's blog and the comments for the entire story. He would like your comments, as he is planning to add more authors and features.

I would use the I Write Like web application to teach the concepts of Word Choice and Voice using the Six Traits of Writing analytic process and famous authors.

Here are some other Tuesday Trait and Six Traits of Writing articles you may be interested in reading:

Monday, July 19, 2010

n2teaching: Substitutes

letter from a student by evchu.nyc
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
While I've taught more than substituted, I can tell you that substituting is the hardest type of teaching to accomplish. If you plan to truly work effectively as a substitute, here are some ideas that you might want to consider.

The teacher who works diligently to have good lesson plans, deserves a substitute that will effectively use them with the class.

If the teacher leaves good notes, the substitute should leave good notes about what happened through the day.

The substitute stands in for the teacher, and their best philosophy is to help the teacher as well as possible.

Not all substitutes or teachers are equal, so these high expectations may not be implemented by them. Those teachers who have high expectations for the substitute working in their classroom, should request and receive a substitute who agrees with their high standards.

This has always been an important topic, yet it is always helpful to discuss our beliefs about the need and use of effective substitutes.