When I was a kid, I remember thinking "I'll fight you with my bare hands!" meant that your hands were strong like a bear. Anyway, my four-year-old son came up to me the other day and vowed to fight me with his bare hands and I remembered how I understood this phrase as a kid:
Be careful out there!
Spelling mistakes used to bother me a lot and get under my skin, but now I just try to see the humor in it and remind students to re-read their papers slowly. Here is my stock advice that is programmed by a macro to populate a Word comment bubble:
Please spellcheck your essay before submitting it. Try to read through your document slowly by using your finger or the eraser-side of a pencil to slow down your reading. This will help you read more slowly and catch mistakes.
Below is an old cartoon I made a couple years ago based on a typo I found in set of chess instructions. I was so tickled by the image of the shrimp's cousin scuttling across a chess board that I simply had to draw it. I tried to capture a look of defiance on the prawn's face, as if to say, "No, I'm not moving back. Haven't you read the rules?"
Still, I'm thankful for inadvertently funny spelling errors. Without them, grading would be made a little less funny (very easy to do that), and I would never think thoughts like this:
Bonus: A story about my first encounter with a prawn!
Here is an old cartoon (for me) but a new cartoon for you. I was teaching the passive voice a while back, and I had to make this point via the white board in response to a very frustrated grammar student asking, "Why can't I say, 'The soup is tasting John'?":
That's why you can't say "the soup is tasting John"! Okay, so it really looks like the soup is eating John (maybe he's a really aggressive taster?), but the point is these two sentences are not equivalent although they may seem like it to students who haven't learned how to use passive voice yet.
Students are also resistant to using it at first and will mark it wrong on a test because they learn that stative verbs cannot take a progressive form. For example, we cannot say "He is being a lawyer now" or "I am seeing a bird out the window now." This sentence ("The soup is being tasted by John") is the passive form of "John is tasting the soup." It is not the copula "is" in the progressive form.
Anyway, have a good one, and don't let any soup taste you!
This expression came up in class last week. During a complicated explanation, I asked the class to bear with me ("be patient with me"), and then I asked them what that phrase meant, and they only knew about the animal bear:
It actually comes from the meaning of the word "bear" which means "to carry." I think the idea is to carry the burden of the communication encounter (when things aren't clear, the load gets pretty heavy on the part of the listener).
Let's all bear with each other!
We're Not in Kansas Anymore, Teachers: Like It or Not, Students Use New Approaches to Writing with Sources
TL;DR: Student's new writing practices put them at risk for plagiarism, but it can be helped!
I was having my students practice paraphrasing sentences from an academic article, and so I thought I would make it really meta and have them paraphrase an article about international students paraphrasing.
Here is the paragraph they used which is from page 116 of Introna and Hayes (2011) (which happens to be a very informative article on the issues involved in using plagiarism detection software):
I took the underlined sentence and had them try to paraphrase it. Many of them didn't know the phrasal verb "draw upon" and told me the meaning was to draw and color, so in my head, I was thinking like this:
I had to explain about the old meaning of "draw," which survives in their dresser drawer (not like actually lives in there--it's an old meaning that is fossilized in "dresser drawer").
I can remember when I wrote papers in college, I used the text fragment strategy. Since this is becoming a dominant strategy used by students, rather than viciously cling to the old note card system*, I say go with it and offer these words of caution (if these steps are not followed, there is a BIG risk for accidental plagiarism):
Regarding Step 7, this is something I recommend for my ESL students. When teaching native speakers, we tell them to read the source, understand it, and then look away from the source and write what can be remembered from the gist of it. This sounds practical, but for a non-native with a less-than-native vocabulary, it may be very difficult to find other words. Many of my good students (read: conscientious and hardworking) who have plagiarized insist they did not copy and paste but that they typed every word. I like to take this at face value and assume the student is actually telling the truth. The most likely explanation (in my mind, anyway): The students have no other vocabulary to "fall back on" so to speak, so along with the idea (the gist), they get the exact wording stuck in their heads, and they cannot separate this idea from the wording. Therefore, I tell my students to stare the source text in the face and write their paraphrase below it until they can SEE that it is using different vocabulary and grammar.
Soon I will write about paraphrase strategies for ESL students since the "read it and then look away and write your summary/paraphrase" strategy does not work for non-natives.
Have a good one, and good luck out there!
*Comments on the "Note Card Method": When I was in high school, I was required to use note cards for research papers. I loved my high school English teachers, but I hated this approach. It was incredibly frustrating, time-consuming, and unnecessary. I hope no one still does this.
I encountered this one at the CMU English Language Institute's Annual Poetry Contest:
If someone says this and they are not handing you a bottle of glue, then they probably just want you to stay wherever you are and not leave.
Ray Stantz was my favorite Ghostbuster as a kid, and I never forgot that scene where he "chose" the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Just like Ray in that scene, these images just kind of pop into my head when I stop to think about certain expressions and phrases in English.
Anyway, so a week ago, as I sat down to a particularly delicious looking pizza dinner, I said, "I'm going to go to town on this pizza!" and then I stopped to think about what my ESL students might think when they hear phrases like this. This was the image that popped into my head:
I drew more comics as I thought of more English expressions, and so I decided to make a section of my website devoted to these little sketches. I hope you get a kick out of them--but not a literal one involving a foot. Gosh, these things just creep up on you. Oh man! Creeping idioms! Like Night of the Living Dead or something... Okay, I'll stop.
If you have any expressions that you think would make a funny comic, drop me a message and I might try my hand at it, so to speak (or literally).
Hi! I'm Bill.
I'm all about making English more accessible to English language learners and their teachers. Click here to learn more about me and my site.