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A blog for my academic ideas, more or less.

Student Grammar Bad

I just finished marking 55 portfolios for the first-year undergrad. English Lit. class I taught this year.

That’s 55 x 3 essays. That’s 165 essays. In < a week.

Most of the portfolios were good, showing the students had understood the course and have done well for their first year. (There was a lot of repetition between portfolios, obviously, but there you go.) Some of them were rushed and poor quality. One portfolio was absolutely outstanding.

I plan to talk a bit more about my teaching experiences at some point, but for today, I’m just going to take the cheap route and post some of the most knuckle-biting prose I came across this week.

I was posting these on my Twitter account, but I wanted a more solid record of them. There’s a slight ethical concern here for me in that it’s not particularly a nice thing to do to these students, but it’s not like I’m naming names, and there’s a larger purpose here of making sure no-one makes these mistakes again. Maybe I’ll give my students next year a link to this page, and warn them they’ll appear here next year if they mess up. (I want to use more technology in my teaching, but possibly not in such a cruel fashion.)

[I just watched the Sopranos episode at the end of season 1 where Tony thinks Melfi’s in danger, and they’re chatting about naming names, and how he is about to whack Junior but her ethics just disappear when confronted with the chaos of Tony’s world, as she doesn’t even warn him about her obligation to report a crime.]

So. Here’s the twenty-one things that drove me mad.

  1. “very unbelievable”
  2. “Heaney’s very own ‘organised violence'”
  3. “big extended comparisons”
  4. “only further cementing the idea”
  5. “its factual bulk”
  6. “a controlled state of literary uproar”
  7. “the plight of women and, in turn, homosexuals”
  8. “very ancient”
  9. [putting ‘Frankenstein’ in italics when referring to the character, not the book]
  10. [Typesetting essays in Courier]
  11. [Don’t end your essay with an exclamation point!]
  12. “the million dollar question still remains”
  13. “culturalism”
  14. “the poet has great autonomy over the English language”
  15. “the tables of equality are soon turned”
  16. “may of seemed paradoxical”
  17. “Pepe has got with three of the daughters”
  18. “‘Frankenstein’ operates on a melee of psychological levels”
  19. “extensive infusion of a melee of poetic and cultural conventions”
  20. “While I am weary of discussing the play chronologically…”
  21. “‘The House of Bernarda Alba’ is a play brimming with history”

Not all of them are grammar, I guess, but they all involve decisions about language or presentation that, academically, did my head in.


Filed under: teaching

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