Today's focus will be on improving sentence variety and word choice so that students can continue revising their argumentative research papers in the quest for essay perfection! Both of these areas have been a source of trouble to some degree or another for most of my students, so I will take time today to address them using the following question series:
At this point, I will give students two resources to help them with improving sentence structure: OWL's Strategies for Sentence Variation and the Odegaard Writing and Research Center from the University of Washington's "Using Transitions Effectively" handout, which organizes transitions by their relationship function. They will use these handouts and our discussion today to revise their papers later in the hour.
Because students will be running their papers through a readability scorer today (and then will be expected to revised based on the results), I want to make sure to prepare students for some potential problems that reckless-revising may CREATE. Without this "front-loading," students will be tempted to make changes to their papers simply to drive their numbers up instead of carefully considering legitimate ways to add to their structure's complexity (or simplicity, depending on the student).
The biggest problem I anticipate seeing will be with inappropriately added clauses. To that end, I will play the following (adorable) video about spotting and correcting dangling modifiers.
After viewing, students will take a quiz formative quiz about dangling and misplaced modifiers, and we will go over as a class any questions with which students struggled. Finally, I will share Grammarbook.com's Guide to Comma Use as a refresher for when to use commas. Since we've been over commas SO MANY TIMES, I will not devote a huge amount of time for this here, but I will make sure students have resources at their disposal to check their usage. I will also make sure that we discuss that while the Oxford comma is considered "optional" in many content areas, I still want to see them using it in their research papers to improve clarity.
After students evaluate their initial results, they need to email a screencap of their results to me. This way, I can get a better understanding of where my students are at with their revision process, and I have a record of their statistics at the beginning of the hour for comparison if need be. I have included three of these screencaps in the resources section to show numbers that are too low, about right, and too high. After emailing me their screencap, they should use the remainder of their hour to make revisions, checking to be sure that they have not inadvertently created grammar issues like comma splices, dangling modifiers, or inappropriate word usage. If they complete this activity before the end of the hour, they should resubmit their revised research paper draft to Turnitin.com's "Revision 2" assignment slot and revise for possible plagiarism and grammar errors once more.
I will also remind students that their research paper is due at the beginning of next class period for full credit, regardless of their attendance to school. My late policy will officially begin after we submit them as a class, with all papers turned in before midnight graded as a B-maximum, the next day before midnight a C-maximum, and the following day before midnight a D-maximum. These due dates are firm and the policy with late work for the research paper late work was articulated way back in my classroom syllabus, so it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
Between this class period and next, I will plan on being next to my computer and at school for extended periods of time to help students who have just realized that this thing is ACTUALLY DUE get their papers where they want them. I will also send out a mass email to all parents that the due date has officially arrived, so they should be seeing their children working on this project or at least asking their children about it between this class period and next.