Thursday, September 26, 2013

Obvious Stuff

For several years, the first rule of editing in my classroom was "Obvious stuff." I think I took this term from Nancie Atwell. At some point, I realized that what was obvious to me was not obvious to 14-year-olds, and the Obvious Stuff chart was born.

Our messy list created in class.

I think my first list years ago was longer, but this is the list we made in class together this week. The other section came up with a remarkably similar list. Later today I will rewrite this more neatly and clarify each item.

Like our "Old Rules for Commas" list, these are items that need to become automatic. Students need to be able to follow these conventions on timed writings. As an adult, they'll be expected to follow these rules in work emails. Mistakes with obvious stuff can kill a job application.

(Quick aside: One of my 8th graders asked if I follow all the conventions in text messages. I said I do, to the point of using semicolons while texting. She expressed her frustration with this. She said she hates it when people waste time with periods in text messages. Not that she's too lazy, or can't remember, but that she thinks the convention of texting should be no end punctuation, just keep writing. It's something to think about.)

For me, though, the beauty of Obvious Stuff is that it forces me to make explicit some of the things that we as teachers tend to assume that everyone should know how to do. When we were making the chart, one student suggested punctuation, and I talked her around to end punctuation. End punctuation, we all agreed, should be obvious. Commas are not.

Are there conventions in your classroom that are obvious only to you? It's something to consider.

1 comment:

  1. Nancie Atwell's methods are a staple in my room. Some of the stuff that is obvious to me is certainly not so obvious to students. Adding to your list (from Nancie Atwell also) is to avoid writing THE END at the end of your piece! I'm still working on using the capital 'I' for I in my room. Some students haven't yet really grasped the essentials of a sentence despite my lessons on subject and predicate. Obvious stuff has been taught, but needs to be retaught often it seems.