The FIVE Minute Writing Lesson: Bad Words

As a teacher of Composition 101, I have attempted to take the lean approach to teaching writing.  What this means to me is that in my early years of teaching Composition 101, I made the mistake of reviewing the various parts of speech, drilling the various comma rules, and testing on active versus passive voices in writing.  Yes, as you are yawning right now, you can only imagine what my students were doing . . .  anything but improving their writing.  So, without a doubt, age and practice comes wisdom.  Thus, on the first day of class of the semester after skimming over the syllabus, the signing of a contract (to assure understanding of the syllabus), and the fondling of required texts, I ask students to retrieve a piece of “scratch” paper.  As if a grade school spelling exam, I have the students write the following words which I recite:

a contraction of his/her choosing

Then, I direct students to crumble up their papers and throw them in the trash can on their way out of class in the hopes they will eliminate these vocabulary choices from their formal writing with the exception of using kid to refer to a “baby goat” and old to refer to “dilapidated” or “geriatric,” but not “former.”

Thus, in my imagined utopia of specific, descriptive writing, a student would use . . .

I handed her the utensil.  
I got her the utensil.

He is striking when he wears his black jacket.
He is very striking when he wears his black jacket.

I need to call Erma, gather my research articles, and pick up Sam before tonight.
There are many things I need to do before tonight.
We enjoy swimming laps together.
We enjoy having fun together.
I ran into my former roommate at the mall.
I ran into my old roommate at the mall.
My friend’s younger sister is competing this weekend.
My friend’s kid sister is competing this weekend.
We read a suspenseful short story from an eco-horror anthology.
We read a good story.
I cannot make it to the meeting on time.
I can’t make it to the meeting on time.

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