I had a consultation this afternoon with a student who had written a vivid and pretty poignant story of a childhood memory (when her father, who had a habit of not falling through with his promises, finally came through at just the right time). She did a great job on her description. I can still remember her description of the food they ate (her father took her out to dinner).
We met for about 45 minutes — mainly on minor punctuation problems and a few awkward sentences — but the last 15 minutes was the kind of after-consultation chatting that I particularly enjoy. I think she enjoyed it, too, and hopefully we’ll see her more in the center (this was her first time in the center). I already wrote briefly in a previous post about my reactions to some things she said about meth and how it affects our dopamine levels. But I also wanted to make a note to myself something she said about a punctuation game that her instructor had her class play.
I’d asked her if she was enjoying her English 075 class, and she said the instructor made it really fun a lot of the time. One day they’d split into teams and played a game with punctuation patterns. The teams would be assigned to come up with examples of, say, the [dependent clause] [independent clause] pattern, and the first team to come up with a correct example won a point. Then they’d move on to another punctuation pattern, and so forth. Thing is, when I asked her if she thought the game helped her in her own writing, she said, “Well, actually, I’m still not sure what an dependent or independent clause is.”
I explained it the way I usually do: I used the example of imagining someone walking up to you and saying just that one “sentence” and asking yourself if it makes sense by itself or not, and how there’s a waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop sensation when the statement is dependent. She seemed to get that. I also told her my little explanation about how commas are the workhorse of punctuation (that that’s why most people assume the comma is capable of separating two independent clauses), but the thing to remember is that separating independent clauses is the one thing the comma can’t do. She really seemed to get that — though, it’s impossible to know if and how well she’ll be able to apply my little spiel to her writing. But maybe the combination of the in-class game and my explanation will do the trick.
Anyway, I’m wondering if another way to do it would be to play the games — pretty much the same way — but to have the students find examples in their own papers. That’s the hard part, obviously — getting the abstract concepts to sink into the fibers of their own papers.