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15 October 2004: Missing the Point (3 of 5)

As it is with spoken language, so it is with written language conventions. When teachers correct student writing the way my grandmother corrected my mother in the previous anecdote, it is easy to comply.

Parroting is easy enough for even the smallest of children, and adding a capital or changing the spelling of there to their requires no thought at all, because the red (or purple pen) doesn't ask why the change is necessary. Like my mother's insistence that a washcloth was a gop-gop, student errors are not the result of stubbornness or stupidity, but a lack of understanding.

So, where does this understanding come from? Will a student come to understand that all sentences begin with capitals if they see it in red enough times? Probably. Is this the most effective and efficient way to get them to understand it? I doubt it.

teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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