11 Words to Strike from Student Writing, Literary Analysis Writing, High School Teacher Vlog

if you were in love with somebody who was stealing from you and making you look dumb I would tell you because I care about you along the same lines there are 11 words that are robbing the power from our students writing and it’s time to break up with those words [Applause] [Music] everyone today we were talking about literary analysis writing and the 11 words that I cautioned my freshmen are just no good for them is time to break up dump these words all right before I get into my list of 11 words just a heads up if you’re a middle school teacher you can let the love affair linger for your kids because that’s developmentally where they are but these are materials I use with my high school freshmen and the power of their writing voice is immediately tripled when they dump these words here we go all right guys let’s break down the 11 words that are stealing all the power from our students voice sorry first up first person pronouns I me my if you’ve graded essays for more than five minutes of course you’ve come across these the kids use them as filler because basically they don’t know how to start their sentences and so they’ll give us things like in my experience I’ve learned that or in my opinion I believe that the author might have been saying you know and if they can just boil away the first-person pronouns the sentences automatically double in power so instead of things like I believe the author intends I teach them to strike the beginning and just give me things like the author intends now a little warning here not all first-person pronouns are heinous some of them like we and us actually can smoothly flow into one of these literary analysis essays and and do a nice job but it’s tricky because if you overuse it then it becomes a distraction and it loses its power but I tell my kids if once in an entire essay they use the word we that’s probably gonna be okay it’s better if they can avoid it altogether but sometimes they’ll get into the sticky sentence usually in a concluding paragraph or they want to tuck it in and honestly it can work so I give them sort of the yellow light for we and us but I me and my those are outlawed they are not allowed to appear in student writing all right our next two words are the second person pronouns you and your you and your just make our kids sound like fourth graders and I have ninth graders I want them to sound like young adults I don’t want them to sound like little kids and addressing the reader directly with second person pronouns is a surefire way to make you sound young and that’s not what we want in formal essay writing so I have them like look at the example by the end of this story you discover that and you could just say in the end the reader discovers and when I show them this my kids can feel the weight of it it’s better and so they see the models and they’re like okay so I have them in their drafts circle any time they use you and you’re and they’re gonna have to revise that using third-person pronouns or the antecedents so he/she they or you know give me people or the audience or teenagers or whatever it is that they’re or whomever it is they’re referring to all right next up would and could these are Fantasyland words so we’ll get deep into a body paragraph and the kid is not sure what to do for analysis like my kids are really good at finding quotes meaty quotes but then what do they want to say about them and hopefully in a future video I can dig into that but would and could get them into trouble because instead of analyzing what actually did happen they go into this like strange alternative universe and they give me things like if the narrator would have shown more bravery then he could have blah blah blah and I’m like wait he didn’t show very very he’s a coward so let’s analyze that like stay right there and analyze that thing instead of going into lala land so it’s it’s a way to get them focused and also starting a sentence with if is also pretty troublesome but that’s a I guess an issue for another day just let’s get rid of wouldn’t could for now and instead of using like fluffy filler sentences like the second one I have here one of many possible messages that the reader could discover is that oh my gosh how bloated is that just say the reader discovers and get on with it so let’s get rid of the filler let’s get it rid of you know lala land and let’s actually analyze what truly happen in the story all right our eighth outlawed word is should basically they sound like teenage dr. Phil giving advice it’s very preachy it’s got this what the character should have done is this or he could fix it if he would do this others would so I have holden caulfield obviously that kid needs some advice but let’s not give it to him instead let’s analyze what the characters actually doing instead of giving a sermon or you know dr. Phil know-it-all advice a warning sign here I give you a yellow light on this one some of my really savvy writers they’ll they’ll violate the spirit of banishing should by being clever and using the word needs to the character needs to realize but that’s just the same problem as before and then sometimes they’ll do it with must the character must and then here’s the crazy thing sometimes it works so it’s just so tricky I just basically tell my kids avoid should and if I can switch out whatever word you’re using what should I’m probably gonna ding you on that too because you’re not giving deep analysis of what did happen you’re advising so don’t turn into psychotherapists all right words 9 and 10 are may and might just because they’re so wishy-washy this just screams of insecurity in the writers voice when they’re using may or might the author might be trying to say that no the author’s saying or the author declares the author believes it is clear the author believes you know and just get into it so don’t backpedal and I feel like may in my are the sort of wimpy wimpy wimpy words that our kids default to an exception here obviously I’m talking about might as a verb not might as a noun some of my freshmen get a little hung up on on that so I’m like just be clear I’m talking about the verb form alright and my last word what do you think it is my last outloud word hmm could be so many it’s how what that’s weird it actually makes sense because how is is setting up a sentence structure that’s pretty lazy and not doing what the writers job is so my kids often give me sentences like the writer shows how it is to lose a spouse but really it’s it how is it to lose a spouse I mean that’s always my question right like the narrator explains how it feels to be a teen I’m like how is it feel to be a teen like what is that so instead I want them to do the actual work do the writing so instead of the narrator explains how it feels to be a teen the narrator helps the reader feel the fear and uncertainty that fog the typical teens mind oh well that’s much more specific now I see what the narrator is trying to get at whereas before I was left to do the work and fill in those mental blanks and that’s not fair so as the writer of the essay our students have to do the heavy lifting so the reader doesn’t have to alright so those are my eleven words now you might have pet peeve words like very and really and I am I’m right there with you like those words got to go but these eleven if they can fix these suddenly the structure of their thought pattern is strengthened as well so that’s why I focus on these eleven and then I deal with the others later all right so after I’ve given them this lecture of the eleven words and they’ve written them down in their notes then I have an exercise that I do for reinforcement so this is not a slide this one is actually the handout and if you click down in the description you could have all this stuff there’s a link to follow for you to download it excuse me so this is the power of words which is the practice round so I’ll give them this handout and they can either do it solo you could give it to the kids as homework I usually have my kids do it in teams of two and they’re going and I tell them that these are eight sentences that kids in previous years have written in papers that I’ve grabbed and they’re gonna revise that’s a white lie these are actually sentences inspired by former students work but I wrote these sentences just to kind of focus the issue but it doesn’t matter they’re gonna revise so they’ll do the work they circle the a load word and then they give a revision and then the real interesting part of this lesson happens after this so it might be same day if you have a block schedule and you’ve got the time or it’s often the next day as they have their homework with them they finished it or you know pull out the power of words that you finished up yesterday and let’s talk about it so then I’ll take a couple of the sentences and I’ll project the original sentence up there with the outlawed words in red and then I asked a student volunteer to come up and write their revised version and then the student volunteer writes the fresh sentence up there and then we talk about is it better than the original why what’s improved we really discuss it and pick into it and then we say is there a way to strengthen the student volunteers sentence and we’ll do a little revision round as a full class up there and then I’ll show them one possible you know revision that I wrote that you know we can compare and oftentimes the student volunteer essays and the ones that we’ve massaged does a class or better than my revision my suggestion so I have in the slide packet to yield download I have this along with the white space in the middle for your student volunteers to write their revisions up there I did it for all eight I probably wouldn’t do all eight with my class three gets the job done you could just ask them you know do we want to pick which three sentences we’re gonna look at and then you’ll have the slides here for them for that alright so those are the slides you can download and then you know feel free to add more words to this as though year goes along but the 11 words are a pretty good starting spot the only exception of course is if our kids want to use a slice of text that has some of those outlawed words and it they are welcome to do that as they’re placing concrete details into their body paragraphs the authors that we study are allowed to use these no good words but my kids when they’re analyzing them are not so I sort of equate it to breaking up with that former flame you know that one that was comforting but just bad for you you will grow so much in your personal power and your voice on the page when you say bye-bye to these words that are not doing you any favors at all I hope this is a helpful concrete tool hey have your kids try to rewrite a couple of these sentences and see if they aren’t impressed with how much older and wiser they sound on the alright that’s it for me this time you guys as always I’m begging ya liked the video subscribe to the channel spread the word tell other folks what we’re doing over here that would be great alright I’ll see you next time bye [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music]