Since the snow in Kentucky has granted me a five-day weekend, I've been curled up with many student essay drafts, spilling out the remnants of four pens (two black, one blue, one red) onto their pages. As I'm commenting, I try to keep a notepad or laptop next to me so that I can capture (a) positive or negative examples (transitions, use of evidence, passive voice) for later student instruction and (b) unintentionally funny mistakes for my own enjoyment.
I suspect many English teachers keep such a list, and I'll share a few of my favorites (these are students from long ago, and they are all in their early thirties now). What we called "error analysis" in my old life in software development should illuminate these examples:
The "I've never written that word before" Error
If you are not well-read, it is easy to have a word in your vocabulary that you know only as a sound associated with a concept. Having never seen it in print, you must improvise.
- I had never before been asked to serve as a paw bearer.
The rain lashed down on the mourners, bowed and whimpering at the sight of the huge paw being borne into the small, country church.
- These students from different religions can help their fellow pears understand all cultures and feel more of a community with all people.
Though they try to hide it with their parochialistic bluster, Pears--all to often--feel so alone.
- Mr. Webber has been found guilty of many Mister Meaner crimes.
No commentary necessary.
The Spell Check Error
For those of us who remember the days before it was ubiquitous, spell check is a godsend. But like any great power, it requires great responsibility and caution in its use.
- The purpose of the KIRAS state assessments is to ovulate students and schools.
This effort from a college student. Thank God those tests were eliminated before I started teaching high school.
- In a multicultural cirrocumuli, students are given the opportunity to study such greets as Maya Angelo, W.E.B. Dubious, and William Falconer
This is really a treasure.
Falconer has always been my favorite author, but I'm not sure why a high altitude, billowy cloud of multiculturalism would be required to read the utterly WASPish literary giant. Nor is it clear how a cultural diversity-endorsing mass of water vapor would promote Mrs. Angelo -- with whom I'm not familiar.
Less confusing is said cloud's desire to advocate the work of Mr. Dubious, who found time amidst his busy career as a supervillain to be a momentous figure in the civil rights movement in the early 20th century. He was truly one of the greets.
I'm headed back to the piles of papers, so the list may grow yet.