Language Theory Notes for 09.25.06

  • Is language encoded in DNA?
  • How much is built in?
  • Acquiring Language is different than learning.
  • Are verbal errors really errors? (We are trying to make the irregular, regular.)
  • Children don’t know how to truly speak incorrectly.
  • When there are errors that no child would make, it is assumed that these errors would break a rule of universal grammar.
  • English is not innate, but language is.
  • There are no primitive languages.
  • Language Analogy theory doesn’t work (if you know one sentence, you can produce another one like it (but only other ones like it)).
  • Language is like physical growth.
  • Children are pre-programmed with the outlines for language.
  • Children are biased learners: they take in all of the comprehensible input and build upon it.
  • First assumptions for learning language:
    • Words are always applied to the whole object
    • Each word has an exclusive meaning.
  • How does a child learn meaning?
    • Learning meaning is only done by applying a word to new concepts or objects.

But at least…

Disclaimer: The following Weekly Authentic is senseless. It has purpose only to me, and I’m still trying to figure out what that is. I share it with you only to see if you can find meaning before I get to it. I just felt like I had to say these things, that they were somehow important. I really want to know what “It” is, but I’m kind of afraid of what I might find.

It’s about speaking up without yet being spoken to.

It’s about survival.

It’s about making lists.

It’s about hoping to God that I have a few more hours.

It’s about a relentless search.

It’s about being open to something that hasn’t been dreamed of yet.

It’s about wringing out wet T-shirts.

It’s about not knowing how things will turn out and acting anyway.

It’s about running in place and getting winded.
It’s about feeling worthless.

It’s about The Glass Menagerie, West Side Story, and Waiting For Godot.

It’s about the history of all things beautiful.

It’s about crying when you recognize something.

It’s about mothers, and the absence of mothers.

It’s about wanting to wriggle away from all responsibility.

You see, I may be a fragile, murky, pedantic and obtuse, broken, fanatically supportive, fluid, wandering failure, but at least I’m not ugly.

Listen to this article Listen to this article

Isaac and Ishmael

Discussion Questions for this episode of The West Wing:

  1. What did Josh mean when he said that “they” want to kill all of us the same amount?
  2. Why does Josh’s analogy make sense: Islamic Extremists is to Islamic as KKK is to Christianity?
  3. What are the specific grievances that terrorists have against us, as Americans?
  4. What did Josh mean when he said that we live in a “Plural Society?”
  5. Why did Sam say, “terrorists always fail?”
  6. What are civil liberties and why are they important?
  7. Why does the nature of war have to change because of terrorism?
  8. What situations qualify as a breading ground for terrorism?
  9. Why is racial profiling so prevalent?
  10. Do you believe that by living our lives we actually hurt terrorists?


Core 1:

  1. Discuss-On: What do we learn about your brain (way of thinking) by reading your Stream-Of-Consciousness
  2. Read your Stream-Of-Consciousness piece to at least two other people and ask them:
    • Is this a true Stream-Of-Consciousness piece according to our definitions?
    • What do you think I am able to do with this piece that I wouldn’t be able to do with another genre?
  3. Do some Good Parts.

Core 2:

  1. Write-On: Would the poem Statistics be written differently today? How?
  2. Discuss as a class the questions you did for homework over the weekend:
    • Why does Sandburg use the words “sarcophagus” and “mausoleum” instead of “coffin” or “tomb”?
    • Why does Sandburg make a distinction between this war and earlier wars?
    • Why is the title “Statistics?”
    • Why did Sandburg write the poem?
    • How does this poem add to our discussion of change and tradition?
  3. How does the simplicity of Grass make it a more effective poem?
  4. How does the symbol of grass in this poem make a tradition out of change?

Core 3:

  1. Write-On: Do you have anything important to say?
  2. Show off my Good Part from The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan, “Writing.”
  3. Do some Good Parts.

Core 4:

  1. Reflect-and-Write-On: How successful were you at persuading someone else to do your work for you? Was there anything else you could have tried? What was the most effective means of persuasion? (If you were unable to perform your experiment this weekend, please write out how you imagine your persuasive interaction would have gone.)
  2. Share your persuasive experiences with two of your classmates. Listen for the most persuasive arguments.
  3. Which is more effective at creating social change: Verbal persuasion or Written Persuasion? Why?


Cores 1-4:

  • My musical Weekly Authentic.

Core 1:

  1. Write-On: Do a mind wandering exercise. Start with one image (A squirrel enjoying a particularly tasty nut, a baloon floating in the air, a huge crap that your dog took on the stairs that you tried to clean up last night but still smells this morning, etc). Then try to map your progression of thoughts. What images/thoughts are connected to that one. What thoughts/images are connected to the second set of thoughts, and so on. See how much you keep coming back to certain thoughts. Don’t try to guide your thinking in any sort of direction, instead just let it progress as normally as possible.
  2. Analyze the excerpt from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.
  3. What is our official definition of Stream-Of-Consciousness writing and how can we use to to better our writing in general?
  4. Create your own stream-of-consciousness writing about something that is important to you.

Core 2:

  1. Perform-On: Perform your speech for one/two other people and pick out of your pair/group who should share theirs with the class.
  2. Share the performances with the class.
  3. Discuss with a partner: How would your words change if you were a soldier in the war that the president told you to go fight? What if you were a soldier poet?
  4. Read Carl Sandburg’s poems:
  5. Discussion Questions for “Statistics”? (Discuss all of them, pick one to answer thoroughly in writing):
    • Why does Sandburg use the words “sarcophagus” and “mausoleum” instead of “coffin” or “tomb”?
    • Why does Sandburg make a distinction between this war and earlier wars?
    • Why is the title “Statistics?”
    • Why did Sandburg write the poem?
    • How does this poem add to our discussion of change and tradition?
  6. How odes grass function as a powerful central image in the poem “Grass?” What does it mean/symbolize?

Core 3:

  1. Think-On: What is your favorite part of going on a vacation/trip?
  2. Start our Trip to Essay Land.
  3. What part of this trip do you struggle with most?

Core 4:

  1. Whole-Class Discuss-On: Is it easier or harder to produce social change (a change of the mind)  than a change in someone’s actions? Why? and Is it more or less important to produce social change (a change of the mind)  than a change in someone’s actions? Why?
  2. Look at our first example of literary change and persuasion:
    1. Tom Sawyer and the Whitewash Fence
  3. Discussion Questions:
    • What was Tom’s “Magnificent inspiration?”
    • Why was Tom’s second solution so much better than his first?
    • Would you have been persuaded by Tom’s argument?
    • How does this story comment on our discussion of social change and change in action?
  4. Write a persuasive “speech” that will allow you to get out of a chore that you absolutely do not want to do this weekend.


Cores 1-4:

  1. Go over the Language Arts instructions for your SLC.
  2. Show off the new Authenticity Awards.
  3. Explore some good Building Comments:

Core 1:

  1. Discuss-On: Do we have the power to create new genres of writing? How?
  2. Distribute the Genre Master List and discuss the unknown genres.
  3. Ask for a few Good Parts.

Core 2:

  1. Discuss-On: What new insights do you have about the speeches of FDR and GWB? Compare your ideas on the Speech Analysis Form.
  2. As Moose so eloquently put it, imagine if you were the “little speech dude” in charge of writing a presidential speech after a major attack on the country.
  • What sorts of things would you be forced to consider/include?
  • What would not be able to talk about?
  • What words would you use to convey your message?
  1. Write out the first paragraph of your speech and perform it for a partner.
  2. Ask for a few Good Parts.

Core 3:

  1. Play Vocabulary Basketball with “Word Stories”.
    • Get into three/four teams.
    • I will ask you questions about a vocabulary word about synonyms, antonyms, definitions, or parts of speech. You must answer the question and give a sentence that uses the word that evokes an image. For example, “The crusty vagabond with spinach in his teeth had nothing to do, so he hurtled himself down a flight of stairs, breaking every bone in his body.”
  2. Ask for a few Good Parts.

Core 4:

  1. Compare-On: Discuss your answers to this question: “How can books, writing, and words influence social change?”
  2. Presentation of Change by self-selected group.
  3. Group Brainstorm:
    • Which words are most likely to produce social change? Why?
    • Can anyone use these words? At any time?
  4. Homework: Is it easier or harder to produce social change (a change of the mind)  than a change in someone’s actions? Why? or Is it more or less important to produce social change (a change of the mind)  than a change in someone’s actions? Why?
  5. Ask for a few Good Parts.

    Another Take on Blogging Rules

    Like Jeanne Simpson, Karl Fisch, Anne Davis, and Darren Kuropatwa before me, I decided it was important to flesh out blogging rules for my classes. I took much guidance from these four fantastic resources, but because these limits will most affect my students, I believe that they should be the ones to establish the rules. I am quite pleased with what my students came up with, but I would like to get some input from the Greater Edusphere on our rules and how they were generated.
    In order to prepare my students to fully explore classroom blogging guidelines, I started asking them some big questions.

    1. Choose one of the following to respond to in your writing (to be discussed as a whole class after 5-10 minutes of writing):
      • Why do you think that people act differently online then they do in real life?
      • How can we create a safe environment for everyone on our blogs besides setting up rules or guidelines?
      • What are the inherent risks of posting to a blog at least once a week?
    2. In groups of 2-3, explore the Discovery Blogging Rules websites and brainstorm your own rules ideas that fit into the following categories (to be used for creating our official Discovery Blogging Rules for 2006-2007):
      • Creating a blogging environment without fear (of insult, of reprisal, of dishonesty).
      • Creating a scholastic blogging environment.
      • Creating a blogging environment based upon protection (of personal information, of identity, of unique thoughts).
      • Creating a creative, non-restrictive, tolerant, and sensitive blogging environment.
    3. In groups of 2-3, write down approximately 5 Blogging rules that you think should be a part of the Discovery Blogging Rules.

    We discussed and debated the student generated rules, especially those that further explored the concepts originally outlined in the four resources mentioned above or those that were noticeably absent from those four resources. Here are our results:

    Discovery Blogging Rules
    1. I will not give out any information more personal than my first name or post pictures of myself.
    2. I will not plagiarize, instead I will expand on others’ ideas and give credit where it is due.
    3. I will use language appropriate for school.
    4. I will not insult my fellow students or their writing.
    5. I will only post pieces that I am comfortable with everyone seeing; other pieces I will keep as drafts.
    6. I will not be afraid to express my ideas, while not overgeneralizing or making derogatory/inflammatory remarks; any posts on controversial issues must be submitted to Mr. Wilkoff for consideration before they can be posted to my blog.
    7. I will use constructive/productive/purposeful criticism, supporting any idea, comment, or critique I have with evidence.
    8. I will take blogging seriously, posting only things that are meaningful and taking my time when I write.
    9. I will try to spell everything correctly.
    10. I will not use my blog posts or comments as a chat room. (No IM language.)
    11. I will not bully others in my blog posts or in my comments.
    12. I will never access another student’s account.
    13. I will be proactive in monitoring the comments that others leave on my blog, utilizing the comment blacklist if necessary.
    14. I will personalize my blog and keep my writing authentic, while taking responsibility for anything blogged in my name.
    15. I will not provoke other students in my blog posts or comments.
    16. I will use my blog as an extension of the classroom, and in doing so, I will leave anything that unsaid in the classroom unsaid on my blog.
    17. I will only post photos which are school appropriate and either uncopywrited or correctly cited.
    18. I will not spam.
    19. I will only post comments on posts that I have fully read, rather than just skimmed.
    20. I will not reveal anyone else’s identity in my comments or posts.

    Infractions of these rules will lead to the following consequences in order of severity and number of offense:

    1. Letter of apology to those offended by the infraction (individual students, one core class, or whole blogging community), warning by teacher, and editing or deletion of offending post/comment.
    2. Letter of apology to those offended by the infraction (individual students, one core class, or whole blogging community), temporary loss of blogging privileges (duration of quarter), editing or deletion of offending post/comment.
    3. Letter of apology to those offended by the infraction (individual students, one core class, or whole blogging community), permanent loss of blogging privileges (duration of school year), editing or deletion of offending post/comment.

    The process by which blog posts violating rules 3, 10, or posts of a controversial nature may be used:

      1. Students present the idea/draft for Mr. Wilkoff’s consideration.
      2. Mr. Wilkoff will either accept or reject the writing based upon its merit on a case by case basis.
      3. The student will post the piece of writing with this warning: “This piece of writing is authentic in its use of controversial language/topics.”
      4. Mr. Wilkoff will post a heading: “This blog post was accepted by Mr. Wilkoff for use as a Weekly Authentic despite its controversial nature.”

    These rules have already started to work their magic. This past week, one student violated rule #18 (spamming). The letter of apology for this infraction, which has shown me that these rules are workable, is as follows:

    Dear Mr. Wilkoff and Core 2,

    I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused you last year on blogger and nation states, and I’m sorry for what I’ve done this year. It is not a good thing to get enjoyment out of annoying people, and saying mean things to them. I didn’t realize what a bad thing I was doing until Mr. Wilkoff talked about it on Friday. I really should get a life, instead of going home and getting on the computer to annoy and spam people. Psycodude will not bug you anymore. I will stick to my real account, and only post positive, nice comments. I don’t think any of you will forgive me, and that’s ok, but I really am sorry. Well, goodbye…forever.
    Psycodude (sorry, but I don’t want people to know who I am, and you wouldn’t either!)

    I hope that my classes and I have added something to the discussion of blogging in the classroom. Please let me know if you have a better way of doing this, or if you think we have missed anything.

    Language Theory Notes for 09.18.06

    • Interesting Animal Grammar Article
    • Animals do not have the capacity for generative grammar. They are committed to the behavioral form of learning language.
    • Another article described the genetic link of stuttering.
    • Metaphor as thought. (My contribution)
    • A grammar is the derivation of understanding (not meaning, not sense) from syntactical and contextual elements.
      • The process of continuous instinctual categorization of words and contextual evidence is responsible for understanding sentences.
    • A discreet combinatorial system is the ability to take a finite amount of rules and come up with an infinite amount of combinations.
      • The meaning derived is greater than the sum of its parts.
    • The universal grammar is present in every human, but it must be activated.
    • Language = mental dictionary + universal grammar.

    Building Comment #1

    When I read this piece for the fourth and fifth time, I really got it.

    SoccerLover did a great job picking something that I could really connect to. She picked a representation of life through books that I find tantalizingly fulfilling. It did leave me with a few questions, though.

    • What do I think about it?
    • What does it mean to me?
    • Do I think this metaphor for a book is accurate or could I come up with a better one?

    Ultimately, I decided to take the challenge that I thought that this post represented.

    You read A Book.

    Its words are an inviting whisper, a nearly unspoken calling of laughter and thought. This playful friend beckons you to get lost, without a worry for finding your way back. It is Pan and his flute. It is the harmless apple in the Garden. It is a million possibilities that never really narrow down because they always reach the furthest recesses of your mind. It is the beautiful dancer that hypnotizes you until you forget that you are watching anything, you are such a part of the moment. It is the playmate that leaves you at the bottom of the gorge, with only your wits as defense. It is the bug that crawls in your ear just before you sleep and won’t let you forget that it is there, for the buzzing. It is a hopeless cause of remembrance on every page, the whole of yourself mirrored back to you, disfigured yet satisfying.