Grissom's Grammar and Composition

This blog is for any student writing papers for college, for current and former students in my Communications Cluster at Lindenwood University, and my students at St. Charles Community College.

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I write for myself, for the web, and for everyone who gets me. I've been on a fasting liquid diet, traveled to Europe, and raised 2 kids. And I'm directionally challenged - I get lost a lot.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Four Questions That Help You Find a Topic

Sometimes students are so anxious to start a writing assignment, they don’t take the time to choose a subject that works well for them.

It may take a few more minutes to come up with a topic you like, but that time will be more than made up in how much easier it is to write about something you care about. It's much harder to write on subjects you aren’t interested in. Here are some questions that lead to topic ideas that work.

1) What Do You Do Every Day?
Explore your daily activities for topics to write about. If your job is to wait tables at a restaurant, you are an expert in those skills. Classify the customers you wait on according to their personalities, or explain the steps the restaurant uses to fill orders quickly. List the subjects you have up close and personal knowledge of, and share your expertise in various papers.Caution: If you don't like any of these subjects, then don't use them! But consider taking a humorous angle and you might find something you want to write about.

2) What Are You Passionate About?
Make a list of all the subjects you love to think, read, and talk about. Music, comic books, reality television, animals – whatever you are passionate about. Then explore what attracts you to the subject. Do you love saltwater aquariums? Why does this topic fascinate you? Sharing what makes it appealing to you, makes the paper interesting to us.

3) What are Your Pet Peeves?
The things that annoy you in your world can be opportunities to explore the issues and come up with real solutions to make your world better. Don't offend your audience with attacks on your opposition, but calmly explain your view. Did your health insurance company refuse to pay for a family member's medical treatment? Turn your outrage into a research paper on managed care.

4) Who are You?
Among other things, I am a wife, mother, sister, granddaughter, employee, teacher, Star Trek fan, writer, reader, American, driver, sleeper, dieter, and volunteer. Focusing on issues related to any of these areas gives me several potential topics to write about. As a Star Trek fan, I could do a comparison and contrast of the old generation’s Captain Kirk to the new generation’s Captain Picard. Figure out all the labels that apply to you, and investigate connected issues that you can write about.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

5 Tips for Starting the Communications Cluster

1. Fear Not
Many of you have been out of school for years or even decades. This is not necessarily a disadvantage. You are here to learn how to write papers. So if you aren't sure how to do that, you are in exactly the right place.

2. Polish Your Skills
Some of you are already effective writers, but even the best writers can stand to review the rules once in awhile. So if you have a basic understanding of writing for college, use this class as an opportunity to make your writing even better and more polished.

3. Stock Up
You will need at least four folders: Two for turning in assignments, one for class handouts, and one for storing research paper sources/info. You will also want a notebook for notes and plenty of pens.

4. Take Notes
Part of your participation is taking notes and staying informed on deadlines and other class details. Because you are allowed to use notes on our tests, clear and comprehensive notes can be a big advantage. When you start taking notes, put the class date at the top of the page and mark important/major points with stars or underlining to help keep them organized.

5. Read the Instructions
Many of the questions you might have can be answered by the handouts you get in class. I absolutely do not mind answering questions, but why wait for a response from me on an assignment if you already have it at your fingertips in a handout?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wikipedia Controversy

Check out how some people change Wikipedia. A college student developed a program to trace who was making edits to Wikipedia pages and found some interesting facts. Lots of companies, news organizations, and even politicians alter their pages so they're more favorable to them.

Shocker, right?

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Jennifer's poem and link to Ballad of Birmingham Song

Poetry can provide tremendous catharsis. This is Jennifer's tribute to her mother, who died several years ago. I like the detail she includes about her mom loving the Cardinals. It helps bring her to life for those of us who didn't know her like Jennifer did.

Her oral presentation was on the Ballad of Birmingham, and she sent me a link to the poem set to music. It has a great mournful blues quality to it.

My Mom

Whenever I think of her I feel like I want to cry
Then something tells me to look at the sky
I catch my self-asking why, why why
Did she ever have to die?

I know the Lord will never let me down
I miss her so much I wear a solid frown
I catch myself envious of others
How they have and can see their Mothers

I think it’s not right it wasn’t time
I couldn’t have lost this Mother of mine
We had so much to do, so much to see
She needs to be here with me!!

I love her so much
Who I am I going to call
I will miss her sweet touch
Who will catch me when I fall?

Am I angry? Am I upset?
My answer to this is “You Bet”
Why is this you say she is up there?
She should be here, I don’t care!!!!

She should be with my daughter
Her very best friend
The one she tried to protect
To the end

She should be at her graduation
Her wedding day
My daughter should be able to hear her say
“I love you”.

She was always there for you
Whenever needed she would be there
No matter what she loved you
Offering you advice, love, protection and care

She was more than a Mom
She was a true best friend
She cared more for others
Even down to the End

She was always a mom not a Mother
She was always Grandma not Grandmother
She wore a smile every day
She loved to watch the Cardinals play

Her heart was always full of love
Her mind was sharp as a tack
She was always kind and would never turn her back

I know she is in heaven looking down
She is probably telling me
“Stop wearing that frown!”
You should be happy for me
There are no more tears,
No more pain,
Whenever you need me I will be here
For I am with you everyday
When you need me just pray!

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Madison's Poem

I love Madison's whimsical poem on those thousand and one questions kids can think up about imagination. He contrasts it nicely with a grown up's perspective later. He uses rhyming couplets to pull it all together.

As a child there were suggestions
So growing up I had some questions

Were there really Alligators under my bed?
Or monsters in the closet like my sister said?

Did the Boogie Man come out at night?
And was he really such a horrible sight?

Did Mom have eyes in the back of her head?
Well that’s what Dad and Grandma said.

How did they know that I was lying?
Did they really have those people spying?

Are Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter real?
Or just an excuse for a Holiday Meal

Now I know there’s nothing under my bed
The monsters in the closet are all in my head

And the Boogie man, there’s no such thing
They knew I was lying ‘cause they had a feeling

The eyes in the back of Moms head are still there
They must be covered up by her hair

Are Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter real?
Who cares, its an excuse for a Holiday Meal

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This week we will take our final exam for Literature. You are still allowed your book or your notes, so be sure to bring them to class.

Test Review
1. Be able to explain the elements of short fiction in detail.

2. Be able to extensively explain three ways poets construct their poems. (Information is in the chapter on a poet's means) Give examples.

3. Know the elements of drama and how drama differs from short fiction and poetry.

All papers must be turned in the last class unless you have an approved incomplete.

Students who have revised failing papers should include the first paper graded and a note on the changes that have been made.Bring a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want your papers back after class concludes. Put your address as the return address on the envelope.


How Poetry is Put Together - The Poet's Means

Rhyme:Perfect Rhyme is what everyone is most familiar with - most of the word sound the same: moon and June, sigh and cry

Eye Rhyme is when two worlds look like they should rhyme - but don't, like "tough" and "though." The lack of rhyme gets the reader's attention and makes him or her play closer attention to the rhythm/meaning.

Slant Rhyme is when only part of the words sound similar. Like in the Stevie Smith poem "Not Waving, but Drowning. The -ing sound is repeated throughout.

Masculine Rhyme is when words rhyme on the strong syllable of the world, like "stay" and "away" These rhyme on the strongest produced sound in the word.

Feminine Rhyme is, of course, the opposite. The words rhyme on the weaker sound, like "thunder" and "wonder."

Sound Repetitions:
Alliteration - This is when consonant sound are repeated in various words. Initial alliteration means all the consonant sounds are the first letter of the words, like in a tongue twister - Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers. The "P" sound is repeated.

Assonance - This means vowel sounds are repeated, like the "o" sound in "The Fog".

Figurative Language:
Metaphors - a direct comparison. "My love is a red red rose..."Similes - a comparison using "like" or "as." "Her voice was like fine wine..."

Personification - Giving human qualities to things that are not human. "The moon stared down at the earth..."Apostrophe - Talking to inanimate things as if they were human, as Alice Walker talks to Poetry in her poem.

Onomatopoeia - When words mimic sounds: woof, splat, bang, pow - think comic book language

All poems are either closed form or open form. If it's a closed form, it follows a set of rules (even if loosely). So a sonnet is 14 lines with a certain rhyming order and the poet follows this format in some way.

Open form doesn't follow any standard formats or rules.Sensory images are also used in writing poems. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell may be represented in your poem.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bridget's Poem

We had creative, interesting poems in Monday's Class. I will be posting poems from both classes over the next few weeks, so if you haven't sent me yours yet, please do. I'd love to share them.

This is Bridget's poem about those little crushes we get once in awhile. It's fourteen lines, like a sonnet, but uses rhyming couplets to pull it together. I like the way she shows rather than tells in the line, "He always has a smile right before he says my name." Sweet dreams.


Strong arms, but not the arms that hand me mundane things every day.
A new laugh that doesn't turn to anger or question everything I say.
Warm neck and cautious breathing, so wrong it makes it right,
In sleep I find this secret place and stay there through the night.
We cross a line so simply, a feeling meant to be,
To not go there, would be unfair, most of all to me.
No, it is not THIS way I've known him, but yet it seems I do,
"Yes, just friends" we would say, for this is something new.
How can I ever face him, or has he felt the same?
He always has a smile right before he says my name.
No, I don't think that I will tell him,
I love the way I feel!
It stays with me throughout the day and that's what makes it real.
If he returns to find me, in sleep I will be waiting,
It seems to bed the only place...for the affair I am creating.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Poets for Oral Presentations

The following poets have been claimed for oral presentations this week:

Monday Night:
Dylan Thomas
Dorothy Parker
W.H. Auden
Langston Hughes

Wednesday Night:
Yusef Komunyakaa
John Donne
Maya Angelou
William Blake
Martin Espada

If you are in the Wednesday class, you may still choose any poets claimed for Monday and vice versa. I just want to avoid duplicate presentations on the same night of class.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Due Next Week 9-10-07

Both classes are back on the same schedule this week. Be sure to email your choice of poet if you haven't already.

Due for the Week of September 10th:
Oral Presentation on a Poet
Turn in either your Journals 9-12 or the final version of your literature paper (your choice).
Bring the poem you wrote to class to share.
Do the reading listed on Oedipus and the elements of drama.