On Writing and Testing


You might have noticed I’ve been away for a while.  I’d like to tell you I was on sabbatical, traveling the world and learning all kinds of amazing things.  The truth is, I’ve been more like Ross and Rachel: on a break with intermittent surges of writing, some of which were blog related and others not.

I have been working on my book project, though I have to admit, not with the intensity it deserves.  Once the manuscript was complete, the fun part was over, and I was faced with what Terri Hendrix would call “the part that ain’t art.”  Trying to figure out how to get the work from my computer to the outside world, beautifully presented, on a limited budget, using technology far outside my comfort zone is intimidating to say the least.  For a time, the enormity of the task became overwhelming, and I turned my attention to other things while I gathered my inner resources to start again.  Luckily, I have some incredible “outer” resources who provided much needed encouragement and direction.  As it has before, Big Magic also stepped in and uncovered some hidden resources at exactly the right time.

I have also been teaching writing.  To fourth graders.  In Texas.  Where they will take a high-stakes standardized test very soon.  Few things bring me greater joy than writing with children. And few things can destroy that joy faster than high-stakes testing.  We are working on revising and editing skills: punctuation, grammar, word choice, and such.  It’s tedious work, beyond their developmental level if you ask me.  Of course, no one asked me.  My students are frustrated by a task that would, under different circumstances, help them find their voices and express their ideas to the world.  Luckily, children are resilient.  While they are not thrilled with the almost constant repetition of comma rules, they humor me, searching their mental data bases for why we should use a comma here instead of there.  In a few weeks the test will be over, and the mechanical workings of the English language will fade into the background.  Until they are in seventh grade.  When they take the next writing test.  Big Magic, if you’re listening, we could use some help here.

Which of the following BEST explains the frequent use of sentence fragments in the previous paragraph?

a) Rhetorical emphasis

b) Passive aggressive behavior toward high-stakes testing

c) All of the above

If you can answer this question correctly in the comments below by midnight CST on March 8, 2016, your name will be placed in a drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card.  Low-stakes.  As it should be.

If you are an educator, I hope you survive testing season with your sanity and passion intact.

No matter who you are, I hope the approaching spring brings you warmth, joy, and renewal.  And blessings.  Many, many blessings.


16 thoughts on “On Writing and Testing

  1. Do you think it is C. All of the above?? Of course, it is!!
    Your writing students are lucky to have you as a teacher!! It’s Big Magic that they have you.
    It is also great to hear Big Magic has come about at the right time for you. Can’t wait to read more of your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am going to go with “a”. 1) I do not consider you to have a passive aggressive bone in your body. Passive, yes. Aggressive, yes. But not both at the same time. (Do you like my use of fragments?) 2. All of the above should not be a choice when the question is “which of the following BEST explains…” If you are looking for the BEST explanation, that implies a singular choice. Do. You . Agree. With. My . Logic? (That was neither for rhetorical emphasis or passive aggressive)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m no grammar expert (is that phrased properly) but I respectfully disagree. ‘Which if the above’ is referring to ‘a, b or c’. In fact, she could have added ‘D’ for ‘none of the above’. I have no proof that you’re wrong, I just go by the rule, ‘if it sounds good, it’s good’…just sayin’.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good rule, unless you are a student in a state with high-stakes testing. I’m sure the pendulum will swing back the other way eventually, but the wait is becoming very uncomfortable. You should stick with the “sounds good” rule. It serves you well, and is perfect for your style!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I had intended to vie for the prize but forgot. (A.k.a. ‘I had no clue’). I try to use proper rules for writing the English language but, more often than not, I use ‘improper’ rules. My rule, if it sounds okay then it probably is. Please get back to your blogs. I miss your contact. Plus, if you’re not around, then it’s one lesson person to read my stuff…😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be back soon! It’s summer now, so work is over until school starts again. Should be plenty of time to write. Can’t wait to get back in the swing of things. Thanks so much for your encouragement!

      Liked by 1 person

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