or, “Infinitive-Splitters Anonymous”
“Hi. I’m Mrs. Chili, and I’m an Infinitive-Splitter.”
I’ve been reading through a bunch of the things that I’ve written over the past year or so. I pulled a couple of my college papers from a file I found in the attic while searching for a particular sweater (the Great Clothes Switch of 2006 will happen later this weekend, but I wanted the sweater NOW, dammit!). I’ve been re-reading blog entries and comments, and I’ve made a discovery. I split infinitives. Not only do I split infinitives, but I do it all the time:
“…I was relieved to finally see that….”
“…I hope to never have to do that again…”
“…and when it came time to truly step up to the plate….”
“…she has to constantly be in the spotlight…”
I can’t help myself; I love the emphasis that split infinitives convey.
I just hope none of my students calls me on it…
So! I received essays from most of my Foundations of English class.
Wow. We’ve got some work to do.
I was pleased to see that, while some people need a lot more help than others, most of the class made many of the same kinds of mistakes, which makes my job a whole lot easier. Well, not easier, per se, but certainly more focused. I know I don’t have to worry too much about end punctuation – no one ended a declarative sentence with a question mark – but I DO know that we need to work on pronouns, commas, subject/verb agreement and practice in naming the self last. I was surprised to find, too, that we need to spend some time talking about the difference between common and proper nouns.
The book we’re using (or, rather, the book that came with the course – I’m not sure how much we’ll actually be able to USE it) comes with a computer component that seems to me to hold wonderful potential. I was on the phone with the rep from McGraw-Hill for the better part of an hour and a half the other night, and we went over many of the features that I can use with the students during our hour-long computer lab allowance. The site (I’d link it, but you can’t get past the home page without a password and group number, and you only get the number if you agree to do grammar work for me, so think VERY carefully before you ask me for it!) contains a wealth of mini-lessons and assessment tests that essentially use the repeated drill method of grammar instruction (which, after Schoolhouse Rock, seems to be one of the better pedagogical choices). Now that I know which students need which lessons, I can customize the lessons for each kid – Student A has no idea how to use pronouns, so she gets all the pronoun/antecedent lessons put in her locker; while Student B made no pronoun errors, but can’t seem to figure out when to capitalize a proper noun, so she gets all the common/proper noun lessons put into her locker. The students do the work, take the assessments, and all the results are then reported to MY locker so I know what each student has or hasn’t done. It’s a cool system, and I really wish that we had more class time to use it to its full potential.
**now I’m going to Amazon.com to add this book to my wishlist…