It’s been years since I went to a big English teacher conference. I last went to CCCC (Conference of College Composition and Communication) back in 2003. Before that, I went in 1996 when I was a graduate student. I went as an observer only both times. This time, I’m presenting.
Kate Ristau, my writing/editing partner in crime, threw our hat into the ring at the National Conference of Teachers of English (NCTE) CCCC conference last year, and damned if they didn’t accept our proposal. The proposal? Teaching grammar with humor.
If you keep up with me at all, you’ll know that last year, Kate and I published a small book about commas called Commas: An Irreverent Primer. We took the errors that we most often saw in our student’s papers and wrote a book covering only those errors. The twist is that Kate is a folklorist and YA author, and I write books about dragons when I’m not writing novels set on alpaca farms. So, the grammar book about commas is populated with fairies, grammar dragons, and unicorns grumpy about the Oxford comma.
Kate proposed a panel based in creative writing about teaching grammar with our weird of kind humor. Then Kate promptly quit teaching (I’m jealous/proud of her…that’s a different blog post). The upshot is that our proposal was accepted, but now I’m the one who gets to go, because I’m the one who can get a faculty grant to pay for it.
In about a month, off I go to Tampa, Florida, to talk to teachers of English about teaching grammar to college students who don’t want to learn it. Yeah, I’m freaking out a little. It’s one thing to profess in front of a classroom of college students who know nothing about your topic; it’s another thing to tell a roomful of experts something new.
I’ll talk about the comma book for sure, but I’m also going to do show and tell about another project I’m working on: a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) study guide based on the comma book. I’m having groups of students write an adventure based on their assigned chapter of the comma book based in a world that mimics the one in the Comma book…that is, lots of grumpy grammar dragons and the like.
I could go into all the relevant narrative/exposition/learning jargon here, but I won’t; you can hear it at the conference or in the slides I’ll post later. I also hope to have a working “study guide” via Google Forms to share with the panel attendees.
One restriction is that I only have 12-15 minutes to talk about all this. That’s about three slides, if I’m doing it right. That’s not a lot of time. It’s also an eternity.
If you are at CCCC in Tampa this year, be sure to come to my presentation. It’s during the last session on Saturday (M.05), just before lunch, so bring an apple or a really crinkly bag of chips. If you have your grammar dragon already, bring it along and I’ll sign it if we can hold him down long enough. If not, I’ll sign a book for you.