Friday, May 30, 2008

Extensive Reading Rules!

Browsing book reviews that bubbled up in the RSS Reader today (sidebar), I found one about a book that a student suggested wasn't so interesting. That find reminded me of one of the more memorable rules governing extensive reading progams. The rule is, if a book isn't interesting, find another fast.

Here is what I suggested:
Please remember that one of the first rules about books for extensive reading is that you should find them interesting. If a book you choose isn't, you should:
  1. Stop reading it.
  2. List it in your orange reading log, count only the words on the pages that you've read, and add a comment like, "Pp. 1-3: boring!"
  3. Find a different book to read.
(pab, first blog, Book review 1 [BR 1-01], 2008.05.30)

[125 words]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Next Essays: Reviews of...

You can do the next essay, a review, by yourself, or with one or two other people. Whether you work alone or together, your essay must be original (no copying or machine-translations), carefully composed (grammar and spell-checked), and organized into five or more well-developed paragraphs, each of five or more sentences in length (400+ words total).

If you don't want to do another movie review right away, here are some other possibilities:
  • Restaurants
  • TV programs
  • Public exhibits
    • graphic art displays (paintings, photos)
    • plastic art displays (ceramics, sculpture)
    • historical displays
    • garden shows
    • pet shows
    • ...
  • Performing Arts
    • Concerts
    • Dance
    • Opera
    • Recordings (CDs)
    • ...
  • Travel services and lodging facilities
  • Amusements
  • Websites
  • ...
If you work with classmates or peers, please make certain to include bylines including your blog handles at the top of each final version of your joint essays (posted on every one of your blogs):

Same Titles

by BlogHandle1, BlogHandle2, &


[160 words]

RSS Feed Displays

RSS feed displays come in widgets of all sizes, shapes, and colors, and can provide you and visitors to your blogs with up-to-date information gathered automatically from all kinds of online sources, including blogs and wikis. There are at least four different RSS feed displays that I'm currently using on the Writing Studio Blog. There will be prizes in class for the first students to spell out in a comment on this post:
  • the exact number (total) of RSS feed readers displayed on the top page of this blog, plus
  • the title and location of only ONE (1) of those RSS feed displays.
[105 words]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recommended Settings: Formatting

The screenshot on the right shows settings that I recommend for Blogger blog formatting. If you click on the graphic, it will open into a window where you can read the recommended settings easily. You can open and check these settings through your Dashboard (Manage: Settings), on the Settings and Formatting tabs.
  • Showing no more than 14 days will help your blogs load faster, for both you and visitors, especially if you have embedded lots of media in your posts.
  • A full date header is easy to spot, and easy to read.
  • Months spelled out in the archive index also are easy to read.
  • A twenty-four hour timestamp leaves little doubt about the times of day that you usually post on your blogs.
  • Along with timestamps (and frequency of posting patterns evident from archives and recent posts on your blogs), a local time zone (JST: GMT+09:00) indicates to blog visitors when you might return and respond to comments that they leave on your blogs.
  • Finally, setting your blog language to English will enable visitors unfamiliar with your vernacular (Japanese) to read and respond easily to your posts.
For more recommendations with regard to blogger blog settings, please click on the "settings" label in the sidebar. If you have questions about your blog settings, please ask either in class, or in comments on this post.
[230 words]

Friday, May 23, 2008

Additional Course Links

This post highlights additional websites that I've added to Course Links in the sidebar. Each new course link links to a Pageflake, which in turn introduces a small collection of computer-mediated communication tools and tutorials used in this or other classes:
If you have questions about what you find on any of those Pageflakes, or the websites and tutorials to which they cross-link; please ask either in class, or in comments on this post.

[114 words]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Essays that Weren't, and How to Make Them So

This is a follow-on to comments on a post that the blog author entitled "university life," but which was not even close to becoming an essay on university life. To provide a bit more background for the general advice about writing that follows, first let me share a comment I made confirming what one of the author's classmates had been quick to notice during peer reviews this morning. I wrote: "S... K. was ... right. What you wrote was too short to call an essay (only thirty-some words)" (pab, May 21, 2008).

I'd call the post on which S.K. and I left comments a quick post, rather than an essay. I recommend labeling it, and all other posts on your blogs like it (anything shorter than a five-minute typing test), "quickposts". Quick posts are fine for day-to-day fluency practice, and for logging ideas that you plan to write more about later (brainstorming). Book reviews, however, must be longer than typing tests; and essays, longer yet.

The minimum length for essays in Writing III is growing steadily:
  1. 250+ words for self-introductions,
  2. 300+ words for personal reviews of the movie Shrek, and
  3. 350+ words for essays on university life (due Sunday, May 18, to be precise).
Other basic requirements are that essays be carefully composed and organized:
  • composed in original sentences (neither copied nor machine-translated), and
  • organized into five or more well-developed paragraphs (five or more sentences in length), including introductory and concluding paragraphs.
The author of the quick post on which we left those comments this morning expressed a desire to develop skills while he/she is studying at the university. Well, brainstorming, outlining, composing, (re-)organizing, and summarizing in writing ARE skills that you must demonstrate in essays, book reviews, and other posts on your blogs, if you want credit for this course.

[315 words]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Questions about University Life Essays

Here is part of this week's classwork assignment. Please put on your headphones, play the Voki (>, below), and follow the instructions.

Get a Voki now!

When you've finished commenting on your classmates' essays about university life, please read and respond to all of the questions that they've already left in comments on your essay. It may be possible to respond to all of them at once, combining and organizing your answers in a extended comment. Then please check again later, to see if you get more comments during class, and respond to those in another follow-up comment after class.
[99 words]

Friday, May 16, 2008

Recommended Movie Sites

Rick, aka Pukman @ WinK, writes on a blog that I've listed among Course Links in the sidebar of this blog called "the community that time didn't forget." In a recent post on that blog he recommends sites to visit if you are interested in finding out about movies, new and older, watching and listening to movie trailers, or reading movie reviews (Pukman..., Movie sites, 2005.05.16).

His recommendations include one site that I listed (IMDb), and another that I had perused (Rotten Tomatoes), when I quick-posted a few days ago a list of movies that I had watched recently: A Few Favorite Movies of Late (The Writing Studio Blog, 2008.05.12). As Pukman, or Rick points out at the end of his recommendations, you can find those and many more internet sites related to movies in the WinK in Magnolia community bookmark collection, marked with the tag (or label) movies (WinK in Magnolia Tags: View All).
[155 words]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Third Essay: University Life - A Reminder

Dear Writing Studio participants (Writing III, §§ 1a and 1c):

There were quite a few students absent today, so I have decided to post this reminder. Your third essays are due by Sunday, May 18, 2008 (Course Calendar).

You should:
  • Focus on a singular aspect of university life (Writing Studio Wiki, Major assignments, click through § 1.5) with which you are already quite familiar.
  • Organize your own ideas into five or more ¶¶ (paragraphs), each five or more sentences in length, including:
    • an introduction,
    • body paragraphs (3+), and
    • a conclusion; and
  • Extend it to 350+ words in length overall.
Brainstorming and collecting your ideas in a mind map or an outline is a good way to start, or to refresh or reinforce your thinking if you've already tried free-writing. For organizational ideas, please review the Five Paragraph Essay presentations that you viewed among other writing resources (Writing Studio Wiki, click through § 6.4) a couple of weeks ago.

Please remember that you must label this essay on university life, like all of your essays for Writing III and IV, with the label "essays" (plural, without quotations marks). Then, if you wish, you also may label it with other labels that you are likely to use again. Campus, lifestyles, students, and university are some other possible labels that spring to mind.

Finally, photos would be nice, too. However, you should post nothing too personal or private for anyone in the world to see (administrators, parents, teachers...), and should ask permission from anyone recognizable in the photos before posting them on your blog.
[268 words]

Spotlights on Copying: Warning about Plagiarism

Perusing book reviews and other blog posts this past week, other writing instuctors and I have identified at least eight instances of writing copied from other sources. That is more than one case per day on average.

This is entirely unacceptable, as I have spelled out in Guidelines for book reviews, section 2.3, in particular: By all means avoid copying! Mr. T. is more emphatic in his post about book reviews. He virtually shouts: "No quoting!!" and "Don't copy!!!" (Tomeiter's Garden, Book review examples, items one and three; April 17, 2007).

Copying someone else's work without marking quotations and citing references may seem like an easy way out of, or around, a writing assignment. In fact, it is plagiarism (WinK Wiki, FAQ), an easy way out of a course with an invitation to come back and take the course again next year.

In a nutshell, here is what may happen if you do copy someone else's writing and try to pass it off as your own in Writing III or IV. You will get one warning. This is a warning to everyone in the Writing Studio!

If you keep copied passages in a previous post on your blog for this semester after this warning, or copy in a future post, you will fail the course. To get credit for the course, you will have to come back next year. So keep your writing your own!
[235 words]

Saturday, May 3, 2008

WSB 1-02: Points to Remember While Blogging

The purpose of this post is to highlight a number of suggestions that I've made in the course of recent visits to students' blogs. I would like you all to pay attention to each of these points as you write on your own blogs, and as you comment on those of classmates and peers.

The list below covers seven plus items. These are examples, explanations, and illustrations that you ought to take on board as lessons for yourselves.

0. Language Setting

To learn English yourself, and to accommodate blog visitors who want to learn and to use English, too; I urge you to switch your blog settings to English. If you are in the A class, you should consider this a requirement for an A.

The remaining points are organized very loosely from fundamental to fine-tuning, or general to specific if you prefer.
  1. Pointers regarding blog designs,
  2. Suggestions for creating more posts,
  3. Notes about word counts put on every post,
  4. Suggestions, nay requirements for titles and labels,
  5. Ways to respond to multiple comments on posts,
  6. Inquiries leading to citation of sources, and
  7. Strategies for correcting comments.

  • Blog designs and readability issues
As I dropped by to see how you're coming on your book reviews, I noticed that the text color you chose for your review of Another World is almost impossible to make out against the dark background from the blog template that you've chosen. If you are keen on using dark colors for text, you should choose a template with a light background to make what you write easier to see and read.
While most ready-made blog templates respect these general design principles with automatic text colors, some of you obviously like to play with the colors yourselves. If you do, please remember that the opposite is also true. That is, if you have chosen a blog design with a light or white background, you should choose black or dark text colors if you are going to change them.

  • Creating more posts
If you are shy of posts (Isn't everyone?), or you desire to push your skills, extend your writing, catch the interest and satify the curiosity of blog visitors, below is an example of a few steps you can take to do so. In this case, I'm talking about spring-boarding from a list of ideas in one quick post or typing speed trial post, to get a handful (or more) separate posts started.
... Which places did you enjoy visiting the most?

Why don't you write separate blog post[s] about at least one place in each prefecture. That would get you started towards the 60+ posts you need for Writing III this semester.

While you're at it, why don't you add a few pictures to give all of your readers a sense of what they're missing when they sit in front of a computer instead of heading out on the road again?

  • Word counts on every post for Writing III and IV!
This point, in particular, gets the good news, bad news treatment - first the good news scenario:
Thanks for excluding the lyrics from your word count.
If you include in any post more than a few words of which you are not the author, please exclude them from your blog post word counts. Do remember that we require word counts (in square brackets, at the lower corner next to the sidebar) on every post for Writing III and IV.

Now for a not-so-good news scenario:
I hope you enjoy the holidays, too, and even get some blogging done during them. One thing you really need to do is add word counts to all of your posts for Writing III. Please don't wait any longer to start counting! [emphases added]

  • Requirements for titles and labels on all book reviews
  • (and sharing the wealth!)
Hi ...,

I'd like to ask you to do me three favors:

1) Would you please use the key string + number prefix that I've explained in class, and spelled out in WSB 1-01 in the title of all of your book reviews: past, present, and future? That will make them easy to find in your archive.

2) Would you please label all of your book reviews with at least these two labels: "books" and "reviews"? Then they will show up in various searches.

3) Last, but not least important, would you please ask [cajole/remind/tell] all of your classmates and peers in courses that I teach to do the same?


  • Ways to respond to similar comments on different posts
Here I suggest creating a new post to respond to comments on two different posts, by three different people.
I've been wondering the same thing, as has Rick, who commented on your April 16, 2008, reading habits post.

Why don't you make a new blog post that explains to everyone how to do it, and then point out the new post in responses to comments here and there?

I'll be waiting to read your follow-ups.

Easy follow-up comments such as, "Please see my new post (Short Title..., date [+ link])," will inform return visitors, as well as those who have chosen to get mail notification, where to look for answers to questions or responses to ideas that they've posted in comments on your blogs.

  • Queries about sources leading to citations
Where did you get the definitions of the words [that] you listed at the end of BR 1-07: Snow Games?
If you are using any content at all from other sources, you must mark it clearly, and spell out where you got it. For example, I've formatted all of the comment clippings in this post as block quotations, and italicized them so they stand out from the original text of this post. Now I'll spell out, in general, where they're from.

All of the comment citations in this post are from the same type of source, namely comments that I've posted on individual students' blogs recently. I wrote them myself, and I grant myself permission to collect and reuse them here for teaching purposes (:-).

Correcting comments after you've posted them

If you notice glaring errors after you hit the orange publish button, either on purpose or by mistake, it is possible to correct them. However, in Blogger, the only way you can do it yourselves makes a mess of the blog spaces in which you have left comments, at least until blog owners tidy up behind you.

So it is always better to preview your comments, editing them repeatedly if necessary, before you publish them. Here, unfortunately, are two examples of what I did after I failed to follow my own advice.

Example One
Oops, I made a mistake in my previous comment, but there was no way to edit it. So I've copied, pasted, and corrected it here:...
Do you know how to make word counts align with the... [right] margin, to make them easy to spot at a glance? If not, please ask in class, and I'll show you.

Please note that the two italicized and indented passages in Example One show that I'm making a quotation of a previous quotation.
The series of periods (...) show where I've trimmed away unnecessary or incorrect wordings, and the square brackets ([...]) show where I've added or corrected wording. I suggest that you try to avoid this at home, folks, unless you really have to, to make a point.

I'm a paid professional, but I still make mistakes! Below is another example, with more of my self-corrections.

Example Two
I guess I am too anxious to get out; I typed two mistakes [three, actually (I've just found one more)] in the first paragraph of my previous comment, and then hit the publish button instead of the preview button....

Anyway, here is what I posted earlier, cut, pasted, and corrected in this new comment (I hope I get it right this time):
Hey ...,

It sound[-s] like you had a nice road-trip this spring. How many friend[-s] went with you[?]...

Although I went back to my original comments on each of those posts and trashed them, only the blog owners can trash them completely. So what I've left in my tracks on a couple of students' blogs looks like this:

Comment deleted

This post has been removed by the author.

May 3, 2008 2:00 PM

and this:


2008/05/03 15:28

Sadly, those left-overs break the flow, and take up space on lists of comments attached to blog posts. If the blog owners themselves wish, they can remove those left-overs completely and finally from their blogs. If you find comments removed by their authors on your own blog, please do all future visitors a favor and trash the comments completely. Cheers.

[1489 words]
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