Spot the misspelling

Two informal writing prompts using found messages

Today I have two informal writing prompts to show you that use messages posted in public places. The errors are easy for students to spot, which is not only good for their morale, but also shows them the importance of carefully rereading their messages for errors.

Begin by displaying one of the photos and reading aloud the message captured in it. (It doesn’t matter which you use first.) Then tell students to write one sentence in which they identify one error they noticed in the message and tell how to correct that error. Give students a half minute to do that.

sign has the word touch misspelled
What’s wrong with the note on this plant pot?

Follow the same procedure with the second photo, displaying it and reading what’s written. Again have students identify and correct the error in a single sentence. A half minute should be time enough for students to do that.

grocery store bags make dumpster mess
Is this an effective message?

If you keep your eyes open and a cell phone with a camera handy, you can grab items like these regularly. They take very little class time, but they make students aware of the importance of re-reading their work to eliminate silly mistakes.

(Another day could make the “shute” message into an assignment aimed at getting students to write a message that accomplishes a single objective.)

©2021 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Misplaced modifiers smart onions

rows of marching onions
Where’s the salmonella outbreak these footed onions are trying to escape?

According to the National Public Radio newsfeed yesterday, “The CDC says toss onions if you don’t know where they came from to avoid salmonella.”

You may be as astonished as I was to learn that onions not only are smart enough to recognize that salmonella infections are dangerous, but also that onions migrate to avoid being contaminated by those vile, rod-shaped bacteria.

Today’s informal writing prompt will let you and your students see if they can recognized a misplaced modifier when they see one, or whether they are dumber than onions.

Here’s the prompt:

“I’m going to show you a summary that appeared in a radio broadcast’s news feed. (Display and read item.)

” The CDC is, of course, the Centers for Disease Control. “Now write your reaction to that item in one or two sentences. You have 30 seconds to write.”

That’s all that necessary. A prompt as short as this is appropriate when (1) you have other informal prompts to use in the class period and (2) want to remind students of some rule they know and should use in their writing. You can take another two minutes to ask for oral responses if you choose, but if you’re rushed, just collect the day’s informal writing at the end of class to skim in a free period.

Leave it for philosophy classes to debate whether tossing is appropriate action to take against onions who, through no fault of their own, may have become infected by salmonella.

© 2021 Linda G. Aragoni