Monday, January 27, 2014

Obfuscation Inoculation...and Worst Writing Escapades!

Obfuscation...it's everywhere.
We delved into its intricate and bamboozling artistry in the seventh grade group. The goal was to recognize it for what it is, and to avoid falling into the trap of using it.
A prime source was an art catalogue, in which the art spoke for itself but the text obfuscated. Here's a sample (if you get lost reading this, we shall send out search parties):
The compelling weight of substance and palpable mood which distinguishes the canvases of A.K. conveys constituents of pertinent value to transfer visual gratification. Excepting and exclusionary emphasis demotes the influence of superfluous detail while raising the authority of veritable presence as phenomenon suffused by, rather than delineated by, explicit definition.
Are you with us? I hope not! Is this even English?
The students decided quite wisely that the catalogue copy was designed to fool people into buying art by using incomprehensible high fallutin' language...featuring words that sound so expensive that (by logical deduction) the art must be pretty spiffy, too.
When writing functions to obscure rather than illuminate, that is obfuscation. And it is everywhere, like the work of a young student with a bad case of Thesaurusitis!
We experimented with writing our own such pieces, wreaking havoc on syntax and frolicking in ostentatious vocabulary.
In a related vein, some students will enter the WORST WRITING CONTEST, an actual contest in honor of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, that master of the purple prose (who nonetheless coined quotable phrases, such as "The pen is mightier than the sword").
Why not try your hand at obfuscation? Why not experiment with the lush indirectness of purple prose? A student commented on how styles in writing change, and how - back in the day - some of these very qualities were valued.
Language - a history lesson to be sure.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Save the Idioms! A Fifth Grade Production

Fifth graders have been writing and reading (notably, the provocative short story "In Our Hands" by Bruce Coville)...but mostly they have been busy making a movie for their cause: SAVING IDIOMS
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Why let such useful figures of speech drop away from common parlance?
What is the difference between the literal and the figurative?
How can all this be conveyed in a short bit of theater?

Find out the answers to these questions and enjoy the production by clicking HERE.
Please also note that meeting once and week and having so many movie makers working on one movie means that there is editing that we will leave undone for now, in favor of moving on to other projects. But, in case you were wondering, too many cooks did NOT spoil the broth.
Enjoy, and here's to idioms. Please use them daily!