Nerd Life, Dawg

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Mar
  • 11
  • 2006

School district offices, financial black holes of education systems, foolishly track expenses.

Notice how that states my opinion about district offices? That sentence, dubbed “Behold! The Smack Talker!,” is an example of just one of the many sentence formulas shown to us in Marty Brandt’s “Indeed: How To Write ‘Nerd'” workshop, one of the three offerings at today’s SJAWP Super Saturday.

Now Break It Down

The workshop is a good idea: take academic sentences, words, and phrases that typically would not occur to a high schooler to use and break them down into constituent parts. That Smack Talker sentence at the top is Name + Title + Description + Action + What/Who. The nerd aspect of that is the use of an appositive phrase, the phrase where you rename the noun in order to give more information about it. The ending phrase in that last sentence is an example of an appositive phrase, as is “financial black holes of education systems” in my sentence up top.

Other nerd vocabulary presented in Marty’s packet, along with the titles he’s given each sentence type, include:

  1. in stark contrast to (“Over-easy”: for establishing contrasts)
  2. similarly, mirrors/reflects/mimics/resembles (“Mirror, Mirror”: for establishing similarities)
  3. whereas, in contrast to, while (“Establishing Contrast”: for… uh… you guess)
  4. unlike (“Bizarro World”: for establishing opposites)
  5. like, as, just as, too, likewise, also (“The Biter”: for relationships that express imitation)
  6. suggests that, but in fact (“What It Is!”: for first showing what something is not and then showing what it is)
  7. although, while it may be true that, just because, this doesn’t necessarily mean that, don’t think for a moment that (“The U-turn Sentence”: again, showing what something isn’t, then showing what it is)

Nerd Bingo!

This is all presented in charts that are easily filled in (I’ll make this a link once Marty sends me the files). The other necessary components of the sentence are listed across the top as a formula so students have something that looks like a Bingo chart that they fill in with the appropriate word or words. One sentence pattern he calls “The North Face,” modeled after Krakauer’s opening line from Into Thin Air, a sentence that I imitated each day for a week back in January, has a pretty complex construction. Doing what? + Description + Who + Action + Action + Action + What. Yikes! But filling in a bunch of boxes makes coming up with that sentence fairly easy.

Bring The Language Into The Classroom

Marty always does well to integrate vocabulary of students into his discussions, creating connections with students and showing the relevance of the lingo they use. “Nerd Life” is his incarnation of “Thug Life.” He reports that they’ve got a sign (left hand holding a two-fingered “peace” sign, but tilted so it’s a greater-than sign, indicating that Nerd Life is greater than Thug Life) and students pass him in the halls calling out “Nerd Life!” This is something I stole from Marty almost as soon as I met him. The adoption of the lingo to describe things in the classroom, not the Nerd Life sign. I just found out about that today. Give me some time and I’ll take on his task of recreating the term “nerd” into something more hip. Or at least something more ironic.

Add Inductive Reasoning

Something he mentioned is that some of these constructions make rather effective thesis statements. To add to that idea, what if students wrote a brief summary of the text under study? Just list the facts, no opinion, no interpretation, no reflection. Then, with that summary in hand, complete one of these charts, thereby stating a conclusion reached about the literature.

“According to,” “in general,” and something like the construction of Writer, + author of + Text, + clearly indicates/makes known/presents the idea that + Main or Secondary Character + is/discovers + What? pop into my head as what I can add to the good list Marty has started. What other nerdy phrases are there? What are some other sentence constructions to show students? Once shown, how do we encourage integration of those new structures into writing in any authentic way, so that the new construction doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in otherwise uninspired writing?

1 comment

1. Anonymous says:

[9/4/2006 - 7:35 pm]

this sucks this is not nerdy go to nerd school you dumb head wanna be nerds who dont know how to be nerdy