Thursday, October 29, 2009

Social Media to the Rescue

Speaking to English Classes about Writing

I give a decent amount of presentations regarding “Hope & Global HIV” and “Faith in Action”, but talking about writing to 8th graders wasn’t in my crystal ball. Writing was a hassle in 8th grade. But years later during my research and travels it became my outlet. Now in the midst of a book manuscript it has become a large chunk of my life.

Faced with two 50 minute classes I turned to social media for advice. Through my facebook fan page and twitter account I was able to generate over 40 responses and comments on what people would stress to 8th graders about writing. Interestingly four of the five responses (Journaling, Creative Writing, Personal Style and Structural Elements) were within 6% points of each other. The most noted suggestion (by over 20 percentage points) was on how reading affects writing.

Keeping the poll in mind, my presentation flowed out of my personal experience in Thailand volunteering at a Buddhist AIDS Temple. Using “Importance of Touch”, I tried to get across three main points.

1. Writing is Important - If you can write well you are a valuable asset because you can express or articulate a clear thought. If you write poorly with spelling errors or grammar mistakes you can get passed up on a high school, college or job application. Writing can draw attention to an issue, move people to act or bring people to a higher level of understanding.

2. Writing is a Process – grammar and spelling is like a hoop and a ball – you need them to play basketball. Editing and drafting are the lay up and shooting drills that turn you into a skilled player. I’m no Michael Jordan or Steven King, but “Importance of Touch” generated attention and was read at mass and reflection gatherings at Fairfield University. More importantly, it came out of hours of journaling after struggling with the death of a patient at the clinic. It took three drafts and nearly all night because I wanted it convey and express the intensity of my feelings.

3. Don’t get Discouraged – Growing up in a predominantly Spanish speaking household has its pluses and minuses. English grammar and spelling are both negatives and don’t combine to make a positive. I noticed a good amount nodding their heads in agreement. The trick is to read. Find an interest and go for it. I challenged them. I said has at least one topic or section that they must find interesting; then I let them in on a secret. You can double click on a word and the definition pops up in a new window. In the age of the internet reading shouldn't be a problem.

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