Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Last week for Literacy Week I set my Media undergraduates the following exercise.

I asked them to come up to the whiteboard in threes, and, without peeking, write one of the following sentences, which they had not seen but had only heard spoken by me:

1. They're going to stay with their relatives who live over there.

2. In this economic climate you're going to find it hard to keep your job.

3. It's too early to give the dog its dinner, but the cat can have its.

4. The best bananas are at Joe's shop, but the best apples are at Pete's.

5. Whether the weather is rainy or sunny you're fine with a jacket.

6. Sometimes it feels like every day I run into everyday little problems.

The exercise was not to embarrass students, but to make them think as they wrote out their assigned sentence. When they had finished, the class looked at the three versions of each sentence on the whiteboard, and voted on which one(s) they thought correct. Sometimes they themselves were incorrect, as well as the students who had written the sentences.

I always make the point that growing up in an English-speaking country is such a gift, it being the de facto global language, but the tragedy is that so many of us don't bother to speak and write it correctly.

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