Day 42 - Monday

Day 42 - Monday

1) Class Business (5)

* Sign-in Sheet
* Discuss assignment for 12/5

2) Coherence V. Cohesion (15)

* As readers we look for the flow from old to new information, but we also look for coherence. We’re going to do a little exercise to see what we need to do, besides starting our sentences with old, rather than new, information.

* Designate three groups of six. You need to arrange your desks into nice circles.

* Now, I’m going to give everyone a blank slip of paper. Then, I’m going to give one member of each group a piece of paper with one sentence written on it. The person who gets this sentence should write on their blank slip of paper what they think the next sentence in a paragraph could be. Once you’ve finished, you’re going to pass your sentence, and only your sentence, to the person on your right. Repeat this process until everyone has written a new sentence.

* Possible sentences to use:

a) Over the last fifty years, the movies have been an effective vehicle of propaganda for dogs.

b) Because roses are available in so many forms, few plants can rival their benefits in the home landscape.

c) One way to begin planning a wedding is to select the style of the cake.

* Now let’s read these sentences out loud and in order, first to last. Let’s start with the first group.

* When the first group has read their sentences, trace the characters (i.e. topics) in the paragraphs. Repeat the reading, and tracing, for each group. Write on board for later discussion.

* Do these paragraphs make sense? Sound good? What’s wrong with them? These paragraphs are cohesive, but not coherent. They flow from old to new information, so why is it is hard to orient yourself? New characters are being introduced at all points of the paragraph, why does this make the paragraph hard to follow? What would be better? (The story should focus on one character or related set of characters, that should be connected throughout the paragraph.)

3) Topic Strings Lecture (30)


Lecture Notes:

I. Old to New

A) Last week we talked about information flow in our sentences, paragraphs, and papers. We saw that we need to move from old to new information in order to inform our readers, but our exercise just proved that this doesn’t guarantee a coherent narrative.

B) We also saw that it helped make paragraphs clearer when we used a small group of nouns or characters to tell our "story." Short subjects are usually better than long subjects.

II. Selecting and Organizing Characters

A) Now I want to talk about how we select and organize these characters or subjects. To do this, we will talk about topics in our sentences.

B) Definition: The topic of a sentence is the particular word or phrase on the page that the writer goes on to say something about. This is sometimes, but not always, the subject or our "characters."

C) The topic frames the reader’s sense of coherence. It establishes a point of reference for the rest of the sentence.

D) The topic should:

1) Be clear, simple, direct, and familiar (old information).

2) Appear in the first 6 or 7 words of the sentence.

E) Two Principles:

1) Keep your topic as simple, short, and Old as possible.

2) Make your topic the subject of the sentence as often as possible OR keep your topic as close to the subject of your sentence as possible.

III. Topic Strings

A) We can string these topics together in three ways to create coherent and cohesive paragraphs and papers.

1) Focused Topic Strings: Tn = Tn+1

a) Same character appears in topic position in each sentence.

b) Easiest to follow, but boring. (See Breton Lai example from Friday.)

2) Chained Topic Strings: Stressn = Tn+1

a) Subject in stress position becomes the topic of the next sentence.

b) Hard to orient yourself. Best used with readers familiar with the characters.

c) Suggests progress, causality.

3) Mixed Topic Strings

a) Easier to follow than chained.

b) Return to most familiar character several times throughout the passage.

4) Incoherent Topic Strings

IV. Topic String Patterns

A) Now I want you to find a partner. Hand out Topic String Patterns worksheet. Students should underline the topics or characters in each paragraph. Then, with your partner, determine what kind of topic string is used in each example.

B) Discuss as class: What kind of topic strings are being used in each paragraph? How do you know? Looking back at the board, what kind of topic strings did our telephone exercise produce? What kind of topic string seems most coherent? Why? What are the functions (advantages and disadvantages) of each kind of topic string?


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