Archive for November, 2007

An English Lesson for the TV Generation

I watched waaaay too much TV as a kid. As such, I’ve not only soaked up mental gigabytes of useless pop culture trivia, but also the every-5-minutes advertising that is pervasive in American television broadcasting.

My first recollection of a TV commercial that really impacted me was for Murphy’s Oil Soap, from 1979 or 1980 (age 2-3). It wasn’t so much the commercial as it was the jingle and the copy shot, “The work is finished and the finish is fine.” Since then, I’ve filed away massive amounts of similar lines. Anyone else remember:

  • You deserve a break today!
  • Just do it
  • Where’s the beef?
  • The choice of a new generation
  • Food, folks, and fun
  • Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is
  • I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!
  • Calgon, take me away
  • What would you do for a Klondike bar?
  • He-Man, He-Man, He-Man (jeez, who got paid to come up with that one?)

The Consumerist brought these all flooding back to my conscious mind Monday when they linked to an article by Nick Padmore at A List Apart in which he analyzes the 115 best advertising slogans and catchphrases of the last century (courtesy of The Advertising Hall of Fame).

Anyone interested in the use of language should read Padmore’s article in full, but Consumerist gives us the Cliff’s Notes version with a few interesting take-away notes:

Some of his findings:

  • only 50% of the top copy shots mention a brand
  • 17% of copy shots are “lexically deviant”—as Padmore puts it, “it’s a weird spelling almost 2wice in every ten whirds”
  • 84% of the copy shots contain some sort of rhetorical device, although Padmore thinks this is more than likely simply a reflection of how we naturally speak and write

He also comes up with a theory of how to produce a great copy shot, writing that “nobody else (as far as I know), has attempted to come up with a linguistically determined Greatest Copy Shot, so this is at least a start.”

Nick’s theory is as follows:

All great copy shots should:

1. Be five words in length.
2. Not mention the brand name.
3. Be declarative.
4. Be grammatically complete.
5. Be otherwise standard.
6. Contain alliteration, metaphor, or rhyme.

Read his complete article to see how he narrows the field from 115 to 19 with the first criterion, and then proceeds through the list to arrive at the greatest copy shot ever written.

Lots of potential classroom applications here – perhaps a multidisciplinary lesson in math and English that examines the success rate of slogans with certain grammatic properties or rhetorical devices? What percentage of the top 50 use onomatopoeia? Create a pie chart showing prevalence of alliteration, metaphor, simile, etc.? More advanced classes might just be given the top 10 (20, 25, 50, etc.) and be asked to conduct their own analysis and come to their own conclusions about the impact of linguistic choices on success.

From a media literacy standpoint, a discussion of why I still vividly remember a 28-year-old commercial jingle could lead into a larger discussion on the pervasiveness of advertising and its effects.

Maybe watching all that TV was good for something after all (“Five more minutes, mom! It’s professional development, I swear!”).

Mr. Tech Director, Tear Down This Wall*

I hate being absent.

I don’t hate taking time off from work, I just hate being absent. It’s far more work for me to put together sub plans and develop some sort of meaningful activity for the kids than it is to just come in sick and spread whatever disease I’ve got.

In an effort to make learning about grammar a lot more palatable to me my sophomores, I concocted a little research/creative project. Without boring you with details, we spent an hour or so today going over the assignment, talking about objectives, and critiquing models, with an eye to spending the entire block Tuesday researching and designing these projects. Naturally, my kids will have further questions, but I have to be absent; believe me, it’s not my preference.

As I’m writing my sub plans this afternoon, I get a flash of inspiration, and include the following:

I will be available during class time to answer questions. Students may email me at [redacted], or AOL IM me at MrBariexca. I will be online between 7:30 and 9 am, and will be able to answer student questions in realtime.

Oh, yeah. The filter.

I will be available during class time to answer questions. Students may email me at [redacted], or, if they can figure out how to get AOL IM working on the school computers, they can IM me at MrBariexca. I will be online between 7:30 and 9 am, so I should be able to respond in realtime, even by email.

I contemplated providing the sub with a list of proxies students could try to circumvent the filters, or suggesting that they try Meebo (I don’t know if our filter blocks that or not), but ultimately decided against it. After all, I wouldn’t want to put anything incriminating in writing.

I really shouldn’t complain; our filtering system is extremely progressive compared to what other folks deal with, and I have a great deal of respect for the job our IT team does, especially with regard to Internet access/content. I just feel that allowing kids to use these tools appropriately would a) allow my class to run a lot more smoothly in my absence, and b) be another chance to model non-recreational applications for our kids.

I shoulda just left them Christmas Vacation and been done with it.

*Lest anyone accuse me of sexism in my title, I’m just riffing on The Gipper.

Props to the New Pops

Within twenty-four hours of each other, my colleagues Dave Stacey and David Robb both managed to bring new life into this world (I hear their wives may have played some part in the process as well).

Congratulations, gents! I’ll be re-joining the ranks of “fathers of infants” in under three months – keep a changing pad warm for a brother.



Thoughts on Facebook?

So I’m seeing more and more folks in the edublogoblahblah are down with Facebook. I’ve been considering signing up for an account myself, but I’m wondering if, as a married man in his thirties (OK, just starting his thirties), maybe I’m too past it for Facebook. I had a MySpace account for about 3 months back in 2002 or so, and I updated it maybe once or twice (I’ve since deleted it), so maybe there’s no real reason for me to sign up for another social networking site that I won’t use. My social life is pretty nonexistent any damn way.

But then I get to thinking: this past summer, I thought Twitter was the most ridiculous thing on the Web (besides maybe lolwut), and four months later, I’m way into it, connecting with folks from all over the world. Maybe I should give it a shot?

As I’m considering these weighty matters of profound global importance, as if by Providence, Vicki Davis starts tweeting about her experimentation with Facebook. I sent her the following tweet:

@coolcatteacher Can you explain appeal of Facebook in <140 chars plz?

Her response:

@garageflowers – WE all learn about networking in school, facebook is a massive network that allows you to connect with many who r lost!

I post to my own blog, read and respond on other blogs, and have a modest but high-quality network of teachers, bloggers, & tech enthusiasts with whom I correspond on Twitter. Is Facebook worth my while? Is there any additional networking value to it beyond what I describe, or is it just kind of fun (nothing wrong with that!)? What are your experiences with Facebook, either personal or professional? Will you friend me if I sign up?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody

On the eve of my thirtieth Thanksgiving, I am more acutely aware of all the things I have to be thankful for this year than ever before.  One of these is the network of educators in which I’ve become enmeshed in the last three months I’ve been blogging.  Thank you all for providing insight and food for thought here, on other blogs, and on Twitter.  You folks are my 24-7 PD.
Normal service will be resumed post-holiday madness.