Sunday, May 01, 2016

Commitment #My500Words #245

Day 1 of the Jeff Goins "My 500 Words" challenge and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do to rise to this challenge. For days 2 to 31 Goins provides many suggestions for the daily 500 words - themes such as:
What 500 words looks like.
  • Make a list
  • Tell someone else's story
  • Write about food
  • Pick a fight
  • Write a confession
  • Give your own eulogy
  • Write about waiting
I will have lots of other things that I could write about over the next month. I have been doing more family history (going back to the 1700s), it's a busy time at the College, we will finally have a government in Ireland - but this will all have to wait as the 500 words challenge takes precedence for the next 30 days. 

Goins tell us on Day 1 to commit to writing and to announce it. All my blog posts automatically go out on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin - so here I am announcing this to the world (or at least to the few people who occasionally read my blog). I'd love to get some encouragement and feedback along the way, so please feel free to "Like" (or "unlike") what you see. 

500 words to some people is a lot - to others very little. To visualize what it looks like I inserted the word "Words" 500 times onto an A4 page with a Times New Roman font size of 12 - it is nearly a full page. At this point in this post I am about half-way there. Of course making 500 words meaningful and interesting is the hardest challenge. 100 quality words will be much better than 500 words of dirge any day of the week. If I complete this challenge I will have written 15,000 words - that's about one-third the size of my Exploring Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way book. 

Word count is an important part of student assessments - I try to give a guideline as much as possible. Students want to know what's expected - I get asked a lot "How much should I write?". I inform my students that my word count guidelines do not count things like appendices, data, tables, table of contents, words on graphics, bibliography, and quotations. Students rarely stick to the guideline and often exceed it by a considerable amount. I do not apply any penalty for this, but I do tell the students about the importance of scope and following instructions/guidelines. I use the analogy that if they instructed to build a two-story house, they would not build a four-story version instead. What makes it difficult for me when students exceed the guideline is that when the extra work is very good - it makes work by other students who stick closer to the word count guideline look weaker. I have to remember this when applying grades - there is no real benefit to students exceeding the guideline as far as grades are concerned, though obviously there will be a benefit from a learning point of view.

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