Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Technical Writing

Daniel: But why is it taking you so long to write the procedures?
Mom: Technical writing is harder than you think. I'll give you a demonstration. Give me instructions about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I will follow them.

(I got this idea from my second grade teacher, Mrs. Howard. She was a fantastic educator. Let's pause for a moment in thanks to the really great teachers out there.)

We got two results. One was the sandwich I actually made based upon his constantly revised instructions. It was bad, but edible.

The other was how it would have turned out if I'd followed each original instruction without modification. (If he'd written them down and I had followed them "exactly" without patches, updates, and desperate revisions from the author.)

Below you see the re-staged results of the second option. Upside-down plate. Upside-down pieces of hamburger buns. (Daniel said "bread" but didn't specify.) Crunchy peanut butter. (Daniel prefers creamy but didn't specify.) Upside-down butcher knife. (How was I supposed to know he meant a table knife? And he didn't say which orientation to use! Can't you spread peanut butter with the handle? Except I didn't spread it, exactly. I more...glopped it.) "Put the jelly on the bread" speaks for itself.

The best moment was when I showed Daniel my smeared, oily hands and asked about how to handle the mess. "Clean it up in the sink," he said and I immediately veered in that direction. Something about my posture, or the evil glint in my eye, must have tipped him off. "Waaaait a minute," he said, authoritatively. "Put the sandwich down--on the table!--first!" Drat. I was so hoping to serve him something sopping and soggy.

After all his effort and mine, he refused to eat either masterpiece of our joint creation. Can you believe it? Such ingratitude...

I had actually canceled class today so I could focus on getting my project done. When moments like this fall into my lap, though, how can I resist?

But enough personal indulgence. The inner teacher in me is rapping her ruler. Time to get back to work.


Jan Grambo said...

Another fun thing about this lesson (which entertains me every time I do it!) is that in a year or two it will be possible to repeat it with the next younger children. If the older ones are present, they will cackle but won't give away anything because they love seeing someone else get caught by it!

Carolyn said...

I love the Jelly on the Bread!