I was trying to help my students this week with their writing. Most of them like to take the easy way out and treats words like they're on a budget. (Maybe the result text messaging?) I'm not a flowery writer, myself. I'm not complaining about the lack of adjectives. The lack of explanation or support for the statements they make? Oh, yeah. I'm on them about that.
One thing I learned about during the expository writing classes in Seattle is that the words "because" and "but" become something akin to characters in their written pieces. The word "because" prompts thinking. It is a window into the minds of students. When I'm talking with students, I often respond to their statements with "Because..." Some of them are starting to spontaneously include it with what they share in class. This is a good thing and makes formative assessment even simpler.
As for "but," this word is important because it sets up contrasts. We use it for a variety of reasons in science, especially our concluding statements. I wrote but on the board and then drew (in my own inimitably painful style) a superhero form around it...cape and all. I used the phrase I had heard to so often in Seattle: The Power of But. As you can imagine, this all went over rather well with the teens. (I'm sure it is even more amusing with elementary kids.) But-Man was born.
We haven't had to call upon the powers of But-Man too much yet. Students have an experiment in progress which will run over the weekend. Come Monday, however, we're going to put him to the test as we summarize the results of the investigation. Hooray for But-Man!