Monday, March 03, 2008

Mini-Lesson on Titles: The Seagull versus The Woodcock: Which Would You Read?

I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, and they had a segment on a book called Why Not Catch-21? The book discusses the origin for titles, and once I did a little research, I discovered there is weekly column in The Sunday Telegraph. The segment discussed the importance of titles. It's the first thing we notice about a paper, and it's usually the last thing that we deal with. I can't remember where I read this (Atwell? Moffett?), but the author suggested writing down 50 titles and then narrowing it down. The first twenty titles probably aren't very good. You really have to go beyond and dig deep for a great one. Occassionally, a great title might pop into our heads, but usually not.

I usually go back to my manuscript and look for key words, or I think about the main idea I want to get across to readers. Usually a great title has two parts with a colon, especially in college, right. So, the first part is the main idea and the second part after the colon goes into more detail. It's also great to insert humor or word play, if at all possible.

Let's look at some sample titles:

1. The Course of True Research Never Did Run Smoothly
2. Young Adult Literature
3. I-Search Paper

Which paper would you want to read? As teachers and readers of writing, titles will be very important. The first impression is the most important. All writing deserves a title, and hopefully a great title. We want to engage all of our readers.

In a mini-lesson, I would have student write down 30-50 titles for their paper. They will think it's impossible, but I would encourage them to just write and not worry about whether the titles were good or not. I might also lead them through how I would come up with a title. As an anticipatory set, I might share some of the stories from the book I linked to above. Does Catch-18 sound as good as Catch-22? Would either title be sufficient? You could also include in this mini-lesson information on punctuating titles. Think about how important the title was to the poem "The Kitchen Shears Speak."

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