The quick brown fox…

The new academic year begins this week for most of us. You’ll be writing and typing a lot this year, so if you’re not already confident in your typing skills, this is a good time to practice and improve. Try this sentence:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

It’s a pangram. That means it uses all the letters of the English alphabet, so it’s often used to practice typing.

Here’s one site that can help you: Ratatype. (Caveat: before you start, this site does not seem to work well with Safari, but I had no trouble on Chrome and Firefox.)


You don’t have to sign up to take the typing test, but if you want to try the tutorials (Typing Tutor) and save your scores, you need to sign up (e-mail or Facebook).

ratatype menu

Start with the Typing Tutor if you’re not familiar with the keyboard and finger placement. It will start you off by practicing the middle line (asdf ghjkl;) and you’ll move through the lessons if you can do them without too many mistakes. This is Lesson 2:

typing tutor

If you’re already familiar with the keyboard and just want to time yourself, go to the Typing Test section. You can do it just for yourself, or you can compete with other users for high scores.

Your profile page will keep track of your progress:


I tried the typing test again this morning and my speed and accuracy actually improved a little since I did it last year . Can you beat my score? (I’ve had a lot more practice than most of you, though, I’m sure…)

Discussion / Research Question & follow-up:

Are there any pangrams in Japanese? How about another language you’re studying? (Here are some more in English.)


Letters of Note

Letters of Note is a compilation of more than 900 letters, postcards, memos and even faxes, often written by famous people, and almost always thought-provoking.

Here’s a recent one, from movie director Martin Scorsese, about the necessity of diversity.


An excerpt:

Why don’t they make movies like ours?
Why don’t they tell stories as we do?
Why don’t they dress as we do?
Why don’t they eat as we do?
Why don’t they talk as we do?
Why don’t they think as we do?
Why don’t they worship as we do?
Why don’t they look like us?

Ultimately, who will decide who “we” are?

Here’s one from the archives, a 1973 letter from writer E.B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web), about remaining hopeful in what seems like a hopeless situation.


An excerpt:

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”

And here’s a letter from a 10-year-old to former president Obama: “Our differences unite us.” You can see his response, too.

Copying vs. inspiration

Yesterday I had to have a talk with some students about plagiarism. I’m not sure why it still happens, especially this late in the school year, but it does. I understand the temptation to just copy something from the internet when you have a paper due and are busy with many classes, part-time jobs and other priorities. But it won’t help you learn to write, it’s both immoral and illegal, and it’s almost always really obvious when you do it.

Anyway, I saw this video and was reminded of my conversations with students about copying. The video says it’s a “tribute” to cinema. Certain scenes in these Pixar movies are inspired by scenes in other famous movies. This is not copying, is it?

Where do you draw the lines between original ideas, inspiration, and copying?

Writing prompts from 1919

Talk about writing prompts! This list of  “The 37 Basic Plots, According to a Screenwriter of the Silent-Film Era” (from Slate) — from a 1919 manual for screenwriters — is a good place to start when you can’t think of something to write about.

37 basic plots

If you scroll down the text, you’ll find many subclassifications for inspiration. Including:

  • “An appeal for refuge by the shipwrecked”
  • “A union between lovers prevented by an imaginary marriage of one party”
  • “Rivalry between a vampire and a modest woman”