Sunday, November 6, 2011

Typewriter Activities: Part II

Typing Discussion (Silent Discussion with Typewriters)
As an activity, this one is pretty easy to do. The only challenge is that you need to keep your class silent for the discussion. What do I mean by this? Read to find out more:
  • A number of questions for whatever you’re teaching. (Hint: try to have questions that require a longer answer. “Who is Paine’s audience in ‘The Crisis’”? is a fair question, but “How does Paine use pathos to persuade his audience?” is a better question.)
  • 1 typewriter per question.
  • Pieces of paper.
  • Larger pieces of paper (legal or tabloid would be great).
Set-Up Steps
  1. Write one question on each of the larger pieces of paper. Make the question clear and easy to read.
  2. Set up the typewriters at stations where they are relatively far apart.
  3. Type each question on a sheet of paper.
  4. Load those sheets (with the typed questions) into the typewriters. Have the typewriter read to go.
  5. Post the questions on the larger sheets of paper above the corresponding typewriter.
Instruction Narrative
“...So, we are going to complete an activity called “Typing Discussion”. You may have noticed the typewriters I have set up around the room. Each one is under a question relating to our reading. When I say go, you are going to walk around the room, read each question, think of a complete answer, and type it down on the corresponding typewriter. After you have typed your response, type your name.
Don’t copy what someone else has said. Be original. If you are having a tough tome coming up with something to type, you can respond to someone else’s comment. Make sure that your response is substantive and adds something to the discussion. Don’t type ‘same”, “me too”, or anything similar. Also remember to keep all comments school-appropriate.
The key is to be quiet during this activity. All I should hear is the sound of typewriters. When you have responded to every question take your seat.
You will want to circulate during this activity. Proximity is the best tool for managing an activity like this.
Wrapping It Up
As a debriefing you can have groups of 3-4 look at each question and circle the “gem” in the morass and share out the findings. There might be some essay topics hidden among these pages.
Silent Discussion and this variant are great because students who are hesitant to share have a way to participate stress-free. I, however, am a little old-fashioned when it comes to teaching. I think that a little classroom stress can be good, but when I want everyone to show an understanding of the topic this is a good technique. Questions that are challenging and thought-provoking are needed. If you lob slow-balls this activity is nearly worthless. 

Friday, November 4, 2011


While I am working on the description of the next classroom typewriter activity, I thought you might enjoy some pictures of the newest machine to enter my private collection.

As you can see it is a pre-war Royal Arrow made for the US Navy. I have no idea what kind of service record this little typewriter had, but it did serve for some time in the Oregon Civil Defense.

The odd keyboard layout is one clue to the unique nature of this typewriter. The other clue to its specialness is the type style.

Sans-serif, with a slashed 0 is the hallmark of a "Radio Mill" typewriter. This machine was used to transcribe messages sent over wireless.


It boggles my mind to even think about what kind of messages this typewriter typed. There is definitely some history there.

The light white-gray paint was so dirty and grimy that the machine looked yellow. It was shockingly filthy, but the dirt created a protective layer ensuring that the paint, when clean, would look new.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Typewriter Activities: Part I

This is the first of five blog posts focusing on how a teacher can use a typewriter to enhance classroom activities. Most of these strategies are really modifications of existing best-practices.

I’ll start with an activity that has a huge visual impact. it’s called “The Never-ending Story.”
This activity relies on a variation of the big roll of paper that you may have seen mentioned in various corners of the Typosphere.

A manual typewriter (desktop models work well for this).
A very large roll of paper or a significant amount of continuous-feed paper.
A hanger.
3 or 4 binder clips.
Something long, thin, and heavy..a metal ruler would be good. Be creative.

Set-Up Steps
1. Find a nice, safe place where you can set up the typewriter and have the paper feed easily.
2. Hang the hanger from the ceiling above the typewriter. You can jimmy it into the false ceiling of your classroom.
3. Feed the paper to the typing-ready position.
4. Think of a basic conflict for a story.
5. Start by typing the first sentence of that story.
6. Give the classroom Instruction Narrative.

Instruction Narrative
“We are going to use this typewriter for an interesting experiment. We are going to write a story and everyone will have a say in how it turns out. It might be an interesting story or it might make no sense whatsoever. That’s OK. We are trying to be creative.

I have typed the first line of a story. I have no idea where this story will go or what kind of characters will be created. All I know is that this sentence is a springboard. Use it to create something completely unique. I want you to type the next line of this story. The next line needs to make sense and be related to the narrative that comes before. You cannot introduce a Deus Ex Machina. Everything must logically precede from the previous to the next..unless you don’t want to.

Everything must be school appropriate and you must include you name with your contribution. You may contribute once a day. Don’t add your contribution while another activity is going on. Be respectful of others.”

Wrapping It Up
Let this typewriter sit there for the entire school year. Keep reminding the students to contribute. In a school year you’ll have quite the story to read.

When the roll is so long that you cannot manage it, take the end of the paper and feed it through the hanger lodged in the ceiling. After feeding the paper, take the ruler or whatever you have and clip the paper to the edge. This will weight the paper slightly keeping it taught as it leaves the typewriter. It will look silly, but that’s part of the fun.

You don’t have to keep this typewriter out for the entire year. You could make it part of a unit or even a couple-day lesson. It’s imminently scalable. The whole story can even be copied for sharing or used as an editing exercise.

A great use for old paper.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Up-To-Date Textbooks

Well, it would be up-to-date in 1963. I was given this book along with a plethora of other things. My other hat at Alhambra is advising the Newspaper and Yearbook staff. Publishing and design has come a long way and I could not imagine making a yearbook in a pre-digital manner. However, I would be willing to give it a try.

Beautiful typeface.
What interested me about this book was the section about "Other typesetting machines." The Varityper, of course, is pictured, but there is another machine I have never heard of. I wonder how it works?

The Varityper has "crazy eyes."

The heavy brow makes the Justowriter look mean.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How To: Cleaning Wrinkle Paint

You either love wrinkle paint or you put up with it hoping that a machine in shiny black comes your way. I happen to love the finish. It's very rugged, hides a myriad of metalwork sins, and can come in some very sober and serious colors. As great as I think this paint is, it is a magnet for dirt, grime, and crud. Dirt invariably make its way into the wrinkles and makes your typewriter look tired and grungy. However, the innate ruggedness of the paint makes it easy to clean. This is the process I use. Your mileage may vary. 

To start with you need some simple supplies. A couple of soft cloths, a small Tupperware container, a household laundry detergent without dyes or perfume, an old toothbrush, a utility spray bottle, and a blue Olympia SM3 (or whatever you happen to have). As with the other How-To, I recommend you dust/wet-dust your typewriter first. It takes a minute and "Water is the best solvent."

This process assumes that your typewriter is clean on the inside. There are some really good and some really bad ways to clean the inside of your typewriter. I'll share some of those other methods another day. This, however, is just an exterior clean. 

Everything begins with the cleaning solution. I like to use 1 part detergent to 4 parts water. However, I have been known to eyeball it. Whatever you think is right. I like to have just a hint of bubbles on the surface. 

Take your toothbrush, dunk it in the cleaning solution, and start scrubbing the typewriter. Use a fairly vigorous scrub. Depending on how dirty your typewriter is the suds will slowly change. They'll range from pale white to mud brown. The pictured machine was fairly clean to start with, so the suds are pretty white. The suds on one of my Royal Aristocrats looked like a mudslide. While you're cleaning, your nose will get a nice whiff of 50 year old dirt. Somehow, when you clean using this method, the smell of the past is rekindled. It's an odd smell, but you will learn to love it.

After you marvel at the dirt hidden in the wrinkles, take the spray bottle and use it to spray down the area you just scrubbed. Catch the run-off with one of the cloths. Work in sections and you will notice a significant improvement. Repeat until you are satisfied.

As a finishing touch I like to spray some Pledge on a cloth and go over the surface. Pledge adds a little shine and happens to smell nice.

If you have fingerprints from inky fingers, you might be able to get them out. At the very least, you will make it look a little better. I know there are other methods out there (Richard Polt uses PB Blaster to great effect), but this one has no harsh chemicals so your wife won't hate you for stinking up the house with kerosene.