July 31, 2008
Professor Ed Telfeyan’s “Grammar Bee” has been a welcomed staple of his Legal Process classes for seven years at McGeorge so he decided to share his showmanship secrets with colleagues recently at the Legal Writing Institute Conference.
Telfeyan’s presentation, “The Grammar Bee – Taking the Pain out of One-Ls’ Grammatical Deficiencies” drew a standing-room only crowd at the Indianapolis, Indiana, event. Since the July 9 conference, the veteran legal writing instructor has received more than a dozen requests from professors at other ABA schools for materials that might enable them to replicate his teaching methods at their law schools.
“Many professionals bemoan the quality of writing skills that students coming into law school bring with them,” Telfeyan says. “The ‘Grammar Bee’ has been very effective and popular with my students and I hope it will help a few of my peers take the agony out of that part of the Legal Research and Writing professors’ work not included in the job description.”
Telfeyan’s “Grammar Bee” competition extends over the entire first semester of his year-long Legal Process course (the course has different names at different law schools). Here’s how the game is played. For each class session, he chooses three previously unannounced students as contestants. They are given grammar/writing problems to solve. In the early rounds, students can advance just by providing the right answer. In later rounds, it becomes more competitive (e.g. first to raise hand and provide correct answer advances). Ultimately, only three contestants remain, and they are given a nasty, horribly written paragraph to rewrite.
“Along the way, of course, all students hopefully benefit from the subtle instruction that takes place, as even those who are not contestants on a given day contemplate the questions the contestants are given,” Telfeyan says. “In this respect, the competition is much like a typical TV game show such as ‘Jeopardy’.”
Telfeyan also holds an awards ceremony at the end of the first semester. The winners receive t-shirts with the words “Winner -- Telfeyan’s ‘Grammar Bee’ on the front and Hooray for me – I did it” on the back. There’s also a grade bump involved and, of course, bragging rights. Laurel Berzanskis and Mayling Leong were the winners last fall.
Telfeyan, ’75, joined the McGeorge faculty in 2000 after a successful career as a Sacramento attorney. In addition to Legal Process, he has taught Advanced Legal Writing, Community Property, Criminal Law Defenses, and an Advanced Appellate Advocacy seminar. He also coaches several of the law school’s moot court teams.