Star athletes in the National Football League may possess rare gifts on the field, but when it comes to spelling and punctuation, 7-year-olds can do better.
Just ask the second-graders at Buffalo’s Elmwood Franklin School.
In preparation for today’s Super Bowl Sunday frenzy, these kids spent a little time – really, it didn’t take long – correcting the social media posts of Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young and 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver.
The pupils actually have Culliver to thank for the unusual lesson.
When the San Francisco player landed in the hot seat last week for making some unflattering comments about gays, second-grade teacher Mark Saldanha decided to look up the Super Bowler’s Twitter page.
“Basically, it was a warehouse of spelling mistakes and punctuation lapses,” he said. “I looked at it and thought, ‘My second-graders can do better than this, so why not put this to the test?’ ”
Saldanha proceeded to sift through a gold mine of instruction-worthy Twitter messages, or “tweets,” from players across the NFL before finally settling on three players. Then he broke his class of 30 into small groups and set them to work.
They didn’t need much time.
“About a minute and a half,” Saldanha said, before bursting out laughing. “No, just kidding. Honestly, groups were finished in about 10 minutes. And there was zero-to-minimal teacher assistance.”
The tweet that was most easily corrected by all groups was Culliver’s.
I pray to God I’m never dieing broke
“They all caught the word ‘dying,’ ” Saldanha said.
Welker’s tweet was a little harder for the students, because the spelling mistake wasn’t quite as obvious:
Merry Christmas everyone. My God bless you all!
It’s possible he really meant “my” God, as in “oh, my God” or “my god versus your god,” but chances are he just forgot the letter “a” in “may.” Welker may have caught more passes than any other player in the league since joining the Patriots, but apparently even he drops the ball when it comes to spelling.
The Elmwood Franklin kids made the fix.
“Not all of them knew who the players were, but a lot of them knew who Wes Welker was, just because they were Bills fans and they hate the Patriots,” Saldanha said.
Finally, there’s the tweet from Titus Young Sr., the quarrelsome Detroit player who had so many bad run-ins with the Lions coaches this season that he was transferred to the injured reserve list in December:
It’s true I could be alot better, But wit the football
This 54-character gem featured two spelling mistakes and both a capitalization and a punctuation error.
Deadspin.com editor Reuben Fischer-Baum, who also picked up on this story, wrote about this tweet.
“Let’s give a little credit here, given that this is about as humble as Titus Young ever gets on Twitter. ‘Alot’ and ‘wit’ are wrong, and ‘But’ shouldn’t be capitalized, and yet the dude nails ‘It’s.’ I [mess] that up at least once a day,” he said.
Saldanha, who is in his fourth year of teaching, said that while he had a number of NFL tweets to pick from for his creative lesson, many had to be disqualified.
“You have to pick the ones that are age-appropriate for a second-grader,” he said. “A lot of NFL players like to talk about their girlfriends, and not in the nicest manner.”
The influence of Twitter in Saldanha’s lesson plans extends beyond the NFL. One of the teacher’s goals is to have kids work on their “21st-century writing skills,” he said. That includes having students convey a clear message in 140 characters or less – the limit of a single tweet.
As for the future, Saldanha said, he might sift through politicians’ tweets for his next Twitter assignment or from whatever group strikes his interest. And he’ll probably pick on NFL players again next year.
“They should know that we’ll always be watching,” he said. “We’ll keep doing this until people start spell-checking their tweets.”