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Pour or Pore President Trump Tweet

English language patriots who pore over POTUS tweets are in pure heaven this morning as President Trump’s poor excuses for his abuse of the English language continue to pour gas on a California-size wildfire.

Tuesday afternoon, as reported by Politico, President Trump took to his Twitter account to tweet a defense of his intentional capitalization of common nouns. As reported by Politico, President Trump tweeted, “After having written many best selling books, and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the Fake News constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalize certain words only for emphasis, not b/c they should be capitalized!”

Pour or Pore

Poor Spelling

It seems that a number of recent articles analyzing his arbitrary capitalization may have penetrated the president’s notoriously thin skin, such as the May 28 Chicago Tribune article by Alan Levinovitz.

However, grammarians largely ignored Trump’s defense of his capitalization “for emphasis” and focused on two other errors.

Tweeters pointed out that President Trump should have tweeted, “pore over,” which means 1. “to read or study with steady attention or application; 2. to gaze earnestly or steadily; or 3. to meditate or ponder intently (usually followed by over, on, or upon), rather than his use of “pour over,” which means to “to send (a liquid, fluid, or anything in loose particles) flowing or falling, as from one container to another, or into, over, or on something” (dictionary.com).

Additionally, English teachers chimed in about the misspelling of the compound word, bestselling. President Trump tweeted “best selling,” instead. President Trump frequently misuses hyphens, as in his takedown (not take-down) of Meryl Streep’s comments at the 2017 Golden Globes. President Trump tweeted, “over-rated,” instead of the correct overrated to describe Streeps’ acting skills.

Additional tweets continue to pour in, including 3 tweets from “Harry Potter” author and frequent Trump-critic, J.K. Rowling. According to Time, Rowling tweeted, “ha” 501 times in 3 successive tweets, commenting in one of them that “someone told him how to spell ‘pore.’” In another tweet, the author sarcastically referred to President Trump as the “Gratest Writer on earth,”

An hour later, the pour had been corrected to pore; however, the compound word, bestselling, remained as best selling.

Interesting to note: Microsoft Word’s spell checker highlights the error, best selling, but the program’s grammar and usage checker does not suggest a correction for the misuse of the word pour.

My take? Both “pour” and “best selling” mistakes are not high stakes spelling and usage errors. However, other mis-tweets certainly have included more egregious errors, such as President Trump’s confusion of there and their, counsel and council, unpresidented and unprecedented, to name but a few.

Like it or not, President Trump is our president and, as such, is a role model, especially for our students. I’m an English teacher; I care about our language, and I care about serving as an effective role model for my students, parents, and other teachers in not only what I do, but also in what I say. Anyone can make a mistake, but before using a public platform, we all have a certain level of responsibility to curb our enthusiasm and impulsiveness; to take a few extra seconds to think before we send; and to proofread what we are about to publish. I think most Democrats and Republicans would agree.

I’m also an amateur songwriter. In my recently released YouTube song and video, “Word Crimes (Revisited,” (a spin-off of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s hilarious 2015 “Word Crimes,” found on his Mandatory Fun album), I go after both President Trump and his English teachers for his

WORD CRIMES

"Word Crimes (Revisited)" Video

“Word Crimes (Revisited)”

against the English language.

WORD CRIMES

He causes so much anguish;

WORD CRIMES

High crimes and misdemeanors;

WORD CRIMES

Can’t he get a Twitter screener?

WORD CRIMES

His teachers couldn’t teach him;

WORD CRIMES

I think we should impeach him.

Yes, WORD CRIMES [sic] is intentionally capitalized.

Check out my “Word Crimes (Revisited)” song and YouTube video: Lyrics HERE and video HERE. It’s good fun, but has a bit of a message, as well.

Our POTUS needs to act like the role model that his office demands. We all do. As an English teacher, I am a role model for our language. Yes, I proofread this article before I published it. My song continues,

Teachers, popstars, parents, politicians:

We’re all role models‒kids are watchin’ and they’re listenin’.

The only dumb mistake is one that is repeated

So, keep that in mind before you say it or you tweet it.

Good advice, if I do say so myself. And now, allow me to put on my teacher-publisher hat and provide my readers with a bit of crass commercialism to sell my grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary programs. White House staffers receive a 10% discount by entering code 3716 at check-out.

*****

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

 

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs, and the value-packed Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Superlative Modifiers

Superlative Modifiers Lesson

Superlative Modifiers

If you’ve never taken a look at “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Word Crimes,” found on his hilarious Mandatory Fun album, you’re in for a treat. Certainly a must-see for any ELA teacher and for those reading this article on superlative modifiers.

By the way, for those of you who wish President Trump would use a Twitter screener (at least for his grammar, usage, mechanics, and word choice), I have a bit of fun at the president’s expense (and that of his English teachers). Check out a few of the more egregious examples of President Trump’s tweet and speech word crimes in this English teacher’s tongue-firmly-planted-in cheek lyrics and video spin-off of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Word Crimes.” I call it “Word Crimes (Revisited).” Check it out!

In searching for my YouTube video, I happened upon a YouTube review (not worth the link) of Yankovic’s “Word Crimes” and 30 seconds into the review, the reviewer opined, “It’s not his bestest track on the album.” I quickly clicked out of that video.

Now, superlative modifiers can be more problematic that the aforementioned example. Even President Trump has problems with his use of “greatest.” Following is a quick lesson to help your students. If the lesson works for your students, check out these related lessons: comparative modifiers, misplaced modifiers, dangling modifiers, and squinting modifiers (CCSS L.1). These modifier lessons are excerpts from Pennington Publishing’s full-year Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs.

Superlative Modifiers Lesson

Today we are studying superlative modifiers. Remember that a modifier is an adjective or adverb that limits the meaning of a word or words. A comparative modifier compares two things, using the suffix ‘_er’ for a one-syllable modifier, more (less) or ‘_er’ for a two-syllable modifier, and more or less for a three-syllable (or longer) adjective modifiers and all adverbs ending in ‘__ly.’ Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson, circle or highlight the key points of the text, and study the examples.

The superlative modifier indicates which is the most or least. Use the suffix “_est” for a one-syllable superlative modifier to compare three or more things. Example: meanest

Use “_est,” most, or least for a two-syllable or longer superlative modifier to compare three or more things. Example: most interesting

Sentence Diagram

Superlative modifiers are placed to the right of the predicate after a backward slanted line in sentence diagrams. The object of comparison is placed under the superlative modifier and is connected with a dotted, slanted line.

Superlative Modifiers Lesson

Superlative Modifiers

Want to learn more about sentence diagramming and get free lesson plans? Check out “How to Teach

Sentence Diagramming.”

 

 

 

 

Mentor Text

This mentor text, written by Charles Darwin (the author of Origin of the Species), uses superlative modifiers to contrast species. Let’s read it carefully: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Writing Application

Now let’s apply what we’ve learned and compose a sentence with a two-syllable superlative modifier and a three-syllable superlative modifier.

Remember that the above lesson is just an excerpt of the full lesson from my Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Want the full lesson, formatted for display, and the accompanying student worksheet with the full lesson text, practice, fill-in-the-blank simple sentence diagram, practice (including error analysis), and formative assessment sentence dictation? You’ve got it! I want you to see the instructional quality of my full-year programs. Click below and submit your email to opt in to our Pennington Publishing newsletter, and you’ll get the lesson immediately.

*****

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

 

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs, and the value-packed Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Get the Superlative Modifiers Full Lesson FREE Resource:

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Comparative Modifiers

Comparative Modifiers Lesson

Comparative Modifiers

Following is a quick lesson to teach comparative modifiers. If it works for your students, check out these related lessons: superlative modifiers, misplaced modifiers, dangling modifiers, and squinting modifiers (CCSS L.1). These modifier lessons are excerpts from Pennington Publishing’s full-year Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs.

Comparative Modifiers Lesson

Today we are studying comparative modifiers. Remember that an adjective modifies a noun or pronoun and answers Which one? How many? or What kind? An adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb and answers What degree? How? Where? or When? Now let’s read the grammar and usage lesson, circle or highlight the key points of the text, and study the examples.

A modifier is an adjective or adverb that limits the meaning of a word or words. Use the suffix “_er” for a one-syllable modifier to compare two things. Example: fewer than five

Use “_er” or more (less) for a two-syllable modifier to compare two things. Example: prettier, more often

Use more or less for adverb comparative modifiers ending in “__ly.” Example: less carefully.

Sentence Diagram

Comparative modifiers are placed to the right of the predicate after a backward slanted line in sentence diagrams. The object of comparison is placed under the comparative modifier and is connected with a dotted, slanted line. The unstated verb is marked as an “X” to the right of the main vertical line.Identify the comparative modifier and explain how it modifies other words in the sentence.

Comparative Modifiers sentence Diagram

Comparative Modifiers

 

 

 

 

Want to learn more about sentence diagramming and get free lesson plans? Check out “How to Teach Sentence Diagramming.”

Mentor Text

This mentor text, written by Martin Luther King Jr. (the civil rights leader and minister), uses a comparative modifier to contrast love and evil.

Let’s read it carefully: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Identify the comparative modifier and explain how Dr. King uses it to help make his point.

Writing Application

Now let’s apply what we’ve learned to respond to this quote and compose a sentence with a two-syllable comparative modifier and a three-syllable comparative modifier.

Remember that the above lesson is just an excerpt of the full lesson from my Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Want the full lesson, formatted for display, and the accompanying student worksheet with the full lesson text, practice, fill-in-the-blank simple sentence diagram, practice (including error analysis), and formative assessment sentence dictation? You’ve got it! I want you to see the instructional quality of my full-year programs. Click below and submit your email to opt in to our Pennington Publishing newsletter, and you’ll get the lesson immediately.

*****

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

 

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs, and the value-packed Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Get the Comparative Modifiers Full Lesson FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Word Crimes (Revisited)

"Word Crimes (Revisited)" Video

“Word Crimes (Revisited)”

Let’s have a bit of fun at the president’s expense (and that of his English teachers). Check out a few of the more egregious examples of President Trump’s tweet and speech word crimes in this English teacher’s tongue-firmly-planted-in cheek lyrics and video spin-off of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Word Crimes,” found on his hilarious Mandatory Fun album.

Remember, “We’re all role models: Kids are watchin’ and they’re listenin’.”

Following are the lyrics, YouTube video link, and crass commercial plugs for Mark Pennington’s grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary programs. Suitable for both Democrats and Republicans. Special 10% discount for White House staffers: Enter discount code 3716 at check-out.

Check out the YouTube video: “Word Crimes (Revisited)

WORD CRIMES (Revisited) © Mark Pennington 2018

I’m an English teacher; I care about our GRAMMAR‒SPELLING, PUNCTUATION, and PRONUNCIATION matter.

So, when “Weird Al” Yankovic dropped his “WORD CRIMES,” I played it for my students, and we laughed a THOUSAND TIMES.

But since the election, we haven’t been the same; the kids are laughing at the PRESIDENT and he’s to blame

for those CHORUS

WORD CRIMES

against the English language.

WORD CRIMES

He causes so much anguish;

WORD CRIMES

High crimes and misdemeanors;

WORD CRIMES

Can’t he get a Twitter screener?

WORD CRIMES

His teachers couldn’t teach him;

WORD CRIMES

I think we should impeach him.

His Favorite Word is BIGLY

BIGLY

He thinks that something BIGGER is always something better; that’s why he starts his common nouns with CAPITAL LETTERS.

His favorite word is “bigly,” and he brags about his hands. No HYPHENATION, nor QUOTATION MARKS he understands.

The only BIG THING we know for sure is an ego so HUGE we can’t take anymore

of those CHORUS

His pronunciation is nothing short of mangled; his usage and his word choice are twisted, forced, and tangled.

He mispronounces CHINA and always gets some laughs, but every speech he’s ever made is filled with countless gaffes.

Just one word I’d like to hear from his tweet: Is it covĕfē or is it covēfe?

It’s those CHORUS

Teachers, popstars, parents, politicians:

We’re all role models‒kids are watchin’ and they’re listenin’.

The only dumb mistake is one that is repeated

So, keep that in mind before you say it or you tweet it.

He says he has the power to pardon his own grammar. I think we ought to put his English teachers in the slammer.

He doesn’t know the difference between right or wrong: an adjective or adverb, a fragment or run-on.

Now, I “Ain’t [sic] saying we never make mistakes (except the President of the United States)

with his CHORUS

"Word Crimes (Revisited)" The Video

“Word Crimes (Revisited)”

*****

Thanks for listening. I’m Mark Pennington, ELA and reading intervention teacher-publisher and amateur songwriter. Check out my assessment-based grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary programs at Pennington Publishing. Let’s keep our kids from committing word crimes while we keep our sense of humor.

Need more of my songs? Check out “Quick Looks at Good Hooks” for a nice sampling of my repertoire.

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

English Adjective Order

Adjectival Order

English Adjective Order

Before we jump into our lesson on adjectival order, let’s get on the same page about adjectivesFirst, no one says or writes adjectival; however, since this is an article and teaching lesson plan on adjectives, we had better walk the walk and talk the talk. We all know that adjective is a noun and that, stylistically, we don’t put two nouns, such as adjective and order next to each other. Practically speaking and in common usage, we cram nouns together all the time and give the first noun a fancy title: attributive noun. These first position noun is also referred to as “a noun premodifier, a noun adjunct, and a converted adjective (Nordquist). If you just clicked on that link, you are just as much a grammar nerd as I. Ah, but I digress…

Definition

An adjective modifies a noun and answers Which one? How many? or What kind? Modifies means to define, limit, or describe. In other words, an adjective talks about a noun.

Usage

It can be a single word (delicious lasagna) or a compound-word (world-famous hot dogs). Note: Don’t use a hyphen if you can use the word and between the two adjectives.

When to Use Commas between Adjectives

When coordinate adjectives of a similar category are used in a list, they have to be separated with commas. To determine if adjectives are coordinate adjectives, try placing the word and between the adjectives. Second, try reversing them. If the phrases sound fine both ways, the adjectives are coordinate adjectives and require commas between each. Example: large, angry dog

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-commas-with-coordinate-adjectives/

When Not to Use Commas between Adjectives

When hierarchical adjectives build upon each other with different levels or degrees to modify the same noun, the adjectives are not separated by commas. To determine if adjectives are hierarchical adjectives, try placing the word and between the adjectives. Second, try reversing them. If the phrases make no sense both ways, the adjectives are hierarchical and do not use commas to separate them. Examples: A hot thick-crust sausage pizza.

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-commas-with-hierarchical-adjectives/

Adjectival Order

Before Nouns: In English, we usually place adjectives before nouns. Examples: comfortable coat, that cheeseburger

After Nouns: An adjective that follows a linking verb to describe a preceding noun  is called a predicate adjectiveExample: Mark is nice; he looks good; and he feels well. Because the predicate adjective serves as an object, it often has modifiers. Example: Joe was unusually cool.

…for elementary students

According to Function: When using more than one adjective to modify the same noun in a sentence, usually follow this order of adjectival functions: Which One-How Many-What Kind. Examples: these (Which one?) two How many? handsome (What kind?) men

Practice: Re-order the adjectives and place the commas where they belong.

  1. a geometric six-sided shape
  2. realistic only her hope
  3. mean that twelve-year-old kid
  4. those scary countless and sleepless nights

…for secondary students

According to Function: When using more than one adjective to modify the same noun or pronoun in a sentence, usually follow this order of adjectival functions:

Determiners

Examples: a, an, the, this, that, these, those

Amount or Number

Examples: few, twenty-nine

Characteristic

Examples: beautiful, grumpy

Size

Examples: huge, miniscule

Age

Examples: young, senior

Shape

Examples: square, elongated

Color

Examples: blue, dark

Proper Adjective

Examples: Burger King Whopper, Beyoncé records

Purpose, Qualifier, Limitation

Examples: recreational, middle, only

Noun or Pronoun

Examples: balloon, Mr. Patches, one

Practice: Re-order the adjectives and place the commas where they belong.

  1. the strange-looking Martian tiny green two invaders
  2. paint yellow old round an splotch
  3. 1000-page this Pennington Publishing comprehensive 1000-page grammar and mechanics full-year program
  4. those little two-year old three cute children

*****

Answers for elementary practice…

  1. a six-sided geometric shape
  2. her only realistic hope
  3. that twelve-year-old mean kid
  4. those countless, scary, and sleepless nights

Answers for secondary practice…

  1. the two strange-looking, tiny green Martian invaders
  2. an old, round, yellow paint splotch
  3. this full-year, comprehensive, 1000-page Pennington Publishing grammar and mechanics program
  4. those three cute, little two-year old children

*****

Want a full-year grammar and mechanics instructional scope and sequence for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8?

Get the Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4-8 Instructional Scope and Sequence FREE Resource:

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Teaching Grammar and Mechanics for Grades 4-High School

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School Programs

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, and the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There, Their, and They’re

The there, their, and they're Words

there, their, and they’re

Anything worth teaching is worth teaching wellStudents (and even presidents) have problems using the there, their, and they’re words appropriately and spelling them correctly. Indeed, linguists tend to classify the misuse of there, their, and they’re as high stake grammatical errors. The Copyblogger site includes these three words in the article, “Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb.”

The reaction to President Trump’s mistake in his July 24, 2016 tweet was speedy and judgmental:

“Looks to me like the Bernie people will fight. If not, there blood, sweat and tears was a waist of time. Kaine stands for opposite!”

Now, to be fair… most of us have misused a there, their, and they’re word at one time or another. I have. When typing, we do make typos. However, we have no excuses for failing to proofread something that will be published (or tweeted, Mr. President).

So, how can we teach and help students remember the proper usage and spelling of  the troublesome there, their, and they’re words?

My take is that students fail to master proper usage and spelling of tricky word relationships because our instruction lacks conceptual depth. Additionally, we fail to help students place the learning into their long term memories. I suggest teaching word relationships in the context of meaning and usage, spelling rules, and writing application. Follow this lesson plan, and I guarantee that your students will make fewer there, their, and they’re errors.

There

Meaning and Usage

The online dictionary, Merriam-Webster, provides the following definitions (with my own formatting, revision, and additions):

  1. In or at that place (Adverb) Example: Stand over there.
  2. To or into that place (Adverb) Example: She went there after church.
  3. At that point or stage (Adverb) Example: Stop right there before you say something you’ll regret.
  4. In that matter, respect, or relation (Adverb) Example: There is where I disagree with you.
  5. Expressing satisfaction, approval, encouragement or sympathy, or defiance (Interjection) Examples: There, it’s finished. There, there, child; you’ll feel better soon.
  6. A state of being or existence used to complete a thought (Expletive) Example: There are three reasons why you should listen to me.

Spelling

Teach students that one of the reasons that there is such a difficult spelling is because it is a sight word, often called an outlaw word. The word does not follow spelling rules. In fact, there makes Dr. Edward Fry’s top 100 list of high frequency sight words. Because there is a rule-breaker, it must be memorized as such. I suggest introducing the where spelling along with the there. The where is also a top 100 sight word and is often confused with were by poor spellers. The following memory trick works with both there and where.

Jerry Lebo, author of numerous phonics books, suggests a spelling memory trick to help students remember the there spelling. Jerry writes the word there on the board and underlines the here within the word (there). Doing so reminds students that the adverbial meaning and usage (definitions 1-4) of the word there refers to location, so here and there or here and where establish memorable connections and so assist spelling memory. Students have fewer problems with the here spelling, and so the memory trick works to connect the unknown there and where spellings to the known (and rule-conforming here spelling (a silent final e making the preceding vowel before a single consonant into a long sound). Conversely, these here and there or here and where relationships help students remember to spell here to indicate location and not hear.

Unfortunately, the adverbial usage and its spelling memory trick does not work with the interjection (definition 5) and expletive (definition 6) meanings. Example: There, there, darling. There are ways for us to fix this mess.

The best spelling practice is to create a spelling sort to compare and contrast the “ere” spellings. In my Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4-8, I provide the words for students to sort into the “ere” spelling categories and the spelling test focuses on this spelling pattern.

Writing Application

When teaching Jerry’s here and there memory trick, I teach students that even though the trick works only for there adverbs, good writers learn to avoid the other uses of there in their writing. I remind students that we shouldn’t use padded words or expressions because readers like concise writing. If the word or phrase does not contribute meaning, get rid of it!

Demonstrate the difference between padded and concise writing with this example:There, there, darling. There are ways for us to fix this mess.

Help students brainstorm deletions of the there interjections and expletive. Students (will a little of your prompting) will eventually revise as “Darling, we have ways to fix this mess.”

My Writing Openers Language Application Grades 4-8 programs provide this instruction in one of 56 lessons:

Our language application task is to delete the unnecessary “here” and “there” words. The unnecessary “here” and “there” words begin sentences or clauses and follow with “to be” verbs (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been). The “here” and “there” + “to be” verb constructions are frequently followed by a noun or pronoun and a relative clause beginning with that, which, or who. To eliminate the unnecessary “here” and “there” words at the beginning of a sentence of clause, revise to place the subject of the sentence at the beginning. Example: There are many students who do their best. Revision: Many students do their best.

In my Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4-8 programs, my subject and predicate lessons focus on removing prepositional phrases, interjections, and expletives from the hunt for the sentence subject. Students learn to spot the “here are” and “there are” (as well as the is, was, and were) words rather quickly.

Their

Meaning and Usage

Their is a plural possessive pronoun. Unfortunately, that definition assumes a considerable amount of grammatical knowledge. I begin the their lesson by listing the personal pronouns (Actually I just point to the poster on the wall… I use my own program resources :)).

I start instruction with the definition of a pronoun: “A pronoun is used to take their (nouns) place in the subject, possessive, or object case,” which is found in my Parts of Speech Song. Yes, that definition is comprehensive, and your students won’t understand all components at this point, but teaching the whole and scaffolding in the parts will build a conceptual framework much better than a piecemeal approach, such as limiting the definition to the simplified “a pronoun takes the place of a noun.”

Pointing to the poster, I review the third person singular pronouns, he, she, and it and match them with the third person plural pronoun their. Next, I tell students that when a pronoun is used to show ownership, we mean that it possesses something, so we call these pronouns possessives. I point to the singular possessives, his, her, and its and tell students that these possessives usually come before nouns, for example, his pencil, her pen, and its zipper. Finally, I point to the plural possessive their and show how this one word serves as the third person plural possessive. for example, their pencils, their pens, and their zippers.

Spelling 

Tell your students that, unlike the there spelling, the their spelling follows the conventional spelling rule. More specifically, it’s the famous “i before e Spelling Rule.” At this point, a brief digression is in order. The traditional “before e, except after or sounding like long /a/ as in neighbor or weigh” does apply, but it mis-teaches students that the “after c or sounding like long /a/” are exceptions to the rule. They aren’t exceptions; they are parts of the rule. Much better to teach my version of the rule with its catchy song. Play it!

i before Song

(to the tune of “Rig ‘a Jig Jig”)

Spell i before e ‘cause that’s the rule

Rig-a-jig-jig and away we go,

That we learned back in school.

Away we go, away we go!

But before comes after c,

Rig-a-jig-jig and away we go,

and when you hear long /a/. Hey!

Hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho.

After that happy song, I bring some sadness to the lesson. I tell students the sad news that some day their parents will die, and that as sons and daughters, they will likely possess what their parents owned (after taxes) and had rights to, such as houses and positions of authority. We say that children are the heirs to what their parents have owned. For example, in monarchies the prince and princess are heirs to the jewel-studded, golden crown and also to the position of king or queen.

I write the word heir on the board and ask how the word fits the “i before e Spelling Rule.” Then I draw a crown on top of the word and I underline that word. Finally, I add the “t” to the beginning of heir to spell their. I sum up the meaning, usage, and spelling memory trick by saying, “T-h-e-i-r is a plural possessive because it has an heir inside the word to shown possession. An an heir, you will one day possess your parent’s crown. It works! Thanks again to Jerry Lebo for that one.

Writing Application

I remind students that singular possessive pronouns must take the place of single nouns, but that this rule can create confusion when the pronoun antecedent (usually the noun to which the possessive pronoun refers) is not gender-specific. All-too-frequently, in our effort to treat men and women equally, we misuse the plural possessive pronoun, their, by referring to a singular subject. For example, this sentence is incorrect: The student ate their lunch. The plural possessive pronoun, their, cannot refer to the singular noun, student. Again from a lesson in my Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4-8 programs:

Avoid using gender-specific pronouns to refer to pronoun antecedents, which the writer does not intend to be gender-specific. The best way to fix this error is by making the antecedent noun or nouns plural. Revision Example: The student students ate their lunch lunches. Or revise the sentence without the pronouns. Revision Example: The student ate their lunch.

They’re

Meaning and Usage

They’re is a contraction, meaning they are. To start this lesson, I re-teach the four are contractions.


ARE
You are you’re Example: You’re funny.
We are we’re Example: We’re family.
They are they’re Example: They’re going to the store.
Who are who’re Example: Who’re you?

Source: Fry, E.B., Ph.D. & Kress, J.E., Ed.D. (2006). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 5th Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Teach your students that the apostrophe in a contraction is used to indicate a missing letter or letters. With the are contractions, the apostrophe takes the place of the letter “a.”

The they’re word is often mispronounced as three sounds (/th/, /ā/, /er/), rather than as two (/th/, /ār/). Thus, the there, their, and they’re homonyms are perfect homophones, though they are not homographs. Take time to teach these terms: Homonyms are words which sound or are spelled the same. One subset, homophones, are words which are pronounced the same; the other subset, homographs, are words which are spelled the same.

Have students say this sentence out loud, pronouncing the there, their, and they’re  exactly the same as two sounds:

They’re waiting for their friends over there.

Spelling

Again, with they’re, we have a non-phonetic sight word, or outlaw word spelling. They’re is a common contraction, but does not make the Fry 300 High Frequency Sight Words List. In fact, only one contraction, it’s, does make the list at #300 in terms of frequency.

However, the pronoun in the word is they, which is #19. Because the word appears so often in text, students beyond second grade usually have mastered the spelling. The spelling trick for they’re, which is often misspelled, is to see the contraction as two separate words: they + ‘reOnce students make this visualization, they usually spell the they’re with consistency.

Writing Application

Eliminate To Be Verbs

Eliminate “To Be” Verbs

Teach your students that contractions, such as they’re only belong in informal writing and speaking. The use of they’re is usually confined to story dialogue, because we tend to say “they’re” more often than “they are.”

Point out that good writers not only avoid using they’re in formal writing because it is a contraction, but the word also includes a “to be” verb: are. Good writers tend to reduce the number of their “to be” verbs in narrative and expository writing and replace these with more active, vivid, show me–don’t tell me verbs. Check out this article, “How to Eliminate “To Be” Verbs” for strategies to help your students reduce “to be” verbs in their writing.

*****

If more than one of the above curricular resources interests you, you may wish to check out the

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLES. Each BUNDLE includes these full-year grade level programs: Teaching Grammar and MechanicsWriting Openers Language ApplicationDifferentiated Spelling Instruction, and the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit, plus many additional instructional resources. Each grade level BUNDLE was designed and classroom-tested as a seamless program to help your students master each of the Common Core Language Strand Standards and provides perfect instructional continuity among the grade levels.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Here’s what teachers are saying about the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary program…

“The most comprehensive and easy to teach grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary program. I’m teaching all of the grade-level standards and remediating previous grade-level standards. The no-prep and minimal correction design of this program really respects a teacher’s time. At last, I’m teaching an integrated program–not a hodge-podge collection of DOL grammar, spelling and vocabulary lists, and assorted worksheets. I see measurable progress with both my grade-level and intervention students. BTW… I love the scripted lessons!”

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Program Overview

  • 56 language conventions (grammar, usage, and mechanics) lessons with teacher display and student worksheets
  • 28 spelling patterns tests and spelling sorts with teacher display and student worksheets
  • 56 writing openers language application with teacher display and student worksheets
  • 56 vocabulary worksheets
  • 28 biweekly grammar, usage, mechanics, and vocabulary unit tests and summative spelling assessments
  • Diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics tests with corresponding remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment
  • Diagnostic spelling patterns assessment with corresponding remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment
  • Language application remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment
  • Complete syllabication program
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Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , ,

Don’t Use Mad Libs to Teach Grammar

Mad Libs: Not for Grammar Instrction

Don’t Use Mad Libs to Teach Grammar

This morning I woke up to the usual pinging of Pinterest pins. As a teacher-publisher, I use Pinterest to market my ELA and reading intervention programs. I normally create a few pins per day in those subject areas. As a result, my daily allotment of “Fresh Pins” are, of course, targeted to those areas.

One of those pins this morning was titled “12 Fun Ways to Teach Grammar in Your Classroom.” I’m familiar with the author and her products (quite good, by the way) and so I read her article. After all, who doesn’t want to add a bit more fun to one’s teaching? Her 12 ideas were contributed by other teachers, posting on her Education to the Core Facebook Group.

One of the 12 suggestions is MAD LiBS™. For the few who are not familiar with this game and published materials, now the property of Penguin Random House, the procedures and name were created and coined in the 1950s. According to Wikipedia, more than 110 million copies of Mad Libs books have been sold since the series was first published in 1958.

The Mad Libs format consists of a short story in which a number of key words are replaced with blanks. Under each word is some categorical term, such as a part of speech. The person who is it (the assigned reader) asks the others playing the game for an example of the categorical term, such as a noun.  The reader does not read the story, and so the other players must provide an example of the noun without any story context. The reader elicits word or phrase examples for the rest of the blanks until the story has been completed. Then the reader reads the story out loud, including the randomly chosen words. The results can be funny or not; the sentences and story may make sense or not. Usually, the results are a mixed bag.

In my own family, Mad Libs were standard road trip entertainment, along with the license plate game (looking for plates from different states), for our yearly car vacations. As a teacher, I naturally (and irritatingly) took advantage of each game to remind my three boys about the parts of speech and U.S. geography respectively. Notice that I, as the dad and teacher, had no control over introducing the content, but was restricted to reviewing or reinforcing previous learning regarding out-of-context Mad Lib categorical terms and whichever car or truck we passed or passed us on the highway. The reviewing and reinforcing were incidental. According to Merriam-Webster, incidental in this context means “occurring merely by chance or without intention or calculation.” Incidentally (the other definition of the word, meaning “being likely to ensue as a chance or minor consequence”), Hawaii is the hardest to find!

Certainly, both of these games exposed gaps in my sons’ learning (or their teachers’ instruction). However, because of the adhoc nature of the games, I certainly could not infer all of my sons’ grammatical or geographical gaps or determine how one gap related to other gaps. For example, if one of my sons came up with caves for the Mad Lib noun, did this mean that he understood the difference between proper and common nouns or the complete definition of common nouns as ideas, persons, places or things? I couldn’t tell you. The game provided no means of meaningful formative assessment.

Now, before you throw your vast collection of Mad Libs books into the school dumpster, I would continue reading just a bit more.

As a rainy day activity or carefully contrived review activity, teachers may find some merit in playing once in a while. The Mad Libs publisher even has a teaching resource page with a few fun games.

However, with respect to being one of “12 Fun Ways to Teach Grammar in Your Classroom,” (my emphasis) I would beg to differ. Mad Libs should not be used to teach grammar. Now some would argue that providing a context for incidental learning is, indeed, teaching. Some may suggest that many forms of incidental learning, such as vocabulary acquisition through independent reading are essential. Fair points, but incidental learning is effective and necessary in some academic areas, but not in others. Grammar, or the structure of our language, is not conducive to incidental learning. To argue that we should teach the structure of our language in an unstructured way is downright silly. You wouldn’t hire an architect to design a home who would forego blueprints and direct the contractor to “just start building from the front door and see what happens next.” Neither would you teach someone to play Monopoly by adding relevant rules only upon each role of the di. True teaching in some academic areas, such as grammar, needs a plan.

As an ELA teacher since the 1980s, grammar has always been an important component of instruction in my classroom. Not the most important component, but important.  As a teacher-publisher, I have created numerous products for teaching grammar, usage, and mechanics over the years with evolving instructional formats. On my Pennington Publishing store, I provide traditional programs, interactive notebooks, and literacy centers for both grade-level instruction (aligned to the Common Core Standards) and remedial instruction (focusing on the Common Core Progressive Skills Review Standards). All three instructional approaches make sense to me because they follow a coherent instructional scope and sequence. Each program begins with a plan and follows with lessons and activities designed to fulfill that plan. With respect to grammar, that plan is linear (it moves from A to Z), but it is also recursive. Instruction cycles back within each year and year to year to remind and reinforce and then to build upon past learning. The Common Core State Standards follow this approach with both grade-level and progressive skills review Standards.

What does not make sense to me is incidental methodology for teaching grammar. It’s teaching without a plan. It’s a road trip without a clear destination or without using a nav system. Incidental learning is the very nature of the Mad Libs game and is why Mad Libs should not be used to teach grammar. The game may provide some benefit and fun for learning reinforcement and review, but it certainly should not be a chief focus of the teacher’s instruction. By the way, Mad Libs is not the only incidental approach to grammar instruction. I would also classify Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) as a random sample instructional approach. I would also say that the grammar mini-lessons approach, built around issues some students are facing in the context of their own writing would certainly falls into this category.

Want a full-year grammar and mechanics instructional scope and sequence for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8?

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Teaching Grammar and Mechanics for Grades 4-High School

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School Programs

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, and the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Writing , , , , , , , ,

School Absence Excuses

Funny School Absent Excuses

School Absent Excuses

No doubt you’ve heard a few of these. Following are my favorites from BuzzFeed’s collection, which has been gathered from school attendance clerks over the years. But, read past and I’ll provide one of my own that I think you will enjoy. Ah… truth is stranger than fiction.

I once told a teacher two weeks before a school concert that I wouldn’t be able to go because I would be sick. She just asked “you’ll be sick?” and when I nodded she just dropped it. She either believed in my ability to see into the future or thought my stupidity was just too much to even question.

Emmy Bloomberg, Facebook

Once during my high school spirit week, it was “superhero” Thursday. I didn’t have a costume and didn’t have time to buy/ make one… I had a genius idea… I skipped school that day, and then on Friday, everyone was demanding a reason why I wasn’t at school, and my excuse was, “I was here, I just came as the Invisible Woman.”

Submitted by mydnytestorme13

I used the excuse that I missed the bus for months, until the school caught on that I lived across the street. I could see my high school from my porch.

Submitted by carleighg

Jimmy Gordon’s Excuse

I’ve told quite a few people over the years about my student, Jimmy Gordon, and his excuse for cutting school. I’ve never put it into print until now. No, the name has not been changed to protect the innocent… because he certainly was not. Call this post “Teacher Payback.”

My first teaching job was at a grades 4-8 school in Sutter Creek, California. This beautiful Gold Rush town was split in two halves by Sutter Creek (hence the name). Good fishing, swimming, and gold panning in that creek!

In the spring of 1986, Jimmy Gordon transferred to our school from out of the area. Jimmy was an eighth-grader and I was his history teacher. Jimmy seemed like a nice kid and he made a few friends right away–something teachers (and parents) are always concerned about with a mid-year transfer.

A week before Open House, the principal called an emergency staff meeting to inform us that Jimmy Gordon’s dad had died suddenly. Jimmy had come in that morning, sobbing about his dad’s passing and telling us that the funeral was planned for the following week when relatives would arrive. Jimmy went home to console his mom.

The staff felt horrible and we quickly allocated money from our “Sunshine Fund” to send a bouquet of flowers and a card to Jimmy and his mom.

After Open House, the seventh and eighth grade teachers walked down to the local watering hole, “Berlotti’s” to unwind, per our custom. I sat down toward the end of the bar, next to a man a few years older than I. He was an outgoing sort and soon leaned over to me and said, “You all sound like teachers.”

I told him, “Yes, we just finished our Open House at Sutter Creek Elementary.”

“Oh really,” he replied, “My son just started school there a few week’s back.”

“What’s his name?” I stammered.

“Jimmy Gordon.”

+++++

Jimmy had been ditching school for a week, fishing in Sutter Creek.

Now, that’s a funny school absence excuse. When Jimmy returned to my class the next day, he didn’t say much. But I asked him anyway, “Were they biting? Jimmy just turned red and put his head down for the rest of the day.

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , ,