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Prescriptivism and Descriptivism

Grammar Descriptivism and Prescriptivism

Descriptivism and Prescriptivism

As an English teacher, one of my go-to resources has always been Richard Nordquist’s prolific posts on the ThoughtCo site. As I write articles to explore my understanding of our language and how to teach the grammar, usage, and mechanics thereof, I can’t tell you how many times I dig into writing on a subject only to find that Nordquist has already done so. The same has been the case regarding the topics of this article; however, I do bring some originality to the discussion of prescriptivism and descriptivism. And, of course, I have ulterior motives (Don’t we all?) to promote my grammar, usage, and mechanics programs for grades 4–high school ELA teachers. Disclaimer up-front.

Let’s start with the definitions of prescriptivism and descriptivism, so I can stop using the italics thereafter. This is the best summary of each approach I’ve found from Stan Carey:

Prescriptivism and descriptivism are contrasting approaches to grammar and usage, particularly to how they are taught. Both are concerned with the state of a language — descriptivism with how it’s used, prescriptivism with how it should be used.

For English teachers, who teach with a prescriptive approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics, the notion of right and wrong guide their instruction. They believe in the difference between Standard and Non-Standard English. They reference style manuals and consult authorities, such as the Purdue Online Writing Lab. They favor direction instruction and practice of the rules of the language. These language traditionalists would teach a lesson on pronoun antecedents, one on avoiding double negatives, and one on the proper use of the semicolon and expect to see the fruits of their labor on the next assigned essay. They are inductive (part to whole) practitioners and use explicit instructional techniques.

For English teachers, who teach with a descriptive approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics, they focus more on the use of the language as it is and as it is evolving. They make fewer judgments upon correctness and emphasize communicative clarity over conformity to an arbitrary set of rules. They favor instruction in the tools of language on an ad hoc basis, such as a mini-lesson on mixing verb tense, prepositional idiomatic expressions, or comma usage on an as needed basis in the context of authentic writing or speaking. They are deductive (whole to part) practitioners and prefer to teach implicitly from reading and writing, rather than explicitly through contrived, outside sources.

What does the research say about these approaches? Having served as a teacher when both prescriptivism and descriptivism were en vogue, and research studies purported to advocate what was in and debunk what was out, I would simply say that any quick survey of this field of educational research would lead most teachers to voice, “Yeah, but…” for each and every study. With respect to grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction, the variables of instructional approaches, prior knowledge, language ability, etc. preclude any hard and fast This is the right way to teach conclusions. It’s easy to knock one approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction by examining null hypotheses which have been confirmed; for example, “These studies indicate no statistically significant difference between direct instruction of capitalization rules and no such instruction”; however, where does that get us? No closer to guidance on how to teach capitalization. And most all, except the most ardent and consistent descriptivists, would rail against presidential Tweets in which every other word was capitalized. See my Word Crimes (Revisited) video, for a laugh.

So, where has the pendulum swung between these two instructional philosophies?

At this point in time, it appears that die-hard descriptivists have been benched. Prescriptivism is the predominant influence upon English teachers in most American classes. Teachers who never taught a lick of grammar ten years ago, or those who relegated grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction to writing openers, a la Daily Oral Language, are busting our Cornell Note lectures and assigning worksheets again. ESL and ELD teachers have been key advocates of this approach to language-learning.

Much credit for this pendulum swing to traditional grammar instruction must be assigned to the authors of the Common Core State Standards, especially with respect to the Language Strand.

These authors note:

To build a foundation for college and career readiness in language, students must gain control over many conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics as well as learn other ways to use language to convey meaning effectively… The inclusion of Language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, effective language use, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts (http://www.corestandards.org).

Teachers reading the introduction to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies,
Science, and Technical Subjects will note the oft-repeated “correct,” “correctness,” and “standard” references and these words are used throughout the Language Strand as well. A few examples from the Common Core Language Strand will suffice:

Examples of Language Standards Emphasizing Correctness

  • Ensure that pronouns are in the proper case (subjective, objective, possessive). L.6.1.
  • Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives (e.g., It was a fascinating, enjoyable movie but not He wore an old[,] green shirt). L.7.2.
  • Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood. L.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, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

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

Or why not get the value-priced Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLES? These grade-level programs include both teacher’s guide and student workbooks and are designed to help you teach all the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language. In addition to the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics program, each BUNDLE provides weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of the grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary components.

The program also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment.

Check out the brief introductory video and enter DISCOUNT CODE 3716 at check-out for 10% off this value-priced program. We do sell print versions of the teacher’s guide and student workbooks. Yes, we accept purchase orders. Contact mark@penningtonpublishing.com for pricing. Read what teachers are saying about this comprehensive 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!

─Julie Villenueve

Get the Diagnostic Grammar and Usage Assessment with Recording Matrix FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic Mechanics Assessment with Recording Matrix FREE Resource:

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Squinting Modifiers

Avoiding Squinting Modifiers

Squinting Modifiers

Not too many English teachers will read this article and teach this lesson plan. For the few who do, you need to know that you are really grammar nerding-out by examining the subject of squinting modifiers. I, myself, had never heard of the term until the advent of the Common Core State Standards. I was teaching eighth-grade ELA and found “squinting modifiers” listed as a Language Strand Standard. I knew all about misplaced and dangling modifiers, as no doubt you do, too; however, this old dog needed to learn a few new tricks.

It’s not like I hadn’t seen squinting modifiers in my students’ writing (and in my own). I had assumed that these writing errors were classified as misplaced modifiers. Not so. Neither were squinting and dangling modifiers the same. The latter distinctions are frequently misunderstood. Re-examine the Trump and Clinton graphic after reading the lesson and you’ll see why countless ELA teachers have mistakenly referred to the future POTUS comment as a dangling modifier. It’s quite clearly a squinting modifier, I’m sure you will agree. No huge matter; it’s a modifier error that needs fixin’, but the confusion is not a distinction without a difference. Teaching your students to identify the differences among modifiers will equip your students with specific revision strategies to avoid these errors.

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

Squinting Modifiers Lesson

Today we are studying squinting 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? A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that serves as an adjective or adverb to describe, limit, or add to another word, phrase, or clause.

A squinting modifier is a word or phrase placed between two words so that it could be misunderstood to describe either word. Revise by placing the modifier before or after the word, phrase, or clause that it modifies. Example: Walking up hills quickly strengthens your legs. “Quickly” could modify “hills” or “strengthens.

Sentence Diagram

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 modifier and is connected with a dotted, slanted line. A squinting modifier will create confusion for a sentence diagrammer, because the diagrammer will have some uncertainty as to where to place the modifier. Uncertainly is always a good clue that something is not quite right and must be revised. That’s why sentence diagramming can be an excellent tool for developing writers. 

Examine the sentence diagram on the left with the squinting modifier, and revise on the right.

Avoiding Squinting Modifiers

Squinting 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 Francois de La Rochefoucauld (the French author), avoids squinting modifiers and uses contrasting modifiers to make a humorous point. Let’s read it carefully: ‘Why is it that our memory is good enough to retain the least triviality that happens to us, and yet not good enough to recollect how often we have told it to the same person?

Writing Application

Now let’s apply what we’ve learned to respond to this quote and compose a sentence with contrasting modifiers. Create your own squinting modifier if you wish.

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 Squinting Modifiers Full Lesson FREE Resource:

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Dangling Modifiers

Avoiding Dangling Modifiers

Dangling Modifiers

“Tossed high in the air, the dog caught the Frisbee®.” That poor dog! Obviously, “Tossed high into the air” was not intended to modify the dog. The writer meant the Frisbee®; however the one being modified is not identified, so we have a perfect case of a dangling modifier.

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

Dangling Modifiers Lesson

Today we are studying dangling 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? A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that serves as an adjective or adverb to describe, limit, or add to another word, phrase, or clause.

A dangling modifier is an adjective or adverb that does not have a clear connection to the word, phrase, or clause to which it refers. A dangling modifier usually takes the form of a present participle (“__ing”), a past participle (“__d,” “__t,” “__ed,” “__ en”), or an infinitive (to + the base form of a verb). To eliminate the dangling modifier, place the do-er of the sentence as the subject of the independent clause or combine the phrase and independent clause. Example: Fired from your job, your car became your home. (Your car was not fired; you were).

Sentence Diagram

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 modifier and is connected with a dotted, slanted line. A dangling modifier will not fit properly in a sentence diagram, because it has nothing to modify. One great reason to teach sentence diagramming; if a word or phrase does not fit, it is misused. Where might the modifiers, “Our own” be misplaced within this sentence and so create confusion? Answers: Our children loved their own presents. Their children loved our own presents.

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

In the sentence diagrammed below, “After learning the facts, the article was helpful” includes a dangling modifier. Did the article learn the facts or someone else? Obviously, the person being modified is not mentioned: hence, the dangling modifier.

Avoiding Dangling Modifiers

Dangling Modifiers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mentor Text

This mentor text, written by George Bernard Shaw (the British author and humorist), uses an adjectival phrase to modify “countries” for humorous effect. Let’s read it carefully: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

Writing Application

Now let’s apply what we’ve learned to respond to this quote and compose a sentence with a modifying adverbial phrase. Create your own dangling modifier if you wish.

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 Dangling Modifiers Full Lesson FREE Resource:

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

Misplaced Modifiers

Fixing Misplaced Modifiers

Misplaced Modifiers

Following is a quick lesson to help your students. If the lesson works for your students, check out these related lessons: comparative modifiers, superlative 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.

Misplaced Modifiers Lesson

Today we are studying misplaced modifiers. Both adjectives and adverbs are 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 misplaced modifier modifies something that the writer does not intend to modify because of its placement in the sentence. Place modifiers close to the words that they modify. Examples: I drank only water; I only drank water. In these sentences only is the modifier. These sentences have two different meanings. The first means that I drank nothing but water. The second means that all I did with the water was to drink it.

Sentence Diagram

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 modifier and is connected with a dotted, slanted line. A misplaced modifier will not fit properly in a sentence diagram. One great reason to teach sentence diagramming; if a word or phrase does not fit, it is misused. Where might the modifiers, “Our own” be misplaced within this sentence and so create confusion? Answers: Our children loved their own presents. Their children loved our own presents.

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 George Bernard Shaw (the British author and humorist), uses an adjectival phrase to modify “countries” for humorous effect. Let’s read it carefully: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

Writing Application

Now let’s apply what we’ve learned to respond to this quote and compose a sentence with a modifying adverbial phrase.

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 Misplaced Modifiers Full Lesson FREE Resource:

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

All Well and Good

Good and Well

Not all Good

All well and good? Well, perhaps not all of President Trump’s tweets include good grammar, mechanics, spelling, and proper word choice, as evidenced by his take-down of the New York Times on the Sean Hannity show.

In fact, as an English teacher, I’ve written and recorded a few of his egregious mis-tweets and speech oopses in a funny YouTube video titled, “Word Crimes (Revisited).” The song is a spin-off of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s hilarious 2015 “Word Crimes,” found on the parody master’s Mandatory Fun album. Believe me, the president’s English teachers owe us quite an explanation.

Let’s take a look at these two troublesome words, good and well, and provide some clarity about the meaning and usage of these oft-confused words.

Understanding the roles of two parts of speech are helpful in this regard. The word, good, is an adjective; well is an adverb. Both of these parts of speech modify other parts of speech. Modify is an important academic language termwhich means “to define, identify, describe, to expand, or to limit.”

Two Parts of Speech

To review, an adjective modifies a noun with Which One, How Many, or What Kind. Examples: that bird, few students, dark chocolate

Note that, in English, we place adjectives before nouns. Use of more than one adjective usually follows the Which One, How Many, or What Kind adjective order.

An adverb modifies an adjective, adverb, or verb with What Degree, How, Where, or When. Examples: less, carefully, there, later

Note that, in English, we place adverbs in different places within sentences for emphasis. Use of more than one adverb usually follows the What Degree, How, Where, or When adverb order.

Practice memorizing these parts of speech descriptions in the Parts of Speech Song.

Good as an Adjective

The word, good, modifies a noun and answers what kind. Example: Ms. Samuels is a good teacher. Explanation: What kind of teacher is Ms. Samuels? A good one. Notice that good can also modify the pronoun, one.

Well as an Adverb

The word, well, modifies an adjective or verb and answers how.

Example #1 (modifying an adjective): The well-chosen lyrics fit the song perfectly. Explanation: “Chosen” is an adjective, answering what kind or, perhaps, which ones, and the adverb, “well,” answers how the lyrics were chosen.

Example #2 (modifying a verb): The students speak well of their principal. Explanation: The students speak how about their principal? They speak well.

Good and Well in Predicate Adjectives

A predicate adjective follows a linking verb and refers back to a preceding noun to modify the noun. One type of linking verb is a “to be” verb: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. Example: The school librarians were helpful. Explanation: The predicate adjective, “helpful,” follows the linking verb, “were” and modifies the noun, “librarians.” Example: The school librarians were extremely helpful. Explanation: The adverb, “extremely,” modifies the linking verb, “were,” and is part of the predicate adjective phrase, “extremely helpful.”

Other types of linking verbs use the five senses: look, sound, smell, feel, and taste. A few more linking verbs are used frequently: appear, seem, become, grow, turn, prove, and remain.

With these linking verbs, use good as a predicate adjective when stating a sensory action. Examples: Bob and Joanne look good; their voices sound good; they smell good; they feel good; and their desserts taste good.

Use good as a predicate adjective when describing someone’s emotions.

Examples: “The situation,” she explained, “did not seem good to me.”

“I never felt good about it either,” added her friend.

Use good as a predicate adjective when describing someone’s character. Examples: The woman is kind, good, and trustworthy.

Use well as a predicate adjective when referring to health. Note that grammarians would still classify well as an adverb, serving as a predicate adjective.

Examples: Suzanne asked,How are you, John?

“I am well,” he replied.

“You do look well,” she commented. “I feel well, too.”

Use well to mean broadly or fully when it is listed first in a predicate adjective phrase. Note that no hyphen is used after the noun to which the predicate adjective phrase refers.

Examples: The celebrity was well known and always well mannered with his adoring fans.

Good and Well as Expletives

Expletives are not just swear words. Expletives are extraneous words or phrases which are not part of the semantic (meaning) structure of a sentence. For example, “There” followed by a verb is usually an expletive, unless used to indicate where. Both good and well can serve as expletives. Examples: “Good. That’s what I want to hear,” he said. “Well, I mean that’s what I need to hear,” he clarified. Explanation: Both “Good” and “Well” add no meaning to the sentences.

Good and Well as Nouns

In addition to their use as expletives, adjectives, and adverbs, both good and well can serve as common nouns. Philosophers have used good as a noun to mean “that which is valued.” Example: The wise always seek the ultimate good in others. To be charitable, perhaps President Trump was using good in this sense in some lines of his criticism of the news media (see graphic at beginning of article). Anyone living in a rural area will be familiar with a water well; Texans know all about oil wells; and the holes at the top of old school desks? Those are ink wells.

*****

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 “To Be” Verbs Posters FREE Resource:

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

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.

Get the “To Be” Verbs Posters FREE Resource:

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:

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

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 , , , , , , , , , , , ,