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Posts Tagged ‘Teaching Grammar and Mechanics’

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

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:

*****

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

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?

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

*****

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 , , , , , , , ,

Don’t Teach Grammar Mini-Lessons

Grammar Mini-Lessons

Don’t Teach Grammar Mini-Lessons

Don’t teach grammar mini-lessons for two reasons: this instructional methodology is implicit and ineffective.

Currently, the top Google search for “new research on teaching grammar” brings up this article from The Atlantic, written by Professor Michelle Navarre Cleary:

The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar

A century of research shows that traditional grammar lessons—those hours spent diagramming sentences and memorizing parts of speech—don’t help and may even hinder students’ efforts to become better writers. Yes, they need to learn grammar, but the old-fashioned way does not work.

Case settled? Not exactly. In educational research it is much easier to disprove than to prove. Educational researchers frequently employ the null hypothesis in their experimental design. In a nutshell, a grammar program research study might have the following hypothesis: “There is no statistical significance between the achievement of grade 8 students taught with such and such grammar program and those not taught with said grammar program as measured by such and such assessment over such and such a period of time.”

By design, any findings would have to be extremely limited and the control group, unless unexposed to any literacy activities in hermetically-sealed isolation chambers, would have so many variables that any findings would be questionable. Such has been the case with the century of research on grammar and usage acquisition and its transfer to writing. Two separate issues, by the way.

What the good professor is advocating is learning grammar implicitly from reading and writing, especially the latter. She suggests mini-lessons in the context of writing as a superior method of writing instruction (Notice: not grammar instruction).

We know that grammar instruction that works includes teaching students strategies for revising and editing, providing targeted lessons on problems that students immediately apply to their own writing, and having students play with sentences like Legos, combining basic sentences into more complex ones. Often, surprisingly little formal grammar instruction is needed. Researcher Marcia Hurlow has shown that many errors “disappear” from student writing when students focus on their ideas and stop “trying to ‘sound correct.’”

These grammar mini-lessons are part and parcel of the implicit instructional approach: “If you do something over and over again, you’ll eventually stop making mistakes and get gooder at the task.” It’s akin to playing Monopoly for the first time without reading the rules. No, you don’t eventually learn to play by playing and being interrupted by occasional mini-lessons on what to do when passing “Go.”

What’s Wrong with the Implicit Approach in Mini-Lessons?

  1. It is simply inefficient. Waiting to teach a mini-lesson as students need the grammatical tool always comes with this advice: “When you notice that some of your students are having capitalization issues regarding article titles, pull a group of students needing the instruction and teach the relevant rules.” Of course, other students may need that same instruction, but have not yet evidenced the problems in writer mini-conferences with the teacher. Furthermore, why not teach the capitalization rules for all proper nouns. You know you are going to have to teach another mini-lesson next week on the capitalization of song and poem titles. Lastly, the beauty of the Common Core State Standards is the grade-level expectations and the mastery approach to learning. The CCSS Language Strand has quite explicit grammar, usage, and mechanics grade-level Standards.
  2. It is haphazard and disjointed. A traditional grammar approach provides explicit, planned instruction. An isolated mini-lesson on combining sentences by starting with a prepositional phrase will not make sense unless students have a solid foundation of subjects, predicates (a prepositional phrase never includes the subject or predicate), the characteristics of a phrase and a complete sentence, the role of commas with introductory phrases, etc. All other academic disciplines build upon foundations: no math teacher would do a mini-lesson on long division before teaching the multiplication tables.
  3. It does not connect to other  language instruction. An isolated mini-lesson on semi-colons does not connect to related lessons on comma-conjunction rules, independent and dependent clauses, the use of phrases in lists, etc. The amount of scaffolding required to teach a mini-lesson on mis-use of the semi-colon is significant. Interestingly, the most popular approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction, Daily Oral Language, is at the forefront of criticism by those favoring the mini-lesson approach for not connecting to other language instruction. See my article “Why Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) Doesn’t Work” for more.
  4. It falsely teaches students that grammar is an editing skill alone. Aside from the sentence combining practice, advocates of the mini-lesson approach teaches students that grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction is all about mistakes, rather than about tools to enrich speaking and writing.

Why Are Grammar Mini-Lessons So Ineffective?

  1. There is no corroborating research. Those advocating the relegation of grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction to mini-lessons have zero research studies to confirm a positive correlation with this approach on either grammar or writing assessments. It’s easy to throw stones at traditional grammar approaches, but it does not follow that mini-lessons are the best and only alternatives. The professor in The Atlantic article only cites anecdotal evidence that learning grammar from writing does, indeed, work.
  2. We’ve been there and done that. Decades of ignoring explicit grammar instruction have not seen increased reading or writing ability in our students. The Common Core authors in Appendix A crush the notion that implicit instructional approaches produce better results than explicit ones. Hence, the unpopular (among grammar mini-lesson fans) inclusion of a separate Language Strand. Even the most recent National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) position statement in the NCTE Guideline now stresses the importance of direct instruction in these areas (even including parts of speech and sentence diagramming) with the caveat that instruction must be connected to reading, writing, and speaking. Regarding instructional approaches, the NCTE position might surprise some die-hard anti-grammar fanatics.
  3. There is less grammar teaching in mini-center classrooms. It’s just true. Those who use mini-lessons devalue the important contributions that grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction bring to developing readers and writers. Or, as is often the case, teachers did not learn grammar as students and did not learn how to teach grammar, usage, and mechanics in teacher preparation classes. Grammar can be scary and teachers seek their own instructional comfort levels.
  4. This instructional philosophy trickles into other language instruction. The implicit instruction of grammar mini-lessons bleeds into other areas of language instruction. Typically, those who teach grammar mini-lessons follow suit in vocabulary instruction. Again, the days of teaching only vocabulary in context and assorted mini-lessons on context clues has not done the job. The Common Core State Standards require a variety of direct vocabulary instruction at each grade level to improve the academic language of our students. See an example of the Vocabulary Acquisition and Use Standards, again found in the Language Strand to see if these Standards are conducive to a mini-lesson approach (They are not). In reading instruction we abandoned the “whole to part” strategy years ago following the 1985 National Reading Panel Report with its reading research consistently supporting the explicit, systematic approach to reading development. Interestingly, many teachers who now teach direct vocabulary and reading instruction have hung on to the implicit approach to grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction.

Of course, teachers want to know how best to teach grammar, if mini-lessons do not work. No, there are other alternatives beyond simply passing out drill and kill worksheets or DOL. Check out my article, “Grammar and the Common Core” and my grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs.

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

Get the Diagnostic Mechanics Assessment with Recording Matrix FREE Resource:

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

Mechanics Quiz for Teachers

Mechanics Quiz for ELA Teachers

Mechanics Quiz for Teachers

See how much you know about mechanics (commas, capitalization, quotation marks, colons, apostrophes, semicolons, punctuation, etc.) by taking the 10 Question Mechanics Quiz for Teachers. Don’t worry; I’ll dispense with the usual “If you score 9 or 10 out of 10, you are…” Let’s keep things fun! Take out a pen and some scratch paper. Number from 1‒10.

I selected quiz items from the grades 4‒8 Common Core Anchor Standards for Language.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.7.2

Common Core Language Strand Standards

Common Core Anchor Standards for Language

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Note: The Common Core authors call these components language conventions (along with Standard 1 grammar). Helpful links follow each question if you want to learn explore the grammatical topics.

The answers to the multiple-choice questions follow my promotional materials to ensure that you glance at my grammar and mechanics programs. Okay, so you’re probably not going to get all of these answers correct. I’m sure it’s just the way I’ve phrased the questions and/or answers. I would be happy to explain any of the distractors. Comments are welcomed (not welcome).

Mechanics Quiz for Teachers

1. According to the serial (Oxford) comma rule, which sentence is incorrectly punctuated?

A. Rafael, Louis and Tom met Luisa and Pablo at the coffee shop.

B. Choose the desk, table, or the huge, ugly chair for your apartment.

C. The bright morning sky, cool breeze, and warm company improved my mood.

D. I like most breeds of small dogs, but prefer cats, birds, and hamsters as pets.

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/the-serial-oxford-comma-for-the-want-of-a-nail/

2. According to compound sentence comma rules, which sentence is correctly punctuated?

A. Do you want donuts, or would you prefer scones?

B. Although frequently attacked by her critics, Alyssa continued to press for change.

C. I met Allen and we biked through the park.

D. The teacher was available from noon until three yet neither Jesse, nor Holly, wanted help.

http://grammartips.homestead.com/compoundsentences.html

3. According to introductory phrase comma rules, which sentence is incorrectly punctuated?

A. Through snow and sleet the postal carrier slogged the mail to our houses.

B. Compared to Mike, Huang, and Emily, the other students were quite prepared.

C. Tall and tan, the young man bore a striking resemblance to the actor.

D. Under my bed, I hid my baseball card collection.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/607/03/

4. According to dependent (subordinate) clause comma rules, which sentence is correctly punctuated?

A. Whichever you choose, is fine with me.  B. Since you left, he has never been the same though he has received constant care.

C. I still received excellent service in spite of the delays.  D. Even though, she was ready on time, Suzanne still missed the appointment.

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/grammar/punctuation-the-comma-and-the-apostrophe/commas-in-space-and-time/v/commas-and-introductory-elements-the-comma-punctuation-khan-academy

5. According to proper noun capitalization rules, which sentence is incorrectly punctuated?

A. Marvin “The Shark” Bentley had been brought up on racketeering charges by the District Attorney.

B. He was interrogated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation twice during the Cold War.

C. The U.S. Constitution specifies “High Crimes And Misdemeanors” as grounds for impeachment in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5.

D. I saw the President of the United States speak at the Capitol on the Fourth of July.

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/capitalizing-proper-nouns

6. According to abbreviation and acronym rules, which sentence is correctly punctuated?

A. David has worked outside of the U.S. in many foreign countries, but he now works for NASA.

B. Ms. Jennifer Jenkins, MD, went AWOL from Dr. Master’s practice.

C. Ikeda awoke to the screaming alarm at 6:00 A.M.

D. She earned her MA in Curriculum Development at U.C.L.A.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/about-words-clauses-and-sentences/abbreviations-initials-and-acronyms

7. According to quotation rules, which sentence is incorrectly punctuated?

A. I want to read the final chapter, “Return of the King,” before I go to sleep.

B. In The Declaration of Independence, did Jefferson say “…all men are created equal?”

C. He asked, “What did Dr. King mean in the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by the phrase ‘free at last’?”

D. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was released on the 1963 album, Freewillin’ Bob Dylan.

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/22-quotation-mark-rules/ 

8. According to apostrophe rules, which sentence is correctly punctuated?

A. The wives’ dinner at the Jones’ place, followed by dessert at the Martins, showed off the women’s best recipes.

B. Bob and Jolene’s recipe was more popular than her’s.

C. Ethan and Mary’s reactions to the business proposal were quite different.

D. Charles’ books were found on the bookshelves at the Sanchez’s.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/621/01

9. According to semicolon rules, which sentence is incorrectly punctuated?

A. All their work was wasted; the fund was depleted; and they had no future prospects.

B. Desmond asked for more than his fair share; Mark wondered why the paint would not dry.

C. She did absolutely none of the work; I did it all.

D. Dexter spent time in Chico and Redding in Northern California; El Cajon and San Diego in Southern California; and Visalia and Merced in Central California.

http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/semicolons_in_lists.htm 

10. According to colon rules, which sentence is correctly punctuated?

A. His list of accomplishments include: a marathon time of 4:25:34, a key to the city, and a blue ribbon at the Alabama State Fair.

B. I loved listening to “The Great Adventure: landing on the Moon” on my new phone.

C. The politician outlined three goals: A tax on steel imports, a single-payer health care system, and a higher minimum wage.

D. A whale is not a fish: nor is it a crustacean.

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/colon-2/ 

Want to take the 10 Question Grammar Quiz for Teachers? Check it out after you self-correct your mechanics quiz.

Answers: 1. A    2. D    3. D    4. C    5. A    6. A    7. B    8. A    9. B    10. C

*****

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. 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 hodgepodge 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

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