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How to Teach Conjunctions

Remember the elementary school Schoolhouse Rock song, Conjunction Junction? Here’s the first verse to refresh your memory.

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.
Conjunction Junction, how’s that function?
I got three favorite cars
That get most of my job done.
Conjunction Junction, what’s their function?
I got “and”, “but”, and “or”,
They’ll get you pretty far.

“And”:
That’s an additive, like “this and that”.
“But”:
That’s sort of the opposite,
“Not this but that”.
And then there’s “or”:
O-R, when you have a choice like
“This or that”.
“And”, “but”, and “or”,
Get you pretty far.            by Bob Dorough ©1973 Schoolhouse Rock

Countless students have learned that a conjunction “hooks up words and phrases and clauses” from this elementary song. Although only a few examples are given, the tune and lyric are memorable and many students can identify this part of speech, more so than others, because of this song. Now, of course, the above verse only refers to one of three types of conjunctions—the coordinating conjunction.

Upper elementary, middle school, and high school students will need more examples of all three types of conjunctions to assist in accurate identification, and more importantly, to prompt their use of more sophisticated sentence constructions beyond those at the simple sentence levels. However, teaching the function of the three types of conjunctions with the most common examples in memorable ways certainly makes sense for older students. So, here are the three types of conjunctions, each with 1. Definition 2. Common Conjunctions 3. Example 4. Writing Connection 5. Writing Practice and 6. Memory Trick.

Coordinating Conjunctions for Elementary School

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions

1. Definition: A coordinating conjunction joins words, phrases, or clauses of equal weight or similar grammatical construction.

2. Common Coordinating Conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

3. Example: Two desserts are fine, but three are better.

4. Writing Connection: Avoid overuse of the conjunction so. Also, do not use the words then and now as coordinating conjunctions. A comma is placed before the conjunction if it joins two or more independent clauses. Teach students that joining two simple related sentences with a comma conjunction forms a more sophisticated compound sentence.

FANBOYS Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating Conjunctions

5. Writing Practice: Write cloze sentences with blanks for the coordinating conjunctions, e.g., The food looked good, ______ she was not hungry. Have students compose original sentences for each of the seven common coordinating conjunctions. Have students “book search” for the seven common coordinating conjunctions. Require students to include a certain number of compound sentences in a writing process paper and underline each of the coordinating conjunctions.

6. Memory Trick: Teach the seven common coordinating conjunctions as F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). For younger children, the most common should be taught as B.O.A.S. (but, or, and, so)

The Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative Conjunctions

1. Definition: A correlative conjunction joins another correlative conjunction as a pair. The paired correlative conjunctions serve as conjunctions to connect two balanced words, phrases, or clauses.

2. Common Correlative Conjunctions: both−and; such−that; whether−or; as−as; not−but; neither−nor; no sooner−than; either−or; as many−as; rather−than

3. Example: Either we work together, or we will fail together.

4. Writing Connection: A comma is placed before the second of the paired conjunctions, if the sentence ends in an independent clause. Teach students that using the correlative conjunctions forms a complex sentence, which is one mark of mature writing.

5. Writing Practice: Write cloze sentences with blanks for the correlative conjunctions, e.g., ______ ______ did the food look good, ______ it ______ tasted great. Have students compose original sentences for each of the common correlative conjunctions. Have students “book search” for the common correlative conjunctions. Require students to include a certain number of correlative conjunctions in a writing process paper.

6. Memory Trick: Teach students to memorize the common correlative conjunctions to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Correlative Conjunctions 

Correlative Conjunctions Song Pennington Publishing

Correlative Conjunctions Pennington Publishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subordinating Conjunctions AAAWWUBBIS

Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunctions

1. Definition: A subordinating conjunction always introduces a dependent clause (a noun and a verb not expressing a complete thought). The subordinating conjunction signals the relationship between the dependent clause and the independent clause (a subject and verb standing alone as a complete thought). A dependent clause is less important than the independent clause and is sometimes called a subordinate clause. It is helpful to remember that sub means under, so that the subordinate clause is subordinate to the independent clause.

2. Common Subordinating Conjunctions: after, although, as, as if, as long as, as much as, as soon as, as though, because, before, despite, even if, even though, how, if, in spite of, in order that, once, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, wherever, whether, while

3. Example: Although my friends had already seen it, they saw the show a second time.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinate Conjunctions

4. Writing Connection: Adding a subordinating conjunction to one of the clauses can revise a run-on sentence. A comma is placed after the dependent clause, if it begins a sentence. Teach students that using the subordinate conjunction to signal a dependent clause forms a complex sentence, which is important to sentence variety.

5. Writing Practice: Write cloze sentences with blanks to help students practice subordinating  conjunctions, e.g., ______ the food looked good, I ordered it for dinner. Have students compose original sentences for each of the common correlative conjunctions. Have students “book search” for the subordinating conjunctions. Require students to include a certain number of subordinating conjunctions in a writing process paper. Avoid stringing together two or more sentences with dependent clauses.

6. Memory Trick: Use the following memory trick to prompt your use of these subordinating clauses: Bud is wise, but hot! AAA WWW

The Subordinating Conjunctions Pennington Publishing

Subordinating Conjunctions Pennington Publishing

*****Check out the FREE downloads of all these posters after the adverts for the author’s teaching resources.

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

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary 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 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

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Want the poster size 11 x 17 Conjunction Posters you see in this article for your classroom? I’ll send the PDFs right away to your email.

Get the Conjunction Posters FREE Resource:

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Teaching Essay Style: 15 Tricks of the Trade

“Never start a sentence with But.” Countless middle school and high school English-language arts teachers cringe when their students faithfully repeat this elementary school dictum. “Never use I in your five-paragraph essay.” Now university professors similarly cringe and shake their heads at the straight-jacketed rules placed upon their students. However, maybe there is a method to our madness. Perhaps these writing absolutes serve a useful purpose for coaching developing writers. Perhaps the little white lies that we teach our students are actually our tricks of the trade.

Instead of bemoaning past “bad writing instruction,” we should celebrate the fact that our students did remember these rules. After all, writing teachers of all levels are always shocked at how little transfer students make from grade to grade or from course to course. Anything that students retain from previous writing instruction can be used by resourceful teachers as “teachable moments.” Perhaps it’s time that we trust our colleagues that they understand best what works for their students at their age levels.

Teaching all of the seemingly arbitrary rules and enforcing them in student writing practice makes sense. As writers mature, 7-12 English-language arts teachers and university professors can encourage “rule breaking” with sly nods and winks. Without knowing the rules, developing writers cannot make informed choices about which ones to break and when they should break them to serve their writing purposes. In fact, the best writers are rule-breakers. E.B. White revised and updated Strunk’s Bible of writing style, yet he consistently chose to break the rules in his own writing. He knew enough to consciously deviate from the norm.

Writing teachers should worry more when their students unconsciously deviate from the norm. Of course, other forms of prose and poetry have their own stylistic rules to learn and break. But this article will concentrate on those of the essay. So, following is a list of the Teaching Essay Style: 15 Tricks of the Trade.

  1. Require students to write in a formal voice. No figures of speech, slang, clichés, abbreviations, flowery language, or contractions. Teach them to dress in a tuxedo or bridesmaid dress when they are in a wedding, not baggy pants or skinny jeans with flip-flops.
  2. Teach students to write in third person. It’s not that the I is inappropriate in all essays. The problem is that the use of the I requires a sophisticated rationale and limited usage. For example, qualitative research requires the I; however, quantitative research does not. Let the post-graduate supervising professors teach their students to break this rule. Furthermore, the “no I rule” forces a certain degree of objectivity and requires students to focus on the subject, rather than on the writer. These are the real concerns of K-12 and university professors.
  3. Teach students not to use their to reference singular non-gender nouns. Approving such sentences as “The student likes their classes” transfers to other more egregious pronoun reference problems as in “Those desk in the back of our room belong to them guy.” Also, no one likes reading he/she, him or her, s/he or the like. It does make sense to teach students to pluralize when at all possible, but the use of he or she throughout (please don’t alternate!) is no crime.
  4. Teach students to vary their sentence structures. “Never more than two simple sentences back-to-back and never follow a complex sentence with another complex sentence” will increase readability. “Have no more than 50% of your sentences follow the subject-verb-complement pattern” helps students focus on sentence variety.”
  5. “No more than one to-be verb per paragraph” will force students to avoid passive voice and strengthen nouns and verbs.
  6. Require your students to write in complete sentences. “No declarative sentences beginning with but, and, or, so, like, because, how, when, where, or why, unless you finish them” reduces fragments.
  7. “No unparallel verb structures” helps eliminate verb tense errors and awkward writing. For example, “Going to the store, to get some gas, and maybe have a cup of coffee are appearing on my agenda for today” can be eliminated with this rule.
  8. Require transitions between paragraphs. Sophisticated writers may have no need, but your students do to write coherent essays.
  9. Teach your students to choose simple words, not their weekly vocabulary words. Precision is better than pomposity.
  10. Demand specificity and do not permit generalizations, except in conclusions.
  11. Don’t allow your students to make parenthetical remarks. Most misuse these.
  12. Never allow repetition for emphasis. Developing writers do not have the skills to use this rhetorical strategy properly.
  13. Never allow double negatives. Students will confuse their readers.
  14. Teach students not to over-state evidence and to limit their conclusions.
  15. Teach students to place pronoun references close to their subjects to avoid ambiguity and dangling modifiers.

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Teaching Essays

TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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How to Teach Rhetorical Stance

Teachers can help students practice the elements of Rhetorical Stance: voice, audience, purpose, and form. Learning these elements will enable students to flexibly address any writing assignment with dexterity and flair. Students need to be able to adjust their writing to a wide variety of genre in order to communicate effectively.

Find clear models of the elements of rhetorical stance and share these with your students. Help students to identify each of the elements in the model. Discuss how each interacts with the others. Make sure to use a wide variety of models.

Then, have students mimic the voice, audience, purpose, and form of the model to respond to an engaging writing prompt. Share their creative triumphs and correct shortcomings.

Voice—Some would define voice at that intangible which makes one’s writing unique, personal, and honest. I define voice a bit more globally, encompassing style, point of view, tone, and diction (word choice). Students need to practice mimicking other voices to refine their own voices. Additionally, students need to be able to manipulate their voices to best suit the audience, purpose, and form. Choose student models to share that will broaden your students’ understanding of voice and encourage students to mimic these examples and the voices of other writers. Check out another article I have written, titled “How to Develop Voice in Student Writing” for plenty of instructional strategies. Why not introduce a video clip of Martin Luther King, Jr. to inspire students to mimic his poetic, emotional, and hopeful voice prior to a relevant quick write?

Audience—Students need to understand that all writing is interactive communication. The other is the writer, himself, as reader and any others with whom the writer shares the work. Students all too frequently learn to write to the teacher as their exclusive audience. This practice tends to de-personalize student writing and limit development of voice. Choose student models to share that use a voice that engages and is particularly appropriate to the audience. Ask students to identify which parts of the writing response specifically address the defined audience and why. Why not select a class of third graders as an audience to encourage controlled vocabulary, brevity, and appropriate word choice?

Purpose—My comprehensive essay curriculum, TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE, uses eight key writing direction words (describe, explain, discuss, compare-contrast, analyze, persuade, justify, and evaluate) as the action words of each writing prompt in leveled writing strategy worksheets. These same writing direction words are used on a rotating basis (eight times each) as the purpose components in the 64 Rhetorical Stance Quick Writes. Check out the attached example of a Rhetorical Stance Quick Write and use to guide your instruction in the elements of rhetorical stance. Why not have your students describe the ideal world that they hope to live in as adults?

Form—Although the academic essay becomes the predominate form of composition beginning in the intermediate elementary years and continuing through college, facility in other writing forms is certainly necessary to develop voice, writing fluency, and writing dexterity. Additionally, writing practice using a variety of forms will improve reading comprehension across a wide variety of genres. Use a wide variety of form, from anecdotes to classified ads to help students adjust their writing form and voice to the purpose of the writing and their audience. Why not mimic the rhetorical style, including the parallel “I have a dream” refrains from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a two minute speech?

*****

Teaching Essays

TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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How to Develop Voice in Student Writing

Some teachers would argue that a writer’s voice is so individualized that it must be discovered.

For the uninitiated, the immunity idol is a small, hidden object that fits with the theme of the Survivor location. It is hidden near the tribal camps, or in more recent seasons it has been hidden on Exile Island. If secured by a player, the immunity idol will prevent that contestant from hearing the host’s immortal words, “The tribe has spoken,” which removes the player from further competition.

Survivor players are banished to Exile Island by the other survivors. In fact, some contestants have been sent to the island multiple times. These Robinson Crusoes have no assistance from Fridays, but, with much effort and/or luck, are able to discover clues that will lead them to find the immunity idol.

Constructivists would argue that the only clues provided to developing writers should be widespread reading and unencumbered writing practice. After a journey of self-discovery, the squishy concept of voice may emerge some day for some writing survivors.

The debate hinges somewhat on our definitions of voice. Constructivists tend to adopt a narrow definition that voice is what makes one’s writing unique and personal; the intangibles that demonstrate an honest commitment to its writing.

I take a different view. I define voice a bit more globally, encompassing what old-time Strunkers called style, as well as point of view, tone, and diction (word choice). I think that discovering voice should be the result of a guided journey. By the way, the clues on Survivor are quite direct and relevant to the quest; they are not needles in haystacks.

As a reading specialist, I would agree that widespread reading does help students recognize voice; however, I would argue that for students to develop voice, they need to practice voice in specific teacher-directed writing assignments. Additionally, teachers need to help students practice different voices for different purposes. The voice that a student uses to convince a peer to do a favor, should not be the same voice that a student uses to convince a police officer to issue a warning, rather than a speeding ticket.

Here are a few suggestions to teach voice:

  1. Read short passages from writers with diverse voices out loud. Have students identify characteristic diction and intonation (the sound of the writing). Hemingway, King, Jr., Rowling, Shakespeare, and passages from Isaiah are useful. Then, have students mimic the voices of these writers on a topic of teacher or student choice.
  2. Have students practice manipulating the other elements of rhetorical stance (audience, purpose, and form) regularly. Rhetorical Stance Quick Writes, used as bell-ringers, are particularly useful.
  3. Provide word lists, such as strong verbs and feeling words, for students to incorporate into their writing.
  4. Teach students to use poetic elements, such as metaphor, in their narrative and personal writing.
  5. Have students re-write endings of stories or news articles.
  6. Have students re-write third person stories into first person stories.
  7. Have students re-write fairy tales from another point of view, for example, from the wolf’s perspective, rather than that of the pig’s in Three Little Pigs.
  8. Have students identify and re-write the tone of readings. Poetry is a great source for clearly-identifiable tone.
  9. Teach different grammatical sentence openers. Encourage students to avoid “to-be” verbs.
  10. Teach inappropriate writing style and post examples for future student reference. For example, post generic words such as stuff and things and help students brainstorm specific alternatives. Perhaps create a “dead-word or phrase cemetery on a bulletin board.
  11. Have students write essays on controversial and relevant topics to identify divergent points of view, writer commitment to the topic, and sense of audience.
  12. Post a “graffiti board” to encourage students to share their voices.
  13. Have students read their own writing out loud and have their peers identify the elements I define as voice.

*****

Teaching Essays

TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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Process vs. On Demand Writing

Writing research has shown that one key ingredient to writing success is time. Developing writers need time to learn the writing craft, time to research/brainstorm, time to draft, and time to revise. However, ironically, time may in-it-of-itself be the greatest impediment standing in the way of writing profiency and fluency for many of our students.

Since the return of phonics-based reading instruction in the 1990s, elementary teachers have had to allocate more instructional time to direct instruction. With greater diversity in most states, more pressure to differentiate instruction in reading has compounded the problem of instructional minutes at all grade levels. Science, art, social studies, physical education, music, and writing have become the casualties of this time-theft.

The advent of timed writings on high stakes tests, such as the new SAT 1, high school exit exams, and standards-based writing assessments, has placed teachers in the difficult position of choosing among three instructional approaches to help students both learn to write and succeed on these tests with no additional time allocated for writing instruction. The three approaches are 1. process writing 2. on demand writing and 3. a mix of the two.

Advocates of the process writing approach (Six Traits, National Writing Project, Writers Workshop, etc.) argue that frequent practice in all phases of the writing process i.e., research/brainstorming, drafting, revision, editing, and publishing best helps writers develop writing fluency and proficiency. Advocates of the on demand approach argue that the above components can be streamlined into an integrated process, which teaches the writer to concurrently multi-task the drafting, revision, and editing steps with the quick bookends of planning and proofreading. Those teachers trying to please both masters have limited their process pieces and upped the amount of on demand writing tasks when the standardized writing test looms on the horizon.

Process writing proponents tend to teach grammar and mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, and spelling) incidentally throughout the writing process or via targeted mini-lessons. On demand proponents tend to teach grammar and mechanics explicitly through an established instructional scope and sequence. Those who try to combine process and on demand writing wind up relegating most grammatical and mechanics instruction to test preparation out of sheer time constraints.

A brief readers theater (tongue firmly planted in cheek) may help teachers of all writing approaches greater appreciate the challenge of teaching writing today.

Narrator: Here is a familiar scene in the teachers’ workroom. Two teachers kill time while waiting in line for the laminating machine. Their subject of discourse: an ongoing discussion of Process Writing versus On Demand Writing.

Teacher 1: I can’t believe that Mildred accidentally threw out my Writing Process charts when she rotated off-track. I’ve got to get new ones laminated and back on the wall. I’m lost without them!

Teacher 2: Are you still using those dumb charts? I thought that you must have dumped them by now. The Writing Process is “old school.” We dropped that with whole language years ago. Get with the program! It’s On Demand Writing, now. Oh by the way, I put back your Lucy McCormick Calkins book in your box; I have enough paperweights for my desk, thank you.

Teacher 1: You and your on demand writing tasks… You’re not teaching—all you are really doing is testing. Are you still passing out those grammar worksheets for homework? Remember, the research about writing says—

Teacher 2: Don’t give me that research stuff—I know what works for my kids. My language expression scores on the state test were much higher than yours. You’re lucky you’ve got tenure.

Teacher 1: Even when I didn’t, I never kissed the principal’s butt like you do. And I don’t teach to the test, like you do. My kids are learning how to think. They are writing to learn. Who cares if they know their subjects and predicates!

Teacher 2: Kids are going to have to spell, punctuate, capitalize, and use grammar correctly if they want to make it in today’s world. They’ve still got to be able to write in those blue books in college for a timed one-hour exam. They can’t just pick their own writing subject and do multiple drafts for a mid-term. You really need to get a Red Bull® and wake up to the real world.

Teacher 1: In the real world, students need to have the brains to say something. Outside of school, people have time to revise and edit. They have the time to be reflective. That’s what real authors do… They don’t have someone forcing them to write to a contrived prompt and then hovering over them with a stupid yellow timer.

Teacher 2: Now, you’re getting personal. My aunt gave me that yellow timer… Who writes your paycheck? Last I checked it was the school district. All our principal cares about is higher test scores. If you can’t show it, they don’t know it!

Teacher 1: That’s not why I got into teaching. I want to develop the whole child and nurture a love for learning. I just completed a trimester-long unit on the Haiku and its place in Japanese society…You should come in and see our published poems on the wall. We used real 24 carat gold to highlight—

Teacher 2: I bet I could find some punctuation mistakes—you with your peer editing groups. Talk about the “blind leading the blind.” I have students write one paragraph each day in indelible ink—no changes. I time them and have their desk partners count how many words the student has written in the 10 minutes. It sure saves a lot of teacher grading time. All I have to do is record the number of words in my grade book program. I can show you huge gains in words per minute.

*****

Teaching Essays

TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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How to Improve Your Writing Style with Grammatical Sentence Openers

GRAMMAR PROGRAMS from Pennington Publishing

Pennington Publishing GRAMMAR PROGRAMS

One of the best ways to improve your writing style is to improve the variety of your sentence structures. Professional writers vary the subject-verb-object pattern with other grammatical sentence structures. A simple guideline for good sentence variety would be 50% subject-verb-object sentence openers and 50% other grammatical sentence opener forms.

Prepositional Phrase

Start with a phrase beginning with one of these common prepositions to improve writing style:

aboard, about, above, according to, across, after, against, along, among, around, as, as to, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, but, by, despite, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, instead of, into, in place of, in spite of, like, near, next, of, off, on, onto, outside, out of, over, past, regardless of, since, than, through, throughout, to, toward, under, underneath, unlike, until, up, upon, with, within, without

Place a comma after a prepositional phrase sentence opener when a noun or pronoun follows.

Example:

Behind the cabinet, he found the missing watch.

Adjective

Start with a word or phrase that describes a proper noun, common noun, or pronoun with How Many? Which One? or What Kind? to improve writing style. Place a comma after an adjective or adjective phrase sentence opener.

Examples:

Angry, the neighbor refused to leave.

Happy as always, the child played in the park.

Adverb

Start with a word that answers these questions: How? When? Where? or What Degree? to improve writing style. Many adverbs end in __ly. Usually place a comma after an adverb sentence opener if the adverb is emphasized.

Example:

Everywhere, the flowers were blooming; quickly, the winter turned to spring.

Adverbial Clause

Start a dependent clause (a noun and verb that does not express a complete thought) with one of the following subordinating conjunctions to improve writing style:

after, although, as, as if, as long as, as much as, as soon as, as though, because, before, even if, even though, how, if, in order that, once, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, wherever, whether, or while.

Place a comma after an adverbial clause that begins a sentence.

Example:

Although better known for its winter activities, Lake Tahoe offers much during the summer.

__ed, __d, __t, or __en Participial Verb Forms

Start with a __ed, __d, __t, or __en verb, acting as an adjective, and/or add additional words to form a participial phrase. Usually place a comma after the sentence opener.

Examples:

Frightened, I sat up straight in my bed. Told to stop, the child finally did so.

Burnt to a crisp, the toast was horrible. Taken quickly, the pill did not dissolve for minutes.

To + Verb

Start with To and then add the base form of a verb to improve writing style. Add related words to create a phrase. Place a comma after the sentence opener, if a noun follows.

Examples:

To smile takes great effort.

To play the game, Mark had to sign a contract.

__ing Verbs and Nouns

Start a phrase with an __ing word that acts as an adjective to improve writing style. Usually place a comma after the sentence opener. Start a phrase with an __ing word that serves as a noun. Usually do not place a comma after the sentence opener.

Examples:

(Adjective)

Falling rapidly, the climber hopes the rope will hold.

(Noun)

Tasting the sauce makes them hungry for dinner.

Having Verbs and Nouns

Start a phrase with Having and then add a verb that ends in __d, __ed, or __en to serve as an adjective or a noun, referring to something that happened in the past to improve writing style. Usually place a comma after the sentence opener.

Examples:

(Adjective)

Having listened to his teacher, the student knew how to study.

(Noun)

Having learned all of the answers is helpful.

Noun Clause

Start with a group of words that acts as the subject of a sentence beginning with: How, However, What, Whatever, When, Whenever, Where, Wherever, Which, Whichever, Who, Whoever, or Whomever to improve writing style. Place a comma after the noun clause when used as a sentence opener if it does not serve as the subject of the sentence.

Example:

However the students answered, the scores were marked wrong.

Nominative Absolute

Start with a possessive pronoun (my, mine, our, your, his, her, or their) followed by a verb with a  d, __ed, or __en ending to serve as a noun phrase that provides information, but no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence. A comma is placed at the end of the nominative absolute when it opens a sentence.

Example:

His friends angry and frustrated, Paul promised to change his behavior.

Get the Grammatical Sentence Openers FREE Resource:

*****

Teaching Essays

TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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How to Write Complex Sentences

Adverbial Clauses

Complex Sentences

More and more candidates for better paying jobs are now required to submit writing samples as part of the interview process. Many applicants with strong verbal skills fail to make the second round of interviews because of their poor writing samples. Frequently, the problems are not unity or coherence, or even inadequate vocabulary/word choice. All too often, poor writers are categorized as such because they only write in simple or compound sentences. A few tips on how to improve writing, using complex sentences will get you through to that second round of interviews.

A Few Definitions and Examples

A simple sentence has a noun (person, place, thing, or idea), a verb (mental or physical action or “to-be” verb—is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been), and the rest of the sentence (known as the complement).

Example: John ran down the street.

A compound sentence combines two simple sentences with a conjunction (a connecting word such as and, but, or so).

Example: John ran down the street, and he saw the crime take place.

A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. An independent clause means that there is a noun and a verb that express a complete thought. A dependent (subordinate) clause means that there is a noun and a verb that do not express a complete thought.

Example:

Ty completed all his chores (independent clause) + after eating his lunch (dependent clause) = Ty completed all his chores after eating his lunch.

How to Form Complex Sentences

Complex sentences can help define the relationship between complicated ideas and will make your writing more specific and interesting to read. Learn how to improve writing by adding dependent clauses to the beginning, middle, or end of your simple or compound sentences. Oh, by the way, if starting a sentence with a dependent clause, always follow the clause with a comma.

Dependent Clauses

To improve writing, add adjective clauses, which describe nouns or pronouns. Transitions beginning adjective clauses include who, whose, on (for, of) whom to refer to people, that to refer to people or things, and which to refer only to things.

Example: whose work is well-known

To improve writing, add adverbial clauses, which describe describe an adjective, an adverb, or verb. A subordinating conjunction always introduces an adverbial clause. The subordinating conjunction signals the relationship between the adverbial clause and the independent clause. Use a comma to set off an introductory adverbial clause, but not an adverbial clause that ends a sentence. Use this memory trick to remember the subordinating conjunctions:

Bud is wise, but hot! AAA WWW

before, unless, despite (in spite of), in order that, so, while, if, since, even though (if), because, until, that, how, once, than, after, although (though), as (as if, as long as, as though), whether, when (whenever), where (wherever)

Example: as long as she can wait

To improve writing, add noun clauses, which describe are used as a subject, a complement (the rest of the sentence besides the subject and predicate), or as the object of a preposition. Transitions beginning noun clauses include that, what, whatever, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, and whomever.

Example: whatever he demands

*****

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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How to Write an Effective Essay Prompt

Dissect a Writing Prompt

How to Dissect an Essay Writing Prompt

Writing an effective essay prompt requires equal shares of art and science. The prompt must allow room for creative interpretation and analysis. However, the prompt must also provide organization and boundaries for the writers’ responses. Finally, the prompt should provide ample room for post-writing criticism to help students improve their writing.

Writing Prompt Guidelines

1. The prompt should be brief. Wordiness only serves to confuse the writer.

2. The prompt should be focused. A prompt that rambles in an attempt to explain or motivate is counter-productive.

3. The prompt should require only the prior knowledge that has been emphasized in class instruction. Isolate the variables of personal experience to best assess the outcomes of instruction.

4. The prompt should be age appropriate. Know the developmental capabilities and interests of your students and translate these into the writing prompt.

5. The prompt should avoid issues which students or parents would find objectionable. Save the PG-13 issues for older students. Don’t let the subject interfere with the writing task.

6. The prompt should not be so personal that the privacy of the writer is jeopardized. A writing prompt should not inhibit the writer from answering honestly and comfortably.

7. The prompt should not embarrass the gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background of the writer. Stay sensitive to these variables within your classroom. Words have different meanings according to one’s perspective.

8. The prompt should allow students of varying abilities to respond effectively. An ideal prompt allows all students to experience success in their writing.

9. The prompt should be interesting enough to motivate the writer. A prompt that does not provoke thought will reap a thoughtless response.

10. The prompt should allow “room to breathe” for divergent thinkers. Expect the unexpected in student responses, and design prompts to allow for a variety of responses.

11. The prompt should enable the writer to respond with a thesis that states the purpose of the writing and/or the author’s point of view (claim or argument). If you can’t turn the writing prompt into a thesis statement without effort, your students will never accomplish this task.

12. The prompt should not artificially force the writer into a certain thesis. A one-sided prompt that demands a certain thesis will not produce original thought.

13. The prompt can provide a writing situation to set the writing directions in context. However, the writing situation should not overwhelm or confuse the writing instructions.

14. The prompt should have clear writing instructions. Writers are the best judges as to whether the prompt has clear instructions. Avoid vocabulary and terms that will confuse the students. Don’t use writing direction words, such as “analyze”, if your students do not understand them.

15. The prompt should be one that will afford your writers plenty of evidence with which to prove or elaborate upon their topic sentences. Picking narrow or obscure writing subjects will not allow your writers to weigh easily accessible evidence. They will also be tempted to plagiarize or invent when little evidence is available.

16. The prompt should be able to be boiled down into a question to be answered. That answer will be the thesis statement.

Writing directions words for essays designed to inform the reader…

1. Describe means to show the characteristics of the subject to the reader through visual details.

2. Explain means to make something clear or easy to understand.

3. Discuss means to talk about all sides of the subject.

4. Compare means to show how things are the same, and contrast means to show how things are different. If the writing prompt only mentions compare, you must still do both tasks.

Writing directions words for essays designed to convince the reader…

5. Analyze means to break apart the subject and explain each part.

6. Persuade means to convince the reader of your argument or claim.

7. Justify means to give reasons, based upon established rules, to support your arguments.

8. Evaluate means to make a judgment about the good and bad points of the subject.

*****

Teaching Essays

TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE

The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

BUNDLE

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