3 Verb Types & Tricks to Teach Them! (Song Included!)


One of the first things that we teach students who are learning to write sentences is that every sentence must have two things: a subject and a verb. (Technically, I teach that a sentence must have FIVE things—CAVES: Capital, All Makes Sense, Verb, End Mark, Subject.) Verbs are important! Action verbs are the forward motion of sentences. They persuade in persuasive writing; inform in research-based writing; and entertain in story writing. They do all of this in spite of one man, Michel Thaler, writing a 233-page French novel in 2004 that did not contain a single verb. (And I would say it also did not contain a single sentence! 😉 ).



6 Tips for Using Language Arts Recitation and Mnemonics (Cute Video Included!)


To recite or not to recite? Most of us grew up with recitations, rhymes, jingles, songs, and mnemonics to learn the planets, math facts, presidents of the US, and more. But what about language arts and grammar? Do these “tricks” work well for a subject that needs APPLIED once it is memorized? I mean, once you learn the presidents, you can easily figure out where to fit in history. Math is all about facts and figures. But language arts/English/grammar recitations are different. Memorizing and reciting are not enough when it comes to parts of speech, punctuation, and more.


So how DOES recitation fit into language arts concepts? (more…)

WORDY WEDNESDAY: Capitol vs. Capital

The Only use for the word capitOl with an O is when referring to the capitOl building/buildings!        

Yep, you read that caption correctly! Contrary to what many people believe, capitOl does not refer to the head city, a good idea, or money invested. CapitOl Only refers to the capitOl building.

Here is the rundown:

1. Capitol
    a. Only has one use that we widely implement.
    b. Means the building or group of buildings in which the functions of government are carried out.
    c. Think. CapitOl Only means Office buildings for gOvernment–that is the Only meaning.

2. Capital
        a. All other uses of capital are the a one—capital is for all other uses

        b. ALL other uses of capitol/capital are the word capitAL.
        c. Adjectives
            1) Upper case letter: capital letter   
            2) Chief or primary: capital idea or the capital (most important) thing for us                             to     remember
            3) Die by the court: capital punishment
            4) Primary city: the capital city
        d. Nouns
            1) Stock of goods or income: to have capital in the bank
            2) Capital used by itself for the city: go to the capital of the state (i.e. the city that                 is the capital–not the building–the capitol building).

Watch the blog and Facebook page tomorrow for a quiz over this Wacky Word pair–and over last week‘s vane, vein, and vain! Better start studying!


COMMA CLUE #4: Comma Following a Subordinate Clause Opener Part I of III

Today’s Comma Clue can be confusing–but it is one of the most needful for comprehension as well as for sentence fluidity when reading aloud. 

When you start a sentence with a subordinate clause,
Put the comma in when you hear the pause!

That is a cute rhyme (don’t you think?)….but unless you know what a subordinate clause is (and prior to that, what a subordinator is), it will not do you much good to recite it. So this post will go back to what subordinators are first. 

Maybe you were taught that subordinators (words that make the part of the sentence that they are in be “subordinate” to the rest of the sentence) are called other things, like conjunctives or subordinate conjunctions. Some grammar handbooks do not even classify subordinators at all but call them whatever other class they fall under (i.e. the preposition before might always be called a preposition, even though it is a subordinator when it has a subject and verb following it).

Regardless of what you were taught about subordinators, they are extremely important to good writing. Why? 

1. A subordinator is a word that falls at the beginning of a subordinate clause.
2. A subordinate clause is a group of words that begins with a subordinator and has a subject and verb following it.
3. A subordinate clause is subordinate to the rest of the sentence–that is, it is “less than” the real sentence.
4. A subordinate clause may not stand alone as it is not a real sentence.
5. A subordinate clause sounds as though something is missing when it is read–because something is (the real sentence!).
6. A subordinate clause may be joined with a complete sentence to create a complex sentence, but the subordinate clause may never stand alone.

So….what are subordinators?

Let’s start with the first six that we teach our youngest language arts students in our books:

Since, when, though
Because, if, although.

Yeah, it’s a rhyme! Cute, huh? (I love teaching!)

Anyway, for you older folks, we have a Subordinator-Check Sentence that most subordinators fit into. In a nutshell, if a word fits in the check sentence and the word is not an adverb, it likely a subordinator:

________________________ the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

Since the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

When the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

Though the submarine went down, we could STILL  see it.

Because the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

If the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

Although the submarine went down, we could STILL see it.

Okay, that is the first six. Here is a lengthy, but not exhaustive list of subordinators:

-after (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-as (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-as if
-as long as
-as soon as
-as though
-because of (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-before (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-even if
-even though
-inasmuch as
-in order that
-now (more commonly used as an adverb)
-now since
-now that
-now when
-rather than
-than (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-til (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-until (also a preposition when it just has an object following it)
-where ever
-where as
-which ever

In as much as the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

Until the submarine went down, we could STILL see it.

While the submarine went down, we could no longer see it.

 We will stop here and give you time to memorize these before we go on in a day or two working on punctuating sentences that begin with subordinate clauses. Just looking at the Subordinator-Check Sentence, though, you can probably deduce that the first rhyme in this post is accurate: a subordinate clause opener is followed by a comma. More later!

Picture from http://staff.jccc.net/mfitzpat/style/bd04892_.gif

Wordy Wednesday: Conscience vs Conscious

I try to use mnemonics, tricks, songs, and jingles to teach parts of speech, homophones, and any other grammar and usage tips that I can. Students (of all ages, including adults!) often remember usage better when a trick or tip is applied.

One of my students’ favorite tricks is for the confusing word pair (sometimes considered homophones, though they do have slightly different pronunciations) conscience/conscious:

The student’s conscience bothered him because he tried to con the science teacher. 

He wasn’t conscious enough to enjoy the delicious treat. 

 In today’s assignment, my students had to write sentences using conscience and conscious (one sentence each). My amazingly clever students had fun with this! Three of them used both words in one sentence and included the “trick” in that sentence too!

1. I conned the science teacher while I was conscious, and my conscience bothered me.

2. He wasn’t conscious of the fact that he conned the science teacher; once he realized he had, his conscience bothered him.

3. He had a guilty conscience after he consciously conned the science teacher. 

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