Grammar Starters Set 2: 16 Lessons

A Grammar Starter leads into a lesson.

  • What do you know?
  • How do you know if it’s correct?
  • What do you not know?
  • What do you notice about the rule you haven’t learned?

Simple conversation on these four questions strengthen the foundation of knowledge.

Grammar Starters Set 2 continues the same pattern as previously, two lessons per week (Mon. and Wed.) with a review of problems on following days (Tues. and Thurs.).  If no problems were noticed, then no review is necessary.

You will need MS powerpoint to open this link.

Grammar Starters 2nd set

Errors in Grammar Starter 1 will recur in this series of lessons.  Newly noted are errors in pronoun / antecedent, dangling and misplaced modifiers, overuse of commas, finding subjects and verbs and complements, subordinate clauses, and a brief introduction of analogies.

At this point in the year, students should have a good grasp of subjects and verbs (including knowing the difference between action and linking verbs).  They should understand the complement:  action verbs lead to the direct object while linking verbs connect the subject to the predicate noun (nominative) and predicate adjective.

These 16 lessons (eight weeks) should take you through Christmas and into January.

A Word on Analogies

Analogies are not grammar;  they are a critical thinking skill.  They look for similarities and differences based on many different combinations.

An analogy sentence may look like this:

black : white : : night : ____

We read that sentence in this way:  Black is to white as night is to ____.

Black and white are simple opposites.  The opposite of night is day.

Some developers of analogies consider they have created “hard” analogies when the sentence’s “difficulty” is based on a vocabulary lack.  How many students know this one:

geese : gaggle : : quail : ____ = covey.

That’s not a hard analogy.  It’s only based on vocabulary words.

Hard analogies require students to think in new ways.

Song : poetry : : conversation : ____ = prose.  Students have to realize that poetry is very like songs and talking is basically prose.  This connects real world to the education world.

Can you complete this analogy?

____ : sorrow : : laughing : ____.

Did you say tears and happiness?  Great.

Look for the next Grammar Starter lesson set in early January.

Mistakes So Bright I’ve Got to Wear Shades, part 2 of 3

Communicating ideas is difficult enough without confusing the audience. Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers cause confusion.

MISPLACED

Exactly as its name suggests, the MisMod is just out of place.  A simple fix:  move it.

John found a green boy’s sweater.

What’s green?  The boy?  No, we haven’t found a troll.  The sweater?  Yes!

  • simple > the adjective swap > “boy’s green sweater”
  • simple > the prepositional phrase swap > “I mopped the garage with my brother.” No, I didn’t dip his head in the bucket, turn him upside down, and mop the floor.  “My brother and I. . . .”
  • not so simple > the adverb swap. Be careful with adverbs.  While they can move around in the sentence, they can change meaning.

“Only John and Alice went to the cemetery at night.” :: the only ones to go

“John and Alice only went . . . .” :: the only place to go

“J and A went only . . . .” :: sounds like the previous one, but this position suggests that other options were available.

“J & A . . . the only cemetery at night.” :: This town has only one cemetery.  BTW, this use of only is an adjective, not an adverb.

“J & A . . . at night only.” :: because they like to hang out with ghouls.

DANGLING

The DangMod is more than out of place.  We have to add / subtract / divide / multiply?

A not-so-simple fix, the DangMod may hide from us.  We know what we intend to say.  As we write, as we edit, as we run through the final proof, we may never see the DangMod.

Only rarely have I noticed a writing software’s grammar/spelling checker spotting the DangMod for your judgment to correct or not.

First Readers may not spot it, either.  However, some readers of published writing will spot it and inform us.  Dang it.  Be nice.  Thank them.  Point out the DangMod is dang hard to spot, and correct it in your document.  Keep a chart of errors.  When you’ve corrected enough to have the original document substantially better, upload the new version.

What do DangMods look like?

Wading moose that escaped the car.

Several moose were seen while traveling by car through New Brunswick, Canada.

How does this dangle?  1] Who saw the moose?  2] Who was traveling?

While traveling by car through NB, CAN, several moose were seen.  This sentence is still NOT correct.

The moose are not seeing themselves.  They still are not driving.  Their antlers aren’t sticking out the car windows.

This extreme example helps point out the very problem with DangMods:  the act-er (subject) of the verbs to see and to travel is missing.

While we were traveling . . .  we saw several moose.

After loading the dishwasher, the video gaming continued.  >> Who loaded it?  Who was gaming?

Upsetting the neighbors, the fireworks were set off early. >> Who upset the neighbors?  Who set off the pyrotechnic display?

Careful reading of exactly what we have written will help us avoid the MisMods and those DangMods.

The Crux of the Argument

Proofreading our work is never fun.  After we’re past the thrill of character and situation, after we’ve paced the plot and twisted the scenes to avoid the humdrum, after we’ve tracked symbolic images and tweaked the archetypes, yet another read of the manuscript offers no excitement.  Checking sentences and word use and punctuation is an especially oh-hum yawn-worthy task.

Yet we want to present the best possible product to our audience.  We paint our portraits with words.  Our words should carry the energy that our story needs.  That last proofread is crucial.

Alfred Smedburg’s 1912 “Bland tomtar och troll”

How do we do it?

  • Most people advise checking for spelling by reading backwards, word by word.
  • Since we’ve been concerned primarily with sentences, I advise reading backwards, sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph. We get the context and can still spot punctuation and spelling.

Awareness alone is often enough to solve the problem. As we become aware of our stumbling blocks, we learn to check for them.

Avoid the dangs.  Proofread.  Troll for the grammar trolls.

Mistakes So Bright I’ve Got to Wear Shades

Glaring Errors that Blind the Reader

Previous blogs have discussed “vial trolls” who aren’t captured by the machine grammar/spell-checkers.  Other errors can also escape the machine.  Some of them even escape us.  Here are three identified glaring errors:

1st: Irregular Verbs

2nd: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers (coming up next)

3rd: Clear Pronoun Reference (coming up after)

Let’s play.

  • Irregular Verbs

Some fossils are interesting.

Some fossils are scary.

Irregular verbs are fossils from Old English, when the language itself was a dialect of German, waiting eagerly to be intermixed with Norse and French.

We often spot other people’s problems with the common irregular verbs.

TAKE >> I take, I took, I have taken:  Not “have tooken”, sweetheart; taken.

BUY >> I buy, I bought, I have bought.  Now I’m broke.

SLEEP >> I sleep, I slept, I have slept.  I am going to sleep again!

SWIM >> I swim, I swam, I have swum in the past and want to do so again on this hot day!  Whew! But not with that scary fossil.

We know the balloon burst (not bursted—or busted)!

We’ve got that the shoes stink and stank and have stunk up the entire house.

Some fossils have altered over time.  LEAP once had “leapt” but now is “leaped”.  SLEEP, however, is not becoming “sleeped”.

Even with all our knowledge, irregular verbs can trip us up.

Why, oh why, oh why?

It’s the not-so-common irregular verbs that slink into our writing and fling our readers across the room when we use them improperly.

SLAY (Watch out, writers of historical novels and fantasy) >> I slay the trolls.  I slew the trolls.  I have slain the trolls and will do so again.

BID (Here is the perfect verb to use when using dialog to create a sense of history.) >> “I bid you goodbye.”  “Look, Agatha, he bade her goodbye.”  He has bidden her goodbye and left hours ago.  Catch him before he turns into a fossil.

STRIVE >> We strive.  We strove.  We have striven.  (I encounter the error “strived” constantly in books by one author and keep intending to write an email.  Maybe it’s better if I don’t.)

WEAVE >> She weaves when driving while drunk.  That driver wove over the center line.  Because she has woven off the road, we dialed 911.

English has a lot of fossilized words, some of them no longer in use except in crossword puzzles and idiomatic expressions.  “Eke” and “wend”, the “kith” of “kith and kin”, and other words are ones that we often give “short shrift” ;).  Check them out.  Type “fossils of English language” into a search engine and up they pop (along with images of scary fossils).

Language fossils can be the very thing to give a historical or interesting touch for your setting or one of your characters.  {BUT avoid the Yoda gimmick, discussed in the last blog, “Switch It Up”.}

It’s up to you to determine if language fossils are interesting or scary, help or hindrance.

As it is, if you notice—or someone kindly tells you—that you have problems with
certain words, it will never hurt to check a dictionary, whether a walking dictionary or an “official” one in print.

My walking dictionary never failed to tell me when my use of “prove” and “proved” was invariably wrong.  I miss my walking dictionary.

Dictionaries are your friend.

And online dictionaries are really fast!

So, here’s my tribute to my walking dictionary.

 

Recommended: Gift from the Sea

W.Ink Recommends > Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea

Recommended: Deep philosophy in simple yet elegant language, AML offers to us the important aspects of life:  not money, not schedules, not harried miscommunication.  Instead, living in the present, loving others more than possessions, taking time for silence and communication:  these are what matters.

Revealed through shells gathered on the beach, AML explores each shell as it represents our lives and reminds us to be grateful for what life offers.

Snippets from the book:

The Beach

Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic schedules of city and suburbs, timetables and schedules.  One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone.  One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies flattened by the sea:  bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings. (16)

Channeled Whelk

I want first of all . . . to be at peace with myself.  I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry these obligations (husband, family, home, work, friends & community). (page 23)

Grace: an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.  I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, “May the outward and inward man be at one.” (page 23)

Moon Shell

Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the spaces with continuous music, matter, and companionship to which we do not even listen.  It is simply there to fill the vacuum.  When the noise stops, there is no inner music to take its place.  We must re-learn to be alone. (page 42)

When one is a stranger to oneself, then one is estranged from others, too. (page 44)

Solitude, says the moon shell.  Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. . . . [T]hese are among the most important times in one’s life—when one is alone. (page 49-50)

Double Sunrise

For the first part of every relationship is pure, whether it be with friend or lover, husband or child.  It is pure, simple, and unencumbered. . . .  And then how swiftly, how inevitably the perfect unity is invaded:  the relationship changes;  it becomes complicated, encumbered by its contact with the world . . . [and] somehow we mistakenly feel that failure to maintain its exact original pattern is tragedy. (65-66)

In a growing relationship, however, the original essence is not lost but merely buried under the impedimentia of life.  The core of reality is still there, and needs only to be uncovered and re-affirmed. (69-70)

Oyster Bed

I am very fond of the oyster’s shell.  It is horrid and awkward and ugly.  It is slate-colored and unsymmetrical.  Its form is not primarily beautiful but functional.  I make fun of its knobbiness.  Sometimes I resent its burdens and excrescences.  But its timeless adaptability and tenacity draw my astonished admiration and sometimes even my tears. (83)

Instead of facing them (difficult seasons of life or work, relationships or health), one runs away;  one escapes—into depressions, nervous breakdowns, drink, love affairs, or frantic, thoughtless, fruitless overwork.  Anything, rather than face them.  Anything, rather than stand still and learn from them.  One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation. (87-88)

Argonauta (Paper Nautilus)

Saint Exupéry: “The life of the spirit, the veritable life, is intermittent and only the life of the mind is constant. . . .  The spirit . . . alternates between total vision and absolute blindness. . . .  Here is a man who loves music—but there are moments when it cannot reach him.” (107-108)

We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity—in freedom. (108)

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping even.  Security in a relationship lies . . . in living in the present and accepting it as it is now. . . .  One must accept the security of the wingéd life, of ebb and flow, of intermittency. (109)

A Few Shells

Here (on this island) there is time:  time to be quiet;  time to work without pressure;  time to think. . . time to look at stars or to study a shell;  time to see friends, to gossip, to laugh, to talk.  Time, even, not to talk. . . .  Then communication becomes communion, and one is nourished as one never is by words.  (116)

The Beach at my Back

If we stop to think about it, are not the real casualties in modern life just these centers:  the here, the now, the individual and his relationships.  The present is passed over in the race for the future;  the here is neglected in favor of the there, and the individual is dwarfed by the enormity of the mass. (126)

Family, now, here:  “The basic substance of life . . . .  We may neglect these elements, but we cannot dispense with them.  They are the drops that make up the streams.  They are the essence of life itself.”  (127-128)

Gift from the Sea Re-Opened

It takes time to find the re-center of gravity. (134)

Much of this exploration and new awareness is uncomfortable and painful for both men and women.  Growth in awareness has always been painful.  But it does lead to greater independence and, eventually, cooperation in action. (138)

Available here.

We recommend a slow read, one chapter a week.  This tiny book is packed with concept that must be mulled over, considered, then applied to our lives.

Grammar Starter: 1st 6 Lessons

Here is a Grammar Starter powerpoint with 6 grammar lessons.  Each lesson contains two sentences filled with several errors.  Answers for each slide are at the end of the powerpoint.

These sentences come from an old textbook adoption handbook that I once used in my teaching.  I usually had to increase the number of errors in each sentence.  9th grade students did not find the errors difficult.

mark errors with red ink if the grammar problems bleed through communication
Red Ink

Each slide usually contains one tricky problem.  All of the sentences serve as reminders of the small ticky details that students often overlook in their own writing.  These are the same ticky details that often irritate us in the world at large.  A perfect example is ladie’s above the ladies’ restroom door.

Two lessons a week work well (Mon. and Wed.), followed by a review of any problems that were spotted (Tues. and Thurs.)

Expect capitalization, end mark and quotation mark problems, usage and verb tense, subject/verb agreement, commas with nonessential phrases, and run-on sentences (fused sentences) among other problems.

Grammar Starters

The next Grammar Starters will be issued on September 19.  That slide series will contain 16 lessons (or 8 weeks of lessons).