JaniceHeck

My Time to Write, but The Cats have The Last Meow!

Archive for the category “Education”

#WANAfriday: Back-to-School

This week’s #WANAFriday prompt is….

Since the kiddos are headed back to school soon – or are already there – what was your favorite thing about going back to school? The new clothes? The fancy notebook and perfectly sharpened pencils? Algebra? (Okay, probably not that last one, but…)

splat-the-cat-back-to-school

Just as kids count down the days before school, we adults in our 55+ community count down the days until our pool closes on September 8. We will have one more humongous pool party this weekend, then seven days later, summer will officially end when the pool cover rolls out and clicks into place.

Dagnabbit.

Instead of going back to school as I did for so many years as a child and as an adult (I was a teacher, then an elementary administrator), I will go to the library and get a new batch of books to read,  join an indoor (ugh) exercise class, start a new travel notebook and daydream about trips I want to take, bake the last of the blueberry and peach pies, pack away my summer clothes, (oh wait, I need them for my trip to San Diego in October), attend my husband’s MAJOR high school reunion, and then count the days until next summer.  I am tired already.

At the pool today, I chatted with my neighbor’s seven-year-old granddaughter as she balanced on a pool noodle decorated with a fairy head insert on one end (her brother floated on a noodle with a shark head…pretty scary!). School starts in two weeks for her. She told me she already knows her teacher’s name: Mrs. Hubbard. She beamed with a precious smile.

I remember that feeling. I loved school, and I always looked forward to the first day. I loved getting new shoes, dresses, skirts, and blouses (that’s all we could wear way back when) and planning my first day outfit.

And I thought about my teacher. I knew who it would be because I went to a two-teacher, two-room schoolhouse up through the fourth grade. I had Mrs. Fike in kindergarten, first, and second grades, and then Mrs. Cohen in the third and fourth grades. No surprises there. My older sisters and brothers led the procession for me. (“What? Another Kroey Krewe family member? How many more are at home?” Teachers just loved my big family.)

Spring Road School, Vineland, NJ

Spring Road School, Vineland, NJ

Our desks, bolted to the floor, looked something like this:

Share the Memories photo

Share the Memories photo

Once I learned to read in school, I was in seventh heaven. I can thank Mrs. Fike and Mrs. Cohen for that. And that’s what I loved about back to school.

Speaking of Back To School, here are some thoughts on that topic from my #WANAfriday friends:

Dianna Bell, #WANAfriday: Going Back to School
Kim Griffin, #WANAfriday: No More Pencils, No More Books
Liv Rancourt, #WANAfriday: Back to School
Siri Paulson, What Do YOu Love About Going Back to School?

And here’s another to ponder:

Julie Miner, Rants in My Pants: Said No Teacher Ever. . .

The Last Meow

Good thing I don’t have to go back to school. That would interfere with my daily schedule: eat, play, sleep. Speaking of sleep, it’s about that time.

Cat My First Cationary

Meow for now.  =<^;^>=

K is for Kernel Sentences: Nouns and Verbs Control the World

a-to-z-letters-2013Today is K-Day in the A to Z Challenge. It is also Friday. Yippee! My kitty friends are happy about that.

Today we will focus on some easy grammar:

kernel sentences.

A kernel sentence is one type of base sentence structure on which longer sentences can be built. It has a pattern that looks like this:

__________________    __________________
Subject                                               Verb

For now, fill in the slots with one noun and one verb and you will have a kernel sentence. These two words can easily be expanded into longer sentences at another time.

One way to do have fun doing this is to write S-V list poems.

Begin with a title, then add specific, present-tense, active verbs to expand the topic. Repeat the title at the end, perhaps adding a twist.

basketballBasketball
Mario dribbles.
Maria screams.
Manuel shoots
Jose dashes.
Jorge pants.
Cole sweats
Larry scores.
Sasha cheers.
Latitia swoons.
Basketball Romance!

paradeParade
Hands clap.
Feet stomp.
Men march.
Sirens wail.
Balloons float.
Flags wave.
Drummers bang.
Buglers blow.
Ladies dance.
Children cheer.
Popsicles melt.
Lines overflow.
Bodies jive.
Parade

Be creative and have fun with this. Brainstorm topics with students, then let them have a go at it. You will be surprised at the results.

So what. Who cares?

When students get a very firm handle on nouns and verbs, grammatical problems eventually disappear.

Teachers can teach the following concepts in very simple form using kernel sentences. It is much easier to see the patterns in two-word sentences. When students master the concept in the simplest form, they can then move on to expanding sentences.

  • subject-verb agreement
  • verb tense consistency
  • active verbs
  • parallel structure
  • vocabulary nuances

A firm handle on nouns and verbs will later help students reduce long sentences down to kernel sentences. If students can do this, they will be able to straighten out some of the most common errors.

  • sentence fragments
  • fused sentences (comma splice)
  • run-on sentences
  • lack of agreement between subject and verb
  • verb tense shifts in sentences
  • faulty parallel structure
  • punctuation errors

Of course, any programs designed to improve students’ speaking and writing must have lots of opportunity for conversation and creative and academic writing.  Writing subject/verb poems is only one aspect of a much larger focus on language, but it can help those students who are unsure of basic sentence structure concepts.  Spend a few minutes each class on grammatical structures and your students will learn patterns that will help them improve in both speaking (ESOL) and writing.

The Last Meow

I have only one word for you all:

cats FridayMeow for now.    =<^o^>=

J is for Jabberwocky and Invented Words

a-to-z-letters-2013J-Day in the A to Z Challenge. That means it Thursday! That’s cool.already Thursday cat

Yesterday I wrote about invented spelling of kids and cats; today I’m writing about invented words by poets. How are these similar?

Kids use their developing knowledge of phonetics to sound out words as they write. Before they become proficient in formal spelling, they write strings of letters to represent individual whole words. Of course, they can “read” their own stories back to listening adults who can’t quite comprehend this early genius.

Invented words, on the other hand, combine familiar sounds with familiar word parts and word meanings to form new words.  Invented words also follow grammatical rules. Nonsense nouns, for example, can have an article, be a plural and/or a possessive, or have a noun ending. Nonsense verbs show past, present, or future tense. Adjectives fall into their place just before a noun.jabberwocky_340x400

One fairly well-known nonsense poem, “Jabberwocky,” is a poem written by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898) in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872).

Alice is none other than the major character in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the little girl who fell asleep on a riverbank and journeyed to another world, a strange one at that. (And Alice, it turns out, was a real person, the daughter of Dean Liddell, dean of Oxford University, and friend of Carroll.)

Things seem to be backwards in this strange world, so when Alice finds a strangely written book, she holds it in front of a mirror, and lo and behold, a story appears. Or is it a story?

            Jabberwocky

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mom raths outgrabe.
***
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
. . .

What? Even Alice, wise little one that she was, could not understand the poem. Alice meets up with Humpty Dumpty who explains the meaning of the poem.borogoves

brillig (noun)….four o’clock in the afternoon (tea-time?)
(the time to begin broiling something for dinner)
slithy (adj)…..lithe and slimy
toves (noun)…badger/lizard creatures with corkscrew tails and noses that can dig holes
gyre (verb)…..  go round and round
gimble (verb)… make holes
wabe (noun)…   in the grass

mimsy (adj)…flimsy and miserable
borogoves (noun)…shabby looking birds with mop-like feathers
raths  (noun)……sort of a green pig
mom (adj)…..lost, away from from home
outgrabe (verb)….. bellow and whistle, shriek and squeak

Does it make better sense now?

Around dinner time, all kinds of crazy things started happening! Weird-looking animals (toves, borogoves, and raths)  began doing strange things like digging holes and making a lot of noise. Maybe they sensed the frightful Jabberwocky lurking nearby!

So what. Who cares?

Nonsense poems have a long history. Some say they have been around since Aesop’s fables and early folk tales.  The writers play with words and present humorous scenes to stimulate the imaginations of readers. Sometimes hidden meanings lurk behind the words, as when jesters make fun of the ruling powers that be, when double meanings hide the true intent of the words. But as often as not, the words just tell a silly story. The words flow in a rhythmical and pleasing way and provide entertainment for listeners.

The Last Meow

Jabberwocky. Smabberwocky. Enough of that nonsense. How about getting me a snack? All this educational stuff tires my brain.

Meow for now.   =<^-^>=weekend cat

I is for Invented Spelling of Kids and Cats

a-to-z-letters-2013A to Z Challenge: I-Daycrayons

Little children love to write. They pick up a crayons, markers, pencils, or pens and start out scribbling, and sooner or later, their scribbles start to look like shapes and squiggly letters.

This is all part of the early childhood developmental process. Just as they learn to crawl first, then walk, children go through developmental stages as they learn to speak and write.

kids writing 1

After scribbles, they make strings of letters as they tell a story about a picture. Later, they write one consonant letter to represent a word. The parent or teacher can’t yet read the story, but the child can read it back without hesitation.

Still later, the children become more proficient with beginning and  ending consonants and a few vowels. They write stories that are a bit more understandable to the adult reader.

001 (10)

(Me and my best friend sledding downhill with my friend’s dad. His made a jump for us.)

Educators use the term inventive spelling or invented spelling because children use the letters they know to create their stories even before they have formal spelling instruction. Yet this early writing clearly shows that the children are using the phonics they have learned directly or indirectly. Children whose parents have read to them a lot often have some nonphonetic “sight words” under their control, too.

Later, as they learn some rules for spelling and writing, their sentence patterns may become a bit choppy.  Their writing reflects their oral language patterns and may omit punctuation.

I want to play NO you can’t go out to play You were a bad girl.

Finally, children put their phonics knowledge, sight word knowledge, oral language, and punctuation skills together, and they begin to write stories adults can read. While there still may be errors in punctuation and capitalization, this next writer has reached the level where he can communicate through writing, and this is the ultimate goal of spelling and writing.

circusOn Saturday mom, Dad and I went to the circus. The ring master announced the acts. We saw a lion tamer put his head in the lion’s mouth. Then some acrabats swung on the trapeze up in the air. My favorite act was the one where the clowns ran around and tripped each other.

This developmental process is not level across the ages. One of the great surprises that I had when I first began teaching was the great range of ability and achievement in a single classroom.  There were always some children well ahead of grade level and some children that lagged behind grade level. This is the constant challenge that teachers face: how to meet the needs of all of these individual children and their widely varying achievement levels. It is honestly exhausting, but teachers do it day after day. And they still smile.

At any rate, teachers encourage children to write using whatever knowledge of phonetics they have at any given time. The more they practice sounding out words, the better they will get. And that’s really what invented spelling is: sounding out words using the sound-letter knowledge (phonetics) already known to the child. How exciting to compare a child’s writing sample from the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year. (This is why child portfolios of classroom work are so valuable for teachers and parents.)

Parents sometimes don’t understand the term invented spelling. I think the word “invented” sometimes throws them off. I like to call this type of spelling “early phonetic spelling.”

So what. Who cares?

Teachers care. I give a special hand to teachers for their hard work in the classroom. As a teacher, then later as an administrator, I was deeply impressed with the dedication and care teachers demonstrated on a daily basis. I am retired now, but teachers still hold a special place in my heart.

Teachers know and understand child developmental levels and know how to work with each child at his or her own level. They can read a piece of children’s writing and peg their phonetic levels based on the type of writing the child displays. They plan their lessons based on these trained observations of student writing. This is teaching at its best.

Take a look at this very well-done  “Message to Parents from Your Child’s Teacher” by Christine McCartney. It has an important message for parents about education.

The Last Meow

cat grammar5Cat memes have become quite popular on Internet. Cat spelling and grammar have even developed rules for correctness (with variations, of course). Cats have fairly consistent syntax (sentence structure), but there spelling is still….well, at the inventive level. However, I think this is primarily due to their independent natures, their own desire to remain in control, and finally, their desire to do whatever the heck they please. And what can you, the adult, do about this? Nothing. Nada. Nil. Fageddaboutit. Cats win every time. They are, after all, the superior race.

=<^.^>=  Meow for now.

cat- bleah

Hyper-Hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives

a-to-z-letters-2013Hello. It’s H-Day in the A to Z Challenge.

H is for Hyphens

Hyphens have been called lots of names: left-over punctuation marks, “the smallest of the little  hyphenhorizontal line thingies” (The Grammar Cat), and “short and sweet” as compared to the dash which is long and lean (Laurie Rozakis, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style).  Laurie Rozakis says that the dash and the hyphen are like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito: Confused so often they are taken for each other.

Sometimes called stacked modifiers, or make-it-up-as-you-go adjectives, these adjectives can be humorous if used sparingly, or annoying if overused. This is a “what-you-may-have-been-wondering-about topic” (Grammar Girl), or maybe not.

They look something like this:

  • He has a jump-off-the-page personality.
  • We went to a shoot-em-up movie.
  • I’m a pretty easy-going, live-and-let-live kinda girl.

Personally, I’m a love-those-hyphenated-compound-adjectives-kind-of-person! Evidently a few other writers like these phrasal adjectives, too. Here are a few samples.

So What. Who Cares?oh-my cat

Of course, these stacked adjectives can get silly if they are overused, but somehow, just once-in-awhile, a stacked adjective does the job.    This one, for example:  “my good-for-nothing, pot-smoking, boyfriend-of-the-moment…” (Heather Marie Adkins). Now that one just gets right to the point.

The Last Meow

Terribly Cute pic...cat attitudeNow to the really important stuff. Here’s how to make cat faces on your very own keyboard. How’s that for a neat cat trick?

=<^ . ^>=   Meow for now.

What’s your favorite hyphenated stacked modifier?

E is for Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Punctuation Matters

a-to-z-letters-2013cats FridayHI. I’m blogging through the alphabet in April 2013 with the A to Z Challenge. Join me for some fun with A to Z Grammar.

Usually on Fridays in school, teachers slow the pace down a bit and give their restless charges a break with some lighter activities. The change of pace helps students clear their over-stuffed minds.

Following this widely accepted educator practice, I will take a break from grammar principles. Instead, I will mention two humorous books related to grammar, usage, and writing conventions.

One book, published in Great Britian in 2003, Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss, has now sold more than three million copies worldwide. Seems like there might be a bit of interest in punctuation. You think?

In the first few pages of her book, Lynne Truss refers to a joke that emphasizes the importance of the comma in writing.

A panda walked into a library, sat down, and ate his lunch. After he finished his sandwich, he fired off two arrows from his handy bow.

East, shoots and leaves

East, shoots and leaves

The surprised librarian asked, “Why?

The panda tossed her a badly punctuated book. “I’m a Panda, and this book says we do that.”

The librarian looked up panda in the manual and found that a panda is “a large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. It eats, shoots and leaves.”

With that, the panda walked out of the library.

A comma placed after the word shoots changes the entire meaning of the sentence. This joke captures the essence of the message that Truss wants to leave with us: be careful with punctuation. Bad punctuation changes the meaning of what you are trying to say.

Truss covers punctuation abuse (both in Great Britain and the United States) related to apostrophes, commas, colons, semicolons, dashes, and hyphens. She deplores, ridicules, and insults those who disregard the proper conventions for punctuating sentences and cause the general disintegration of the English language.  Being a self-admitted sticker, she encourages the sticklers of the world to unite to eradicate childish and barbaric abuses of punctuation. We should “fight like tigers to preserve our punctuation,” she proclaims.

Truss’s book has since been published in a children’s edition: Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a EAts, shoots and leaves.for kidsDifference.  Take a look at these two examples.

Look at that huge hot dog!   (a giant hot dog in a bun)

Look at that huge, hot dog!   (a very big, thirsty dog)

The point of all this is that punctuation does matter, and Truss brings that to our attention in a humorous, but serious, manner. Keep in mind though that there are differences between British spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary. These differences don’t really matter as long as you are consistent with the style guidelines of your own country. Of course there is a bit of finger-pointing between the two countries about which one has it right. No matter. That one will probably never be solved.

The following humorous little video points out a few differences between British English and American English. Take a minute to watch, and I guarantee you will chuckle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6ekn8h6jzE

So What? Who Cares?

Many metaphors have been used to describe the importance of punctuation, but Lynn Truss prefers this simple definition of purpose:

Punctuation is a courtesy designed to help readers to understand story without stumbling.

Improper punctuation can create potentially embarrassing situations, so the polite, careful writer will pay attention to punctuation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6ekn8h6jzE

The Last Meowgrammar cat

Gotta love those know-it-all cats.

See you tomorrow. http://janiceheck.wordpress.com

A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

a-to-z-letters-2013

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a series of 26 posts during the month of April.
This year our faithful organizers encouraged hope-filled A-Z participants to develop a theme for posts rather than posting on random topics as many of us did last year.
My theme for this year is . . .

Writing PLUS Grammar You Can See.

Through the month of April, I plan to give examples of how a strong knowledge of grammar can help writers produce more effective writing. More effective writing improves communication.

Along the way, I plan to throw in a cat or two. Sorry, they just have a way of sneaking into my blogs.
And now with a *blast of the trumpet* and a *roll on the snare drum*, we begin with . . .

A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

Pigs Little Three
Bad Wolf Big
Little Hood Riding Red

Did you grimace when you read these familiar characters?
Take a common phrase and mix up the adjectives, and it sounds like an off-key prima donna singing an aria at the Met. Our ears tell us something just isn’t right.

Parents read nursery rhymes and classic stories to their wee ones over and over and over and over, a trillion times in parent-count, to calm them at bed-time. At the same time, they unwittingly teach their little sponges unspoken rules for how our language works. Diaper-wearing toddlers learn the order of adjectives as they babble away practicing their early communication skills.

three pigs LGBMom reads The Three Little Pigs.
Rule: Adjectives come before nouns. (They can also be in two other places, but that’s for another post.)
Rule: Number adjectives come before size adjectives

Pattern: Adjective, adjective, adjective noun.

Dad reads Little Red Riding Hood.
Rule: size comes before color.

little-red-riding-hood-ladybird-book-first-favourite-tales-gloss-hardback-1999-1553-pChildren learn these rules seemingly by osmosis so teachers never have to teach about correct order of adjectives in school. Adjective order flows naturally in their speaking patterns without ever having to learn the official linguistic rules.

Order of adjectives is generally only a problem for non-native English speakers whose own language may have a different word order.

And yes, there is a prescribed order for adjectives. If you think about it for a bit, you can probably come up with the rules. But I’ll save you some time and give the order to you here:

1. determiners: a, an, the this, that, these, those his, hers, ours, yours several, ten, some
2. judgment (opinion, observation): beautiful, delicious, obnoxious, immature
3. physical description (fact: size, shape, age, color): small, round, ancient, golden
4. origin: Greek, Italian, Chinese, Mexican
5. composition: cotton, silk, metal, wooden
6. other specific qualifier related to the function or purpose noun . . .men’s clothing, children’s shoes
and finally, ta dah, *drum roll*, the NOUN.

Teacher-pleasing elementary students love to write lengthy sentences loaded with adjectives. Let them have their fun.

Giant, bushy-tailed anteaters with long, sticky tongues and elongated snouts vacuum up their mid-day snack of crunchy, tasty, black ants.
giant anteater
Toothless, armor-plated, Texan and South American armadillos roam around in the pitch-black, moon-less nights but roll up into balls when threatened by ravenous predators.
armadillow
That chunky African aardvark with the round, stubby, pig-like snout, catches ants with its long, inelegant sticky tongue.
aardvark

Bierce cover largeFor additional thoughts on order of adjectives, read all about “Frozen Yogurt with Adjectives on Top” by Jan Freeman, author of Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers. http://throwgrammarfromthetrain.blogspot.com/2012/08/frozen-yogurt-with-adjectives-on-top.html

So what? Who cares? Why do writers have to think about order of adjectives?
Writing instructors say, “Show, don’t tell,” encouraging writers to give more detail in their writing, but writers need to use adjectives more selectively than those eager-beaver elementary students.

Zinsser, On Writing WellWilliam Zinsser, author of On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, says this about adjectives:

Most writers sow adjectives almost unconsciously into the soil of their prose to make it more lush and pretty, and the sentences become longer and longer as they fill up wih stately elms and frisky kittens and hard-bitten detectives and sleepy lagoons. This is adjective-by-habit — a habit you should get rid of.

Goals for Using Adjectives in Writing
1. Use adjectives selectively. Piles of adjectives bore your readers. They skip over them to get to the action in your story or to the gist of your article. Don’t be like those adjective-abusing, but fun-loving elementary students.  Use fresh, original, surprising adjectives in your writing.
2. Get rid of common adjectives (nice, pretty, lovely, romantic, exciting). They have no place in your writing because they show nothing. Instead practice writing original similes and metaphors. Look for posts on S and M, oops, I mean similes and metaphors in the future. In the meantime, Catherine Johnson posts metaphors and metaphor-generating pictures on “Metaphor Mondays.” Look there for fresh ideas.

The Last Meow

And now a word from Grumpy Cat. Too bad the meme writer didn’t go to school on the day the teacher taught about apostrophesGumpry Cay-meme-wrong apostrophes and contractions. Oh well, there’s  always room for another blog post on the proper use of these elementary, confounding constructions.

Oh great. Now the Three Little Kittens are fussing because I haven’t given them any airtime. Sometimes you just can’t win.

X is for X is a Tough Letter

X is a tough letter.

Even Webster’s New World Dictionary can’t post more than a page and a half or so of X-words. Eliminate proper nouns, and you have just slightly over one page of X-words.

Most of these X-words are not very common: xanthein, Xanthippe (she sounds like an interesting character!), xebec, xenon, xeroderma, xylold, and xyster. How many of these words did you recognize?

Here’s a xenops (the bird) and a xiaosaurus (the dinosaur). You do recognize these, don’t you?

X-ray and xylophone seem to be the big winners for being the most known X-words, with both of them hitting the big time on alphabet charts for kids. (Hey, a few alphabet chart makers tried to be different by using fox and eXhale for the letter X. Try drawing eXhale so a child can understand what the heck it’s supposed to be!)

Look for middle and ending Xs, and maybe you can find a few more: axe, saxophone, Texas, taxes, New Mexico, six, mix, Kix,  fox, box, ox, Xerox, addax, calyx, kexes, zaxes. . . .

Let’s not forget the U.S. Government. It has a very special use for X as seen in Taxes from A to Z.  X is a substitute for a signature in certain cases. Now that’s a pretty important use of X!

YOUR TURN

How many words can you think of that have Xs? (And no fair checking a Scrabble dictionary or Internet list.)

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