Grammar Time: What part of speech is the word THERE?

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The word “there” is a commonly used word that can be difficult to classify because of the various roles it can play in a sentence.  There can be used as an adverb, pronoun, noun, or adjective, and sometimes as an interjection.  So, what’s the big deal about this word?

The truth is that it’s not always easy to determine how the word there is being used in a sentence. In fact, it can be downright confusing!  So, in order to figure it out, you have to look closely at how it’s being used in context.

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the word there shows up in a sentence as an expletive.   If you’re not familiar with this term, allow me to explain. An expletive is an “extra word” that is not grammatically related to the rest of the sentence.  Here’s an example sentence.  Read it carefully and locate the simple subject: 

There are some pencils in my desk drawer.

The word there is not the subject of the sentence; the simple subject is pencils.  There is being used as an expletive and serves to get the sentence moving.  Any time a sentence begins with the word there, the true subject will be farther on in the sentence, so don’t be fooled! 

Another way to determine if the word there is being used as an expletive is to rewrite the sentence without using it.  If you can rewrite it without losing any meaning, you will know you’re correct.   Notice how the sentence meaning does not change when I leave out the word there:

Some pencils are in my desk drawer.

Study the following guide to help you understand how to label and classify the various roles of the word there.  Then, remember that if it’s being used as the first word in a sentence, it could possibly be an expletive!

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Micro-comprehension: A Foundation of Words

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In an earlier blog post, I pointed out that early reading might best focus on micro-comprehension strategies before exploring the macro-comprehension kinds of questions that are found in most reading programs. But why? To start with, a reader won’t have clear macro-comprehension without clear micro-comprehension. A deep and wide vocabulary makes the micro-comprehension much more accurate!

Make Words Concrete: I like to think of words as “containers.” Some have a lot of sound-symbols (letters)—quite roomy! Others don’t, but kids can see words as concrete rather than abstract with this kind of metaphor. These sound containers (words) have limited meaning outside of context. To build deep and wide vocabularies, keep context front and center. Help kids expand their word banks, using these strategies:

1.  Label everything in the learning space. If you are a home educator or classroom teacher, label the items in the students’ learning space. In lowercase letters (except for proper nouns), write the name of the item on index cards or self-stick name tags.

2.  Use synonyms. On the same index cards or other signage, also write under the most common word for the item any synonyms associated with the original word. For instance, a box of crayons may have the original word crayons on its label, and beneath it, you might also write the word colors.

3. Focus on Early Reading books. Many early reading books contain illustrations with similar labels, like I described in item number 2 above. Keep these kinds of books handy for young learners and call attention to the items and their labels.

4. Include poetry. Be sure to read a new poem every day! Start with short rhyming poems. Branch into longer poetry with repetitive sections and cadences that children like to repeat aloud.

To launch into the next several blogs about early reading, establishing a baseline around micro-comprehension makes sense. You can take the lead and help students build a strong vocabulary. Students have to be able to hear words, interpret their meanings, choose the correct meaning, and apply that within the context of the story they are hearing or reading—no small task—but doable!

On your next visit, stay tuned for gap-filling inference, an important step in building micro-comprehension skills…until then!

Summer Learning: Taking a Brain Break with Meditation

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If you’ve been following our Shurley English Blog posts, you know we’ve been flooding you with creative ideas on how to continue supporting your students’ academic progress throughout the summer.  We are aware that with the high demands placed upon our children in today’s U.S. classrooms, it’s evident that children (and adults) have fewer opportunities to truly unwind and relax. 

Today, my suggestion is to remember to INCLUDE some “DOWNTIME” into your child’s daily summer schedule, and here’s why:

  • Research shows that time off-task is important for proper brain function and health.

  • The brain uses 20% of the body’s energy while on-task.

  • Napping 10-30 minutes can increase alertness and improve performance.

  • Meditation is a way to give the brain a break from work and refresh the ability to concentrate.

  • Resting mental states help us process our experiences, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, regulate our attention and emotions, and keep us productive!

Downtime will give the brain an opportunity to make sense of what has just been learned, and shifting off-task can actually help learners refresh their minds, gain insight, and return to the task with more focus.

Brain Break Exercise: Meditation with Mindful Breathing

I mentioned meditation as a way to give the brain a break, so show your students how to tap into their own superhero relaxation powers with this simple breathing exercise.  Teach your students that their breath is an amazing tool that can help them relax or calm down at any given moment.  It can help them manage the ups and downs of school and life—all they have to do is breathe.

The purpose of a breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace.  We can use breathing meditations to reduce our distractions and feel a deep sense of relaxation.  Allow this breathing exercise to bring more calmness into your classroom while your students learn a valuable tool that helps them relax.

  • Mindful Breathing Exercise (2-5 minutes)

  • Students can stand or sit for this activity.

  • Ask students to put both hands on their belly.

  • Students should close their eyes, or look down to their hands.

  • Guide students in taking three slow deep breaths in and out to see if they can feel their hands being moved.

  • You may like to count “1, 2, 3” for each breath in and “1, 2, 3” for each breath out, pausing slightly at the end of each exhale.

  • Encourage students to think about how the breath feels, answering the following questions silently, in their mind.

    What is moving your hands? Is it the air filling your lungs?
    Can you feel the air moving in through your nose?
    Can you feel it moving out through your nose?
    Does the air feel a little colder on the way in and warmer on the way out?
    Can you hear your breath?
    What does it sound like?

Remember, time off-task isn’t always wasted time or a sign of laziness. I encourage you to create the balance between being a “human-being” and a “human-doing” this summer!