Grammar Extension: The Empowering Acrostic Poem

Grammar Extension: The Empowering Acrostic Poem

The ideal scenario for the first couple months of a new school year would be a classroom running smoothly.  You want to be comfortable with your daily schedule and know that you can meet the needs of all of your diverse students.

Realistically, some of you may already feel like the expectations and duties increase even more as the fall progresses.  Before you become consumed with the busyness of the new school year, always remember this:  “YOU are a TEACHER!”  You are the one that works to mold the future.  You make an incredible impression and impact in the lives of all the students who enter your classroom. 

This year is a brand new one, and if you’re ready to level-up your teaching, you should consider this question: “What kind of teacher do you want to be this year?” 

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Shurley English 101: Teaching with Confidence

Shurley English 101: Teaching with Confidence

So, you have purchased your Shurley curriculum, you open the book or access your digital teacher’s manual…and then it hits you! “What’s all this? How am I going to cover all of it? Can I even do it?” If you have had these or similar feelings, don’t panic. It’s going to be all right.

My post today is about confidence. Yes! You can teach with confidence, especially if you are just embarking upon your first journey with Shurley English. I realize that the sheer volume of information about English that we teach might be enough to send you to the edge. But, pull back. Breathe. Help is on the way.

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The goal of Shurley English

The goal of Shurley English

It’s that time of year again, and most teachers are trying their best to enjoy their final days of summer break. It’s hard to believe that some schools have already started professional development opportunities for their staff members.  Before you know it, your own classroom will be filled with a new group of young learners. 

Some teachers are looking forward to teaching a new curriculum this year.  Even though that can be exciting and motivating, it can also cause feelings of nervousness.  Some teachers have a curriculum in place with nothing new to add.  For these teachers, feelings of confidence about the content are more likely to occur. Either way, it’s helpful to be reminded of curriculum goals and to be re-motivated to teach certain subjects. 

If Shurley English training is not on your professional development schedule this year, I’m here to remind you of your goal when you teach the curriculum…

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Creating a Writing Inspiration Station

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There’s nothing like the dreaded feeling of sitting at your desk with a blank sheet of writing paper staring back at you.  You see some of your classmates busily jotting down ideas; you see them creating their prewriting map; or you see some classmates looking upward with a pleasant grin, lost in their imagination.  Not you though; your white paper just taunts you with thoughts like these: “So, what are you going to write about this time?” or “There’s nothing to write about; you’re all out of ideas!” 

For some students, it’s very challenging and even defeating to come up with an idea to write about.  As teachers, we know how valuable the process of writing is, but our students may not.  The process of writing is already a lengthy and sometimes scary journey for many of them.  I believe it is important to create a writing experience in which students can be inspired and where they will feel comfortable enough to take some writing risks.  Create a new writing vibe in your classroom by setting up a Writing Inspiration Station.  

The purpose of a Writing Inspiration Station is to help your students experience how special the process of sharing their voice in the written form really is.  The level of comfort a student feels when they know how to write a paragraph, an essay, and write for all purposes is empowering!  The station acts as a quiet place where a student can sit to gain inspiration or to work through the Writing Process.  It can be that special place where a student might spread out and really engage with their writing. 

The Writing Inspiration Station needs to be set up so that your students want to do their work there.  For instance, it needs to be warm and inviting.  Ideally, organize the station with a table and a few chairs.  Stock it with all of the writing essentials—paper, pens, pencils, pre-writing maps, writing outlines, dictionaries, thesauruses, a soft light, and a Shurley English Writing Folder.

In addition, create a bulletin board adjacent to the table so students can easily review writing tips, transition words, Power Words, steps in the Writing Process, or writing samples.  For those kiddos with writer’s block, add a small bucket of writing prompts for each genre of writing to help inspire them.  Change it monthly, align it with the genre you’re currently teaching, and use it as your Teacher-Student Writing Conference space; the ideas are endless!

Use your own creativity to set up a unique Writing Inspiration Station, and see how your students thrive with the new writing vibe.

BONUS:  If you’re looking for some extra writing prompts to get you through the year, try these!


Think of a story that might begin or end with one of these sentences:

  1. Today, I got the phone call.

  2. Heidi dropped the last of her photographs into the trash.

  3. Why wasn’t I surprised that the light switch didn’t work either.

  4. I hoped they remembered the old adage, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

  5. One of these days, I’m going to say no.

  6. I knew that sound. Dragons.

  7. I thought space was supposed to be silent.

  8. Who’s that woman in the photo?

  9. Two years ago, I swore I’d never come back here again.

  10. It’s not unusual to find odd bits of paper tucked into library books for a bookmark, but this time it was a letter.

  11. Some jokes just aren’t funny.

  12. “Moon Base Epsilon failed to report, sir.”

  13. We heard the approaching horses (car) and hurried further into the woods.

  14. I was not ready to admit defeat.

  15. “This is the last straw!”

  16. Josh looked guilty.

  17. Maria looked up from her reading and her book fell from her lap.

  18. I’d always wondered what real fear felt like. I was sorry I found out.

  19. Monday was supposed to be the worst day of the week. Today had it beat by a mile.

  20. We all felt the cold before he entered the hall.

    First Lines/Last Lines Source:

ELA Success: Patience is key!

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Most of my blog content comes from questions I’ve answered at one time or another from teachers and administrators who use Shurley English.  I often hear the urgency in their voices, and they seem to be looking for a quick fix to the problems their students are experiencing. Sure, we all want quick results, but usually by the time you manage to find just the right curriculum or just the right supplement to your teaching, the students have moved on.  Then, you get a new batch of students with similar but unique struggles, and you’re back at it again, trying to find what works and what works fast.

Even though we, as a society, rely on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  Honestly, we all know there are NO quick fixes that produce the quality results we’re seeking, not in life or in curriculum.

In a previous blog, I broached the topic of having patience and of trusting the process. This is true of any quality curriculum, but especially so with Shurley English. You have to tap into your reservoir of patience—patience with yourself, patience with students, and patience with the curriculum.  Academic growth will manifest quickly in your students’ grammar and writing, but only after you have invested the upfront time needed to lock in the foundational patterns and strategies.

Note to Kindergarten – 3rd Grade Teachers:  Patience may be harder to come by for the lower level teacher of Shurley English because classroom management issues often chew up instructional time.  So, be patient out there, all you Kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers! Remember, you are the heroes who lay the grammar and writing foundations on which the later teachers can build upon.

Yes, Shurley English sometimes requires you to teach concepts that you may not have had to handle until a much later grade in your own schooling.  Just because you didn’t have the opportunity to learn in such a dynamic way personally, you need to know that you are exposing your young learners to concepts they will master in time, not necessarily with you.  You may not get to see the beautifully written masterpiece that the upper grade level teachers will see, but the foundational concepts you teach are vital.  

Note to 4th – 8th Grade Teachers: Middle elementary teachers, dig deeper into your reservoir of patience. Your kiddos are still trying to figure out this organized writing thing, and you are helping them to understand the connection between grammar and writing. Middle school teachers-have patience when trying to fill in the gaps, and smile when you’re the one that gets to submit their 5-Paragraph Essay to the writing contest! 

Society often relies on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, but the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  It’s all about patience! Shurley English sets you and your students up for success, but you must be patient.  If you want quality-you’re in the right textbook!  If you want a confident, competent writer-be more patient. Remember…

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

-David G. Allen

ELA Success: If it works, don't fix it!

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I think you will agree that by and large, if something works, you don’t need to fix it.  I suppose it is human nature, or maybe just my nature, but I never seem to be able to leave well enough alone. It seems like if you’re a teacher, you simply must change, revise, correct, improve, or add to—it’s in our DNA!   Thank goodness for Shurley English because it is the kind of curriculum that works. It works for a lot of reasons, but right now, I want to talk about how the teaching scripts work for instructors to make teaching the curriculum easy.

When it comes to working with a curriculum like Shurley English, following the prescribed teaching scripts and sequence of language arts concepts is the key to student success.  The authors of the curriculum are experts with numerous years of creation and implementation of their “grammar and writing recipe” in their own classrooms as well as classrooms around the world.  The detailed teaching scripts were designed with teacher success in mind and to ensure consistency across grade levels.  Let’s be honest, grammar and writing are not the easiest subjects to teach, but back in the day, this curriculum used to be called The Shurley Method-English Made Easy…and that’s no joke!   If you keep it simple and follow the teaching scripts, teaching grammar and writing is EASY! 

Here are a few reasons to “stick to the script:”

*Accountability: Your administrators can trust that you’re teaching Shurley English with fidelity.  There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel!

*Consistency: You won’t have to fill in the gaps or worry about playing catch-up with students who learned a different way to recite the Question & Answer Flow in a previous grade level.

*Time Management: The lessons are created for you!  You don’t have to spend extra time or effort worrying about explaining the hard concepts in Language Arts. (direct objects, object compliment nouns, natural and inverted word order, complex sentences, clauses, five-paragraph persuasive essays, etc.)

Here’s the bottom line, Shurley English is a proven method that works!  Want to learn more? Please go to our website and request online samples of our Shurley English digital edition.

Study Skills: Developing good habits that last a lifetime

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I simply cannot wait until spring to get my home and office in order; my brain won’t allow it!  Both of these spaces need a major overhaul.  (Trust me!  With four grown-ups and a grandchild in the house, I often feel like I need professional help from someone like Marie Kondo.)

For me, the process of organization begins with sorting all the stuff that needs to be put away or filed.   Since I know that I’m the one that will have to retrieve the items later, I have to do the job all by myself!  Yes, I have designated storage areas for things like tax receipts, important documents, Christmas decorations, and so on and so forth.  It just seems as though I delay putting this stuff away until I can’t stand to see it any longer! 

Even though I dread the time it takes to get organized, for some strange reason, I wind up feeling greatly satisfied when everything is tucked away and in its place.  These feelings remind me of the Shurley English Study Skills lessons centered on a character named Quigley.  Quigley is a guy that seems to learn life lessons the hard way, and I can personally relate to the stories used to describe him when he is disorganized and when he’s not.

The Study Skills lessons focus on the steps Quigley must learn to get organized, listen, and use his time wisely.  (There is even a Study Skills Jingle to help Quigley on his journey!) These lessons teach important life skills and are applicable to everyone, including me!  Here’s a glimpse at what’s involved…

How to Get Organized: 

1. Write it down! Keep an assignment notebook to record assignments, page numbers and due dates.

2. Put it away! When you put things away, always put them in the same place.  If you know where something goes before you put it away, you will already know where it is when you need it again.

3. Organize your space! Each time you put something in your desk, backpack, or locker, put it exactly where it goes.  Avoid “stuffing” things in at random.  Start today by having a complete clean-out and fix-up.

4. Divide and conquer! Keep each subject in a separate folder so that you can find papers easily.  Put all folders and notebooks on one side of your desk, and put all textbooks on the other side.  Small items should be kept in the front in a zippered bag.

5. Keep it up! Staying organized is easy if you take just a few minutes every day to reorganize.  If you don’t do it every day, you will get unorganized in no time.


How to Become a Better Listener:

1. Listen carefully! Look directly at the speaker.  Listen to every word, and focus your mind on what the speaker is saying.  Don’t fidget.  Hearing happens in your ears, but listening happens in your brain.

2. Think about it! Think about what the speaker is saying.  Does it make sense?  Do you agree or disagree with the speaker’s opinion?  Can you repeat what the speaker said, but in your own words?

3.  Ask questions! Try to understand what the speaker is saying.  When the speaker says something you don’t understand, raise your hand and ask the speaker to explain.

4. Write it down! Write down anything that you think you might forget.  Write down important information like dates, times, addresses, and so on.  Also, write down questions to ask the speaker.

How to Use Your Time Wisely:

1. Plan ahead! If you know you won’t have time to do something later, do it now!  If you don’t have time now, plan to do it at a definite time, not just “later.”

2. Prioritize! “Prioritize” is just a fancy word that means “do the most important thing first.”  When that is finished, do the next most important thing.

3. Make a schedule! Write down all of the things you have to do.  Write down the time and the day you will do them.  Check things off as you finish them.

4. Think about homework before you leave school! Check your assignment folder and decide what you need to take home.  Put books and folders you will need in your book bag.  At home, put your finished homework in your bag, and you will always have it ready to take to school.

5.  Schedule a time and place to study! Think about your family’s routine and decide on a good study time away from distractions like TV and conversations.  Have all the supplies you will need at your study area.  Concentrate on what you are doing.  Keep your eyes on your work and your pencil moving until you’ve finished the task at hand.


Do you need a comprehensive Study Skills lesson plan? Don't worry, Shurley English has you covered! Simply go to the Unit Studies Section in the back of your Shurley English book and check it out! Our Study Skills Unit is jammed packed with ideas to help the struggling, organizationally challenged students in your class.


Language Arts Success: The BEST of 2018

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As the calendar year comes to a close, a teacher’s journey is still moving at full speed. (It’s true!) We are not quite to the half-way mark of our year, and we still have much to do! As 2018 comes to a close and before you begin the second semester, I would encourage you to take a moment, stop, and reflect. It is good for the mind and soul to take note of one’s progress. What successes are you seeing in the classroom? Are you on the track you had planned? Do you need to make adjustments?

To help you do so, we've assembled a list of the 10 most significant language arts stories we discussed in 2018. From study skill tips to word analysis strategies to the grammar-writing connection, these articles examine ways to ignite learning while building a solid foundation for #ELAsuccess.

We’ll be back next week to kick off another year of insight into English Language Arts. In the meantime, please enjoy the stories below, and let us know what's on your radar for the semester ahead by commenting below. Happy New Year!

Let’s Get Organized with Writing Maps!

Teaching Correct Subject-Verb Agreement

What is an appositive?

Adverb or Adjective?

What is Shurley English?

Grammar and Writing: It’s a process

Word Analysis Strategy: How to convey depth of meaning

Capitalization and Punctuation Rules: Teaching students the art of conventions

The “Perfect” Shurley Teacher

Teaching Study Skills: Tips, strategies, and checklists that work

The Classroom Cafe: Creating an ideal writing space

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Sniff, sniff, mmmm! There’s something special about the aroma of that sweet, little corner coffee shop.  The lingering scent of a creamy caramel latte, mixed with the boldness of jet-black espresso, brings a smile to my face.  The dimmed lights and down-tempo tunes playing in the background set the stage for an ideal writing space.  I settle-in, let the atmosphere inspire me, and begin to write. 

A great way to keep your students engaged is by turning your classroom into a cafe…The Shurley Café. The creation and set-up of the actual Shurley Café is completely up to you, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

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How to Create The Shurley Café:

  • Arrange desks in two’s or small groups.

  • Dim the lights or bring in lamps with soft lighting.

  • Play calming, quiet music in the background.

  • Create a Shurley Café sign.

  • Create a Café Chat bulletin board.

  • Create a Reflection Form for students to write their Café Chat reflection on. (More on that in a bit.)

  • Make hot cocoa/cider to enjoy while the café is open.

  • Wear an apron.

  • Serve a light snack.

  • Invite your administration to the café!

  • Turn this into an opportunity for silent reading, as well!

  • Repeat as often as you like.

Let’s write! Now that you have The Shurley Café ready to go, it’s time to start composing. Since it is holiday time, why not have students explore how other countries celebrate Christmas?  Afterwards, they can compare it to their own family’s celebration.  It’s a great way to learn about traditions around the world as well as the traditions of their peers while working through the writing process.

To get started, you’ll need to do the following:

1. Assign different countries to students.

2. Allow time in your plans for students to research on the computer.

3. Check out some books that cover Christmas customs from around the world.

4. Make copies of a Venn Diagram.

5. Makes copies of the guided Café Chat reflection paragraph (example below).

6. Refer students to helpful websites, such as:




Here’s a day-by-day overview to help you with your planning:


  1. Assign a Comparison/Contrast Essay

  2. Choose a topic.

  3. Research your topic using books or the computer during class.

  4. Take notes on your topic.


  1. Create a Venn diagram.

  2. Write a rough draft.

  3. Begin the revising and editing process in class, individually. Revise and edit with your partner, if time allows.


  1. Continue the revising and editing process.

  2. Share your composition with your teacher.

  3. Write your final draft in class. (Complete as homework if you need extra time.)

  4. Create an illustration that depicts your topic, if time allows.

Thursday: The Shurley Café Day!

  1. Share your essay while you enjoy a warm cup of cocoa. (You can do this activity with a partner or in small groups.)

  2. Write a Café Chat reflection. (see below.)

Friday: The Shurley Café Day!

  1. Share your reflection with your partner or small group.

  2. Post your reflection on the Café Chat bulletin board. (Share with the entire class if you’d like to do so.)

  3. Enjoy reading the Café Chat board while you sip your drink and socialize.

Remember, you are still the leader of the room—more like the guide by the side in this scenario—so classroom management is very important.  Be there to assist your students through the writing process. This is their opportunity to show you what they’ve learned! You can teach so much more than writing in an activity like this!  Have an enjoyable experience and a peaceful holiday season!  


Comment /Source

Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.


Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.


Poetry: Exploring sound devices with couplets

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Poetry is a special form of writing that allows a student to express ideas, emotions, or experiences directly through words in verse.  It is probably the most artistic of all genres of writing because of the delicate juggling act of (a) rhythms, (b) sound devices, and (c) subject matter

The sounds of the words in a line of poetry make a rhythm that is similar to the rhythm in music.  This rhythm is established by stressed and unstressed syllables.  The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem is called its meterIt’s important to pay attention to rhythm because it’s key to understanding the full effect of a poem.

Some poets use sound devices as a strategy to create an emotional response by the listener.  Sound devices are special tools the poet can use to create certain effects in the poem to convey and reinforce meaning through sound.  The four most common sound devices are repetition, rhyme, alliteration, and assonance.

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Subject matter for any form of poetry writing is limitless.  Subject matter is the topic that is being written about and serves as the foundation for the text. 

Are you aware that incorporating poetry lessons throughout the school year can actually improve your students’ writing in other genres?  Poetry writing helps students develop language, vocabulary, and word choice skills.   Each word in a poem is packed with meaning to show instead of tell, so good poets carefully choose each word for the effect its meaning and sound will have on the listener.  They choose words that will bring about sensory images in the imagination and emotional responses in the heart.   

Personally, I think couplets are a fun way to begin teaching students about the basics of rhythm and rhyme, using any subject matter of interest.  A couplet refers to two successive lines of poetry that rhyme and have the same meter.  A couplet can consist of only two lines, or it can have multiple rhyming stanzas, consisting of two lines each.

Take a look at these examples:

I do not like green eggs and ham
I do not like them Sam I am.

 - Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!

 - Nursery Rhyme

Here’s some more information you need to understand about couplets:  Couplets may be formal or run-on.  A formal (or closed) couplet has a grammatical pause at the end of each line or verse.  On the other hand, a run-on (or open) couplet allows the meaning of the first line to continue to the second line.  This is also called enjambment.

Couplet Writing Activity:

Divide into small groups.  Each group selects a subject based on the current season. (For example, if the season is fall, a group could select Halloween, football, falling leaves, etc.) Each member of the group writes a couplet with multiple rhyming stanzas, consisting of two lines each to declare the chosen subject matter.

Then, each group creates a mural or collage to celebrate the chosen subject matter.  Each group tells about its subject in both the poem and artwork.  Discuss the artwork and couplets and how they made you feel about the selected subject matter.  Be sure to follow the Rules for Discussion and the Guidelines for an Oral Presentation:

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