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!

FIRST LINES/LAST LINES

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: http://www.wrightingwords.com/writing-starters/

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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Grammar Reinforcement: Creating Confidence Cards

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I love teaching!  I love the challenge of finding ways to teach children how academic content connects to their real life.  My love of teaching has carried over into the world of life coaching, and in this capacity, I can help teens feel good about who they are.

Let’s be real.  Life can be tough for many children these days, and many of them could benefit from a little more positivity in their lives.  For this reason, I found a way to connect my passion for helping teens develop a positive sense of self by using sentence patterns taught in Shurley English. 

Shurley English teaches seven sentence patterns.  All of the patterns include action verbs except for Pattern 4 and Pattern 5.  These two patterns include a linking verb (LV).  A linking verb expresses a state of being and shows no action.  Study the following chart to review the core parts of the seven sentence patterns:

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The core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence include a subject noun (SN), a linking verb (LV), and a predicate adjective (PA).  The linking verb links the simple subject to an adjective in the predicate part of the sentence that modifies the subject.  As students recite the Question and Answer Flow, a step is included to help them understand clearly that a predicate adjective modifies the subject.  Here’s an example:

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Now that I’ve refreshed your memory about the core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence, I’d like to share an idea that will focus on Pattern 5 sentences AND help your students develop a strong sense of self.  It’s called, “Writing Confidence Cards.”

To get started, you will need ten index cards for each student.  After passing them out, follow these steps:

  1. Review the core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence. 

  2. Write the words: “I am ____.” on the board. 

  3. Tell students that they will be choosing a positive predicate adjective to fill in the blank that will describe them.

  4. Model some positive word choice examples (SP LV PA):

    I am creative.

    I am beautiful.

    I am confident.

    I am intelligent.

  5. Tell students to write a different sentence on each index card.

  6. Review the sentences to make sure they have written appropriate sentences.

  7. Ask students to illustrate and decorate each card.

  8. When students have completed their set of Confidence Cards, they will be able to use them in a variety of ways.  (See below.)

Here are a few “Confidence Card” activities to utilize in your classroom:

  • Ask students to choose one card from their deck as their journal writing topic.

  • Create a class deck.

  • Choose a card from your class deck as the topic for a class discussion as part of your morning routine.

  • Make a duplicate card deck for a think-pair-share activity.  Pass out the deck, making sure two of the same cards have been handed out.  Have students with the same card pair up and discuss how their “I am___.” statement applies to them.

  •  Invite the school counselor to your classroom for a team teaching opportunity to discuss the benefits of positive self-talk.

As you can see, Confidence Cards provide a unique way to reinforce the Pattern 5 sentence and boost your students’ self-esteem. Do you have a unique way to reinforce grammar study in your classroom? If so, we would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below.

Grammar & Writing Toolbox: Don't let contractions confuse you!

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A contraction is a word or phrase that’s been formed by combining two words and adding an apostrophe to replace the letter or letters that have been left out.  Since the root word “contract” means to squeeze together, the concept of forming a contraction makes logical sense to most kids. 

When two words are combined to form a contraction, the first word is never changed; it remains intact.  Some of the letters in the second word get left out and replaced by an apostrophe.  Here’s a Contraction Chart to recite with your students. 

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Contractions are used frequently during conversation and informal writing, but they are usually excluded in formal writing pieces.  Experts consider them inappropriate in formal writing because they have a tendency to make the tone of the writing informal. 

Some contractions are known to cause confusion because they sound very similar to certain pronouns.  These contractions must be studied so that students understand the convention rule that applies.  It says: 

Every contraction has an apostrophe to show where letters were removed.

A pronoun never has an apostrophe.

Have your students study these contractions that are often confused with pronouns:

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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

Help Your Students Improve Their Revision Skills

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How many times have you asked your students to revise their work, only to have all of the papers returned to the hand-in basket within a few minutes with little to no changes at all?  The problem is that many students lack the necessary grammar skills required to revise. 

Simply writing a comment on a student’s paper to suggest a revision isn’t enough.  These comments are usually unclear and unhelpful to them—i.e. ‘too vague, too wordy, repetitive, etc.’ Students need more support and instruction than this; they need someone to show them how to make these types of revisions if they are to learn how to revise their content and achieve optimum results.

Students need a well-rounded grammar foundation to write with competence, and that foundation should include learning very specific revision skills.  It doesn’t have to be a painstaking task, but it is a process that must be taught.

First, students must understand that revising means to find ways to improve word choices and sentences in their rough draft.  They must also understand that revising requires them to read their rough draft critically several times to make sure they’ve said what they intended to say in the way they intended to say it.  They must read it aloud to themselves, and it helps to read it aloud to others to help find the “rough spots” that could use improvement.

A checklist to revise and improve the rough draft can be extremely beneficial.  The following example will help students focus their attention on five of the traits of effective writing, including:  (1.) ideas, (2.) organization, (3.) word choice, (4.) voice, and (5.) sentence fluency.  Try it out in your classroom today to help your students improve their revision skills!

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The Playbook of Literary Success: Grammar

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Let’s get back into the language arts huddle to go over some key plays that will help your students win-the-game!  If you missed Part I of the Playbook of Literacy Success, you might want to go back to the starting line to capture the necessity of a strong vocabulary.  As for today, we’re going to focus on Part II: Grammar.  We’ll begin with some calisthenics we call Shurley English Jingles, and then we’ll move right into our version of the wishbone formation! We call this feature the Question and Answer Flow

Remember, English is like a competitive sport, and every K-8 teacher is part of the coaching staff charged with developing players’ language arts knowledge and skills.  The playbook contains plays designed to help each team member achieve literacy success, which is the ultimate goal of the game, and the action plan involves the following equation:

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When it comes to teaching grammar, Shurley English uniquely teaches and reinforces the eight parts of speech and other important language arts concepts, using Jingles.  For clarification purposes, Jingles contain the important pieces of information of each definition, stated in a catchy, rhythmic way.  Each time a Jingle is recited, the brain goes through the motions of reigniting the learning path that was formed previously.  The more the brain repeats information via the learning path, the more likely that information will be retained in the long-term memory.  

Note:  Jingles are like calisthenics for the brain, and Jingle practice has been distributed appropriately throughout the Teacher’s Manual. And of course, as a reflective practitioner who must hold both your students and yourself accountable for the knowledge gained, the daily rehearsal of the jingles becomes an out-loud-and-in-your-face measurable way to determine how well students are retaining the new knowledge.

 

Shurley English Jingles

  • incorporate rhythm, rhyme, and movement.

  • provide domain-specific language.

  • allow for critical reading during sentence analysis.

Checklist for Shurley English Jingles:

  • Teacher models jingles or uses the Interactive I feature of the digital materials.

  • Students recite the jingles in unison at a brisk pace.

  • Students enjoy Jingle Time.

As grammar instruction continues, Shurley English teaches students how the eight parts of speech are organized to form sentences correctly, using a process called the Question and Answer Flow.  The Q & A Flow teaches students how to analyze the role of each word in a sentence. Learning to identify and label the parts of a sentence leads to understanding sentence structure, and as students' understanding of sentence structure grows, they learn to apply this knowledge to write better sentences, paragraphs, and essays.  Think about it this way: Just as a coach choreographs the plays he or she wants the team to master, so, too, grammar is the choreographer of our language.  Therefore, it is essential for students to have a firm foundation of knowledge about the parts of speech and the role they play in written language. The Q & A Flow makes the practice of the parts of speech logical and systematic.

Shurley English Q&A Flows

  • include brain-compatible strategies.

  • make English grammar logical and systematic.

  • serve as a formative assessment.

As you reflect upon your teaching of these important skills, consider the following Checklist for Grammar Instruction and the Question and Answer Flow. Ask yourself, have I…

  • conducted the grammar lesson as directed in the manual?

  • involved students in the oral questioning process?

  • related the new skill to a previously taught skill?

  • taught the students to read the sentences to be classified fluently and in unison?

  • encouraged a steady and natural pace as sentences are read aloud?

  • pointed to words and sentences for younger students as sentences are read?

  • taught students to use the same sequence/order of the Questions and Answers in the Q &A Flow, according to the manual?

  • conducted the Q & A Flow at an appropriate rate and volume?

  • waited until each answer is recited before labeling?

  • monitored constantly the students’ engagement and participation?

  • kept the students involved and on task?

 

By keeping yourself mindful of not only the quality of the content you teach, but also the technique and delivery of the content, you will add yet another game-saving skill to your students’ overall literacy achievement.  In upcoming posts, you will learn even more “plays” you can add to your literacy “playbook.” Don’t miss it!