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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Writing Mechanics: When should I write numbers in word form?

Writing Mechanics: When should I write numbers in word form?

The rules for writing numbers in a sentence or paragraph haven’t changed over the years, but for some reason, I still feel the need to double-check them.   I’m not sure why numbers are such a stumbling block, but any time I need to communicate a quantity, dollar amount, percentage, measurement, or date, I wind up questioning how to write it correctly.  I can never remember if I’m supposed to write the numbers in words, or if I’m supposed to write them in figures?

If you have the same questions, here’s a quick guide to help you know when numbers should be written as words:

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Curriculum Toolbox: from hodgepodge to cohesive

Curriculum Toolbox: from hodgepodge to cohesive

During my undergraduate days, I was headlong into all of my pre-teaching training courses. I truly enjoyed all of them. But, as I neared my junior and senior years of college, I began to get more into the philosophies of teaching. It seems that, at that time, the prevalent theories of teaching led my professors to refuse to tout the use of specific curriculum. That was both good and bad. It was good because it forced me to think along the lines that I did not need to depend on current published curriculum to be able to teach well. It was bad, however, because it generated the incorporation of a hodgepodge type of homemade curriculum that was left strictly up to me to develop and teach—risky, to say the least.

After I landed my first teaching gig, I knew I was in trouble because the school district had a mandated curriculum, which is what I was told would probably happen. We were taught in college to “just close your door and teach the way you know is right.” Well, that was risky, too, because my lack of experience in the classroom made it nearly impossible to know “what was right.” So, I proceeded with what I thought was right while still trying to adhere to the required curriculum. What I discovered unsettled me.

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Shurley English 101: Pushing beyond your comfort zone

Shurley English 101: Pushing beyond your comfort zone

Just like many of you, teachers across the United States are experiencing lots of change during this time of year like switching classrooms or schools, learning new curricula, and welcoming a new class of students.  Changes like these push us outside of our comfort zones. 

I used to look at veteran teachers and thought they had less planning and preparing to do because they could use lessons from their previous years.  I’d dream of the day when I could relax at the beginning of the year and coast through my lessons like they were, or so it seemed.   For some reason, I believed I could avoid the inevitable changes in our field; I was proven wrong when I changed grade levels for the first three years of my teaching career.   I also learned that those veteran teachers still worked just as hard as the new teachers.   What an interesting welcome to the world of education.  I learned quickly that change is the one thing that always remains consistent. 

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The Art of Self-Care for Teachers: Saying "No."

The Art of Self-Care for Teachers: Saying "No."

Last week, we discussed how practicing the art of self-care IS your duty.  Learning how to set boundaries at home and work helps you take care of YOU so you can take care of others. One valuable way to break your pattern of self-sacrifice is by learning how to gracefully say, “No.”

When you’re a chronic giver or helper, it’s really hard to tell people, “No.”  Most of us don’t like to disappoint people.  We avoid conflict when possible, and many people simply believe that taking care of one’s self is just plain selfish.  These days, more and more people have started shifting their beliefs around self-care; personal health and well-being have become a part of people’s lives in the 21st Century.  People are empowered when they can say, “No” to a request that is not absolutely necessary.

Please be aware of this important point

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The Art of Self-Care for Teachers

The Art of Self-Care for Teachers

Are you familiar with the frog in boiling water metaphor?  (Of course, do not attempt this at home!)

Imagine a pot of cold water sitting on the burner of a stove. A frog is peacefully swimming in it. The heat is turned on, and the water starts warming up. The frog finds this pleasant and keeps swimming. The temperature keeps rising, though. Now, the water is a little more than what the frog enjoys; it becomes a bit tired, but it doesn’t panic. As the water continues to heat up, the frog finds it very uncomfortable, and

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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:

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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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 Impact of the Mnemonic Device

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I’ll never forget returning to my 6th grade language arts classroom after winter break.  Being the social type, I had stopped between classes to say hello to some of my friends, and I barely made it into the room before the tardy bell rang.  To my surprise, the desks had been rearranged into groups of four, and I had no idea where I was supposed to sit. Everyone else had obviously been in the room long enough to locate their desks, but I was caught off guard, and I knew that I was in for it!  Although my teacher was not humored, my classmates roared with laughter because of the look on my face!


As if my entrance had not been bad enough, my teacher personally led me to my seat, and that’s when I knew it was going to be a long semester! She had grouped me with three individuals that were all smart, studious, and extremely quiet.  I knew immediately that she had plans to keep my talking to a minimum by placing me beside these three individuals, and I wasn’t too happy about it.  Ne’er did I know that these three people were about to teach me about the art of competition!


From the get go, I instinctively knew that the other three members of my classroom quartet thought they were faster, smarter, and better than me when it came to academics. I knew that they were always focused and that I was often distracted, but something inside of me clicked that day, and all of the sudden, I had something to prove.  I was determined to outsmart and outshine all three of them!


I learned after the first spelling pre-test that my mission was going to be harder than I thought.  You see, my teacher had a routine of giving us a spelling pre-test on Monday and a final spelling test on Friday.  If anyone made a 100 on the pre-test, they didn’t have to take the test again on Friday.  I was always good at spelling (I hardly ever studied), but wouldn’t you know, I missed one word on the pre-test that day, and all three of them made a 100! I was furious and frustrated!  To top it off, I misspelled the word language!


That little faux pas taught me to use one of the best tricks known to mankind!  I learned to use mnemonic devices to help me memorize difficult spelling words and much, much more.  Mnemonic devices are useful tricks or methods that help people remember important information.  In order to memorize how to spell “language”, I attached a word to almost every letter, or I let the letter stand for itself.  Here’s what I came up with: 

Language:  Linda Ann Nixon Gave U A Good E

(Believe it or not, I still repeat that saying when I write out the word.) 


My sixth grade year was a year of personal growth!  I learned that I could focus and work harder.  Competition drove me to do my best at all times in my 6th grade language arts class, and it taught me to find easier ways to learn important information.  By the way, I also learned that when you do less talking, you can do more listening!  It helped! 


Here are some beneficial mnemonic devices I found by doing a quick web search.  I encourage you to always look for tools like these to help your students memorize important information.  Enjoy!


-When to use “affect” or “effect”: 



Affect = Verb

Effect = Noun


-If you’re still counting Pluto, here’s a cute one to help memorize the order of the planets from the sun: 

My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas! 

(Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)


-How to remember who is on each bill:  When Jeff Left Home, Jack Got Fat! 

            Washington       $1

            Jefferson           $2

            Lincoln              $5

            Hamilton         $10

            Jackson           $20

            Grant                $50

            Franklin           $100


-The order of taxonomy: 

Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach

(Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus Species)


-The order of Mathematical Equations: 

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally 

(Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract)