Making Practice Count

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I have never taken a class in martial arts, but I have certainly enjoyed watching Bruce Lee’s moves in his action-packed films!  Let’s face it!  The guy was physically amazing, but more than that, he had a way with words!   

Lee was more than just a famous martial artist!  He was also an actor and a philosopher with a long list of inspirational quotes tagged to his name.  Many of his famous quotes are still being used today to trigger personal growth, and one of my favorites says: 

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

This particular Bruce Lee quote reminds me of the importance of practice.  Practice, of course, is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement.  When we practice something over and over again, we naturally perform that particular skill with more ease, speed, and confidence.  

According to educators, Annie Bosler and Don Greene, practice affects the inner workings of our brains.  In a popular TED-Ed video entitled:  How to practice effectively…for just about anything, these two teachers put together a lesson that includes four simple steps to follow.  The steps include:

  1. Focus on the task at hand. Minimize potential distractions by turning off the computer or TV and putting your cell phone on airplane mode.

  2. Start out slowly or in slow-motion. Coordination is built with repetitions, whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the speed of the quality repetitions, you have a better chance of doing them correctly.

  3. Frequent repetitions with allotted breaks are common practice habits of elite performers. Studies have shown that many top athletes, musicians, and dancers spend 50-60 hours per week on activities related to their craft. Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple daily practice sessions of limited duration.

  4. Practice in your brain in vivid detail. It’s a bit surprising, but a number of studies suggest that once a physical motion has been established, it can be reinforced just by imagining it.

Bruce Lee became well-known as a professional martial artist, actor, and philosopher because of hard work and lots of focused practice.  As human beings, we can all benefit from applying these 4-steps to practice just about anything effectively.

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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Mastering ELA Before High School: Can it be done?

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It’s no secret that English as a subject area is a complex field of study that’s full of concepts and rules necessary for everyday speaking and writing.  In education, the subject is separated into five basic categories, including: (1) reading, (2) writing, (3) speaking, (4) listening, and (5) viewing.  The bulk of the concepts and rules for these categories are taught, reinforced, and mastered during elementary school (K-8).  The real shocker is that if students don’t grasp all of them before entering high school, they are destined to struggle until they do.

Can anyone master the basic concepts and rules of language arts? YES! (….and I’ll be the first to tell you repetition is KEY!)

It’s important to understand that repetition is the number one way for information to make its way to long-term memory. The more the brain repeats information, the more likely that information will be retained for future use. 

The Shurley English curriculum provides enough repetition to master the basic concepts and rules of language arts!  Lessons include daily practice of old skills while new skills are being added.  As students are taught how to merge a strong grammar foundation with the writing process, teachers can spend less time going over beginning grammar and editing skills and more time introducing and enhancing advanced grammar and writing skills.  Shurley English students learn to use their grammar and writing skills automatically with dependable results by the completion of Level 8.  This leads to higher-level thinking skills because students are stimulated to learn and use their own thought processes to solve difficult language problems. 

During high school, the focus of language arts shifts to an even more complex approach.  The New York Post provides a useful glimpse at some of the language arts expectations for grades 9-12 in the following post.  I encourage you to take a look it.  Here’s a snapshot at what it indicates students will do: 


- Make fuller use of written materials, using a wider range of evidence to support an analysis

- Make more connections about how complex ideas interact and develop in a book, essay, or article

- Evaluate arguments; assess whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is sufficient; detect inconsistencies and ambiguities

- Analyze the meaning of foundational US documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights)



-  Make an argument that is logical, well-reasoned, and supported by evidence

-  Write a literary analysis, report, or summary that develops a central idea and a coherent focus, supported with examples, facts, and details

-  Conduct research projects that address different aspects of the same topic.


Speaking and Listening

- Respond to diverse perspectives, synthesizing comments, claims, and evidence on all sides of an issue and resolving contradictions when possible

- Share research, findings, and evidence clearly and concisely

- Use digital media (animations, video, Web sites, podcasts) to enhance understanding and add interest



- Find or clarify the meaning of words and phrases, using multiple strategies, such as context, Greek and Latin roots (bene as in benefactor or benevolent), and patterns (conceive, conception, conceivable).

-  Interpret figures of speech (hyperbole, paradox), and analyze their role in the literature or text


Can you see why it’s so important to master the basics concepts and rules of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing in elementary school?  If you truly want to ensure your students have the tools they need to be successful in language arts, repetition is absolutely vital.  Shurley English provides the perfect blend of grammar, skills, reading, and writing that you’re looking for in a curriculum.  You can rest assured that your students will gain competence, confidence, and a lifetime of communication success! 


Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.