- Sprinkle in those Comma and Semicolons
- 1101's One-of-a-Kind Apostrophe Test
- Chaos is (not) our Friend (?) - Editing for Clarity
- Proofreading Pitfalls Handout for Self-Editing
- The Exquisite Corpse: Fun With Syntax
- Grammar Remediation
Document 1 - Apostrophe_Test.pdf
Document 2 - Clarity.pdf
Document 3 - Parts_of_Speech.pdf
Document 4 - Proofreading_Pitfalls.pdf
Document 5 - Comma_explanation.pdf
Document 6 - The_the_impotence_of_proofreading.pdf
Document 7 - Comma_Fun.pdf
Purpose of Exercise: This exercise works to explore issues of grammar and punctuation in meaningful ways. The activity focuses on the confusion surrounding commas and semicolons.
Description: This exercise includes a handout for students to review before the class, a video to watch to start off the lesson, and a set of sample sentences to use in game-show fashion. You will need to create some kind of “prize” or “incentive” for the winning team, and you have the option of adding as many additional sentences as you wish to the “Comma Fun” game.
Suggested Time: approx. 30 min.
- Before class, inform students to look over the handout (Document 5) and to ensure they understand the examples and the rules
- When class begins, project up Taylor Mali’s poem’s “The Impotence of Proofreading” (Document 6)
- Then, move to the video of the poem
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OonDPGwAyfQ) and ask students to be honest about how much time they spend proofreading and how well they understand punctuation rules
- Inform students that an epic competition is about to begin, and they have 5 minutes to ensure they understand the handout assigned last night. They can either bring the handout up on their own computers, or you can project it up on the main screen.
- Break the class into even groups and ask them to give themselves a team name. Write their names on the board for scorekeeping and encourage team spirit.
- Project up the “Time for Comma Fun” (Document 7). Explain the “Rules”:
- You will project up one sentence at a time.
- The first group to buzz in/raise their hands has a chance to answer. They need to BOTH tell where the punctuation goes AND explain why/what rule from the handout they applied.
- They receive one point for the placement and one for the explanation. If they answer incorrectly, they lose two points and the next team to raise their hands gets a chance to answer
- The team with the most points at the end of the game “wins” the prize you have predetermined (perhaps a free pass on the next journal, perhaps they get to choose a treat you will bring next class…).
- (Clearly, the rules and set up of the game are up to each teacher and his/her class setup; these rules are just suggestions)
Purpose: This exercise is designed as a fun class "test" in the use of apostrophes. Use it if you're finding many such errors in student writing.
Suggested Time: 50 minute class period.
Description: In groups, or individually, students read the following paragraphs in search of apostrophe errors. Go over the key with the class. A good exercise to pair with the McGraw Hill Handbook.
Procedure: Print copies of the following story to distribute to your class. If you like, this can be a take-home assignment to be paired with the McGraw Hill Handbook. Students can work individually or in groups.
1101’S ONE-OF-A-KIND APOSTROPHE TEST HANDOUT:
“Well,” said the Captains wife “I knew it might come to this. Hes been hinting about NASAs plans for some time now; its scary but if he has to go on this 5 year survey of the Gindari system, well, he has to go . . . Im a military wife . . . and the militarys always come first with Glen.” she finished, somewhat sadly. Then she looked imploringly at the General. “Please General Henderson, youve got to tell me! Do the researchers plans include trying to contact any possible inhabitants of that star system? I mean, what if theyre not very friendly?”
“Oh now Mrs. Lovelace,” chuckled the General “Youre letting your imaginations worst fears prey on your mind! The possibilities of other beings contacting us are minuscule at best! But remember, your closest friends concerns must not tempt you into telling them the truth about your husbands mission! NASAs plans are too sensitive to publicly discuss just yet; weve been waiting for the right time . . . it could come at a moments notice . . .” and though he finished speaking, the Generals lips continued to move as he stared dreamily off into space.
All of a sudden, Mrs. Lovelace screamed “YOWWWEEEEEZ!” The cats tail had brushed against her fetchingly exposed calves, and in her reverie its unexpected presence had startled her. The General looked at her with some concern and not a little admiration. “Ive heard some screams in my time Mrs. Lovelace, but thats a 10 if I ever heard one!”
Mrs. Lovelace smirked back at him. “Do you often rate women as 10s, General?” she asked coyly. Suddenly, the General was reminded of his old Sunday school; the churchs school room had displayed Moses ten commandments, and for some reason “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife” popped into his mind just then.
Mrs. Lovelace, her hands maintaining a constant, expressive summary of their own, continued: “Glens been planning for some time now to be gone . . . at times Ive almost felt as if hes already left; our Friday night get-togethers havent happened for some time . . . ,” and then both of her hands constant gesturing suddenly ceased as she clasped the generals arm and said in her best bedroom voice “Hell be gone a long time, wont he General? And admit it, youre a part of the project too. When he does return, the projects next subject will you be, isnt that right? Shame to lose yet another sexy man to space . . .”
The Generals mouth felt very dry as he admitted “Youre right . . . Lois . . . upon Glens return, Ill be shipping out for my stretch at . . .”
“Dont,” Loiss hands seemed to say as she lay one gently against the Generals lips, stroking his bald head with the other. The Generals mind became a blank of non-verbals: yowzas and hubba-hubbas filled his head.
“But Lois, its not right!” he managed to say, just before Loiss eyes rolled back into her head, her scalp split open, her skins seams quickly detached from each other (dropping to the floor) and her four claws talons raked through the Generals stomach, eviscerating him in one fell swoop.
“Good,” thought the Scanlon Didtrac from the Gindari system as it stepped through the entrails mess and re-gathered its ‘woman-suit’, once more situating itself into Loiss appearance. “These busy-body earthlings never seem to know when theyre not welcome! Now lets see about one last Fridays get-together with Glen.”
1101’S ONE-OF-A-KIND APOSTROPHE TEST ANSWER KEY
“Well,” said the Captain’s wife “I knew it might come to this. He's been
the wife of the captain
hinting about NASA's plans for some time now; it’s scary but if he has to go
the plans of NASA
on this 5 year survey of the Gindari system, well, he has to go . . . I’m a military wife . . . and the military's always come first with Glen.” she finished, somewhat sadly. Then she looked imploringly at the General. “Please General Henderson, you've got to tell me! Do the researchers’ plans include trying to contact any possible inhabitants of that star
the plans of the researchers (there are many researchers/ i.e., plural noun)
system? I mean, what they’re not very friendly?”
“Oh now Mrs. Henderson,” chuckled the General “You’re letting your
imagination's worst fears prey on your mind! The possibilities of other beings
the fears of your imagination
contacting us are minuscule at best! But remember, your closest friends’concerns must
the concerns of your friends (plural).
not tempt you into telling them the truth about your husband's mission!NASA's plans are too sensitive to publicly discuss just yet; we’ve been waiting for the right time . . . it could come at a moment’s notice . . .” and though he finished speaking, the General’s lips
the notice of a moment
continued to move as he stared dreamily off into space.
Mrs. Henderson thought to herself, “Why, that's just like Harry's new, weird
habit! The General must be involved in this thing . . . YOWWWEEEEEZ!” she
screamed aloud. The cat's tail had brushed her, and in her reverie its unexpected presence startled her. The General looked at her with some concern.
“I've heard some screams in my time Mrs. Henderson, but that’s a 10 if I ever heard one!”
Mrs. Henderson smirked back at him. “Do you often rate women as 10's,
Use an apostrophe to pluralize numbers mentioned as numbers
General?” she asked coyly. Suddenly, the General was reminded of his old Sunday
school; the church's school room had displayed Moses' ten commandments, and for some
the school room of the church (singular noun, add ‘ + s).
reason “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife” popped into his mind just then.
Mrs. Henderson, both of her hands maintaining a constant, expressive summary of
their own, continued: “Glen's been planning for some time now to be gone . . . at times I'vealmost felt as if he's already left; our Friday night get-togethershaven't happened for some time . . . ,” and then her hands’ constant gesturing suddenly ceased as she
there are 2 hands and THEY are doing something: the gestures of her hands (plural).
clasped the general's arm and said in her best bedroom voice “He'll be gone a long time, won't he General? And admit it, you're a part of the project too. When he does return, the project's next subject will be you, isn't that right? Shame to lose another sexy man to space . . .
The General's mouth felt very dry as he admitted “You're right . . . Lois
. . .upon Glen's return, I'll be shipping out for my stretch at . . .”
“Don't,” Lois's hands seemed to say as she lay one gently against the General's
Lois ENDS in s, so a singular noun is possessing something, add ‘ + s
lips and softly stroked his bald head with the other.
The General's mind became a blank of non-verbals: yowza’s and hubba-hubba’sfilled his head.
Use apostrophe + s to pluralize words mentioned AS words
“But Lois, it's not right!” he managed to say, just before Lois's eyes rolled
back into her head, her scalp split open, her skin’s seams quickly detached from each
the seams of her skin (i.e., what’s possessed is plural, but the possessor is singular).
other, dropping to the floor, and her four claws’ talons raked through theGeneral's
she has more than one claw, and they possess those nasty talons, so apostrophe ONLY.
stomach, eviscerating him in one fell sweep.
“Good.” thought the Scanlon Didtrac from the Gindari system as it stepped
through the entrails’ mess and re-gathered its ‘woman-suit’, once more situating itself
entrails is a plural noun: they are possessing the mess, so s + apostrophe only.
into Lois's appearance. “These busy-body earthlings never seem to know when they're not welcome! Now let's see about one last Friday's get-together with Glen.”
Purpose: This handout and exercise is designed get students to consider, and read for, clarity. Use it if careless errors in student drafts preclude comprehension.
Time Suggested: 30 minutes to a full 50 minute class period.
Description: Copy and distribute the following handout. In groups or as individuals, students read an example of discombobulated writing and work on making the text coherent. A great exercise to pair with the McGraw Hill Handbook.
Procedure: Copy and distribute the following paragraph:
"Whenever I’m getting reading to eat my cat is always at my feet at the stove I am always tripping over him and swearing at him nevertheless he is such a funny creature how many cats can eat artichokes correctly after all when my husband cooks the kitchen smells of strong erotic spices from what I have incorrectly called the middle east but now I refer to as south asian I didn’t know the difference and was embarrssed to realize I was referring to an actual incontinent incorrectly no matter how hard I try I haven’t been able to reproduce his best dishes but then he does have the benefit of spending most of his life in pakistan where do we get hour specialty spices I bet your wondering but to my surprise it hasn’t been difficult to find a decent ethnic grocery store all you need to do is look in the yellow pages hey theirs a novel idea you wouldnt believe how fresh and inexpensive the foods at these stores are when we shop at our favorite store rhythyms of india the owners know now us they often encourage us to buy the most recent shipment of goat meat I wasnt really crazy about that curry but love makes you do crazy things like happily married people everywhere we compromise when it is about something important we talk and sometimes agree to disagree though youve got to be yourself right"
Assemble students into groups, or allow them to work as individuals, perhaps with the handbook for reference. As them to consider the example of discombobulated writing: without proper capitalization, spelling and punctuation, we might unintentionally create potentially embarrassing sentences. Tell them to see what they can do about fixing the mess below.
Follow-up by going over the paragraph with the entire class, asking students/groups to "solve" each sentence on the board - or have several students/groups offer their solutions together and evaluate them as a class.
Purpose: This short paragraph makes a good handout, or discussion-started on the overhead some time before the final drafts of a paper are due.
Description: This is not so much an exercise as it is a demonstration for good proofreading skills. I sometimes cut-up and distribute this paragraph to the class, or you could just project it if you have a tech room.
Procedure: Show/distribute the following for discussion:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t myyaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. this is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter.
Purpose: This Mad-Libs-style exercise gets students thinking about how language works via an underhanded grammar refresher, and jarring them out of the world of conscious language use.
Description: You will need index cards; color-coded work best. The idea is that by stringing together random parts of speech, sentences can be constructed which, while they do not make "sense," have, nonetheless, an internal grammatical logic.
Suggested Time: 20 minutes to a full class period
Procedure: Color-coded index cards work well for this: designate a color for each part of speech, making sure that there are twice as many cards for nouns and adjectives (you might ask students to prep for the lesson by bringing in their own cards). Some students who have trouble visualizing what kinds of words fit into each category (Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb) may feel too embarrassed to ask, so give a few quick examples to get them going. Ask each student to write down two nouns, two adjectives, one verb and one adverb – each on its own card.
After they have written down their words collect them into four stacks by color and shuffle them. Distribute the cards so that each student once again has a verb, an adverb, and two each of nouns and adjectives. At this point they should begin to arrange their cards to form sentences. Articles and possessive pronouns may be inserted wherever needed and verb tenses may be changed or nouns changed from singular to plural or vice versa. When all are finished go around the room and ask each student to share his or her sentence.
Discuss each sentence in terms of language play and grammar. You might emphasize grammar and focus on subject-verb agreement, subject-action-object, or the effect of punctuation. Or, you might focus on the power of word play, active, illustrative verbs, odd pairings, connotations, metaphor, etc. Help students apply what they’ve learned to their own drafts.
If time allows, students could be asked to write a paragraph or a poem around their sentence to share and discuss with the rest of the class, or as a journal.
Purpose of Exercise: Teaching grammar rules to your students can be painstakingly boring—not only for them, but for you. Covering this material, however, serves a valuable function in the writing classroom. This exercise is designed to give your students the chance to engage with grammar rules in a multimodal environment as opposed to rote memorization.
Description: Students will use either computers or a visual medium of your choice (perhaps panels for a comic) to illustrate a grammar rule. Bringing in either suggested topics (based on issues you’re seeing in your students’ writing) or allowing students to choose their own can work for this exercise. Learning grammar rules is entirely different than learning to use them, and this exercise puts your students in a position where they must investigate a grammar rule, consider how to represent it, and evaluate visual and written components to create a cohesive whole which illustrates how a grammar rule works.
Suggested Time: Class period
Procedure: It’s best to begin with examples of multimodal illustrations of grammar rules. The material from The Oatmeal shows how grammar rules don’t need to be dry and boring, and encourage a playful, thoughtful approach to the exercise. From here, tell them to select grammar rules, or provide them with a list of potential ones, and have them begin investigating these rules via either the McGraw Hill Handbook or Purdue Owl. If you are in a computer classroom, there are several resources at your disposal. Using mediums students are familiar with and will likely enjoy working with (such as Grammar Memes by using Meme Generator or Grammar Demotivational Posters by using website generators as well) will help keep them engaged and usually yields great results. You can also encourage them to combine their materials in other ways, like organizing Grammar Memes into a Prezi, or Powerpoint. If you are not in a computer classroom, you can either bring in comic templates and encourage them to design comic panels, or have them combine images and words in another fashion.
Additional Information: This activity can be done with students submitting results individually, or in groups which then present their finished work at the end of class to their peers, depending on time and resources at your disposal.