Monthly Archives: December 2015

Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog

Over the years, I’ve become aware of the art of diagramming sentences. This is one method of teaching composition at the basic level of the declarative sentence. I’ve wondered, and continued to wonder, if this might be a method  to help struggling students learn to compose grammatically complete and even stylish expository prose. Moreover, I wonder if the act of drawing the diagram could help students with motor skills issues get some practice with holding and using a pen or pencil. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I was and remain curious about whether diagramming sentences could help struggling learners attain a sense of achievement and the psychological satisfaction that attends it.

Kitty Burns Florey’s Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog (New York: Harcourt, 2006) answered few of my questions, in terms of planning lessons, about diagramming sentences. However, it allowed me an afternoon of pleasant respite from a particularly dreary turn at jury duty. This is an elegant and highly readable cultural, educational and social history of sentence diagramming. Ms. Florey owns a wonderfully warm and and wry sense of humor. She offers a broad range of cultural references in her discussion. Do yourself a favor and be sure to read her touching afterward in the more recent editions of this fine book.

Ms. Florey’s history helpfully includes several discussions of the books that informed instruction in sentence diagramming in classrooms. One of them, Brainerd Kellogg and Alonzo Reed’s Higher Lessons in English: A Work on English Grammar and Composition is available as a freebie if you own an Amazon Kindle. There is, fortunately, a contemporary exponent of sentence diagramming, a man named Eugene Mouton. It looks like his books are the place to go if you want to learn to teach sentence diagramming.

The Weekly Text, December 18, 2015

Here is the final Weekly Text of 2015. I plan to avoid, to the greatest extent possible over the holiday break, this computer screen. I’ve just completed the final piece of my cycle of units on the parts of speech, an eight-lesson unit on conjunctions (I’ve previously posted the learning support on the most commonly used conjunctions that you’ll very likely need to use the material on this post).

So,  here is the second lesson on conjunctions from this unit, which gives struggling students some structured and independent practice at using the coordinating conjunctions. While this Word document includes the lesson plan, first do-now exercise (a homophone worksheet which you may need the Homophone Worksheets Users’ Manual to use), a structured worksheet, and a teacher’s answer key, it does not include the second do-now worksheet, an Everyday Edit on Beethoven. Incidentally, if you like this Everyday Edit, you can find more of them at the Education World Everyday Edits page, where the folks who operate that site generously give them away as tear-offs.

That’s it! I wish you and yours a joyous holiday season. I’ll see you again in the New Year.

Schooling’s Deadening Routine

“Much that passes for education…is not education at all, but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least.”

David P. Gardner Vital Speeches (1975)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

The Weekly Text, December 11, 2015

After a long absence for a basic civic responsibility, I am back at work, teaching and writing lesson plans. It’s the end of a marking period, and my students, to my great surprise, are glad to have me back. So I’m quite busy trying to catch up with paperwork and engage my students in creating meaning. Here, in the penultimate text for 2015 (I don’t plan to post Weekly Texts over the holiday break) is a learning support for the most commonly used prepositions in the English language.

As always, I hope you find this useful. If you do, and are so inclined, I’d be grateful to hear how you used it, how (if at all) you adapted it, and how you think it might be made better.

Memo to Education Policy Makers

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”

Jacques Barzun as Quoted in Newsweek (1955)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

The Weekly Text, December 4. 2015

OK, here’s a quick weekly text, starting with a context clues worksheet on the noun triskaidedaphobia. This might well serve as a template for the context clues worksheet in general–you will notice, as your students probably will, that this word means fear of the number 13. I believe the context for inferring meaning is fairly strong in these sentences.

This might also be a good time to use this worksheet on the Greek word root phobia, the utility of which I expect is obvious. This root shows up in so many words in English that knowledge of it is nothing short of de rigeur. 

As always, I would appreciate hearing from you if you used these, especially how you used them, if you adapted them, and how they might be made better.