Mechanics of Writing

Click here to print the Spring 2019 Syllabus.

Click here to print the 2018-2019 Vocabulary Word List.

February 14

We talked about four primary writing models: expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative. We will experiment with the first three models, and if there’s time this semester, we’ll experiment with narrative.

Expository writing is informative. It includes verifiable facts and common knowledge. Two examples of expository writing are compare/contrast and process, and that’s where we began yesterday. Prewriting methods vary, but for compare/contrast we used a Venn Diagram to list facts about Valentine’s Day and a wedding anniversary. At first glance, they may seem nearly interchangeable, but after brainstorming together, we were able to list many ways the two events are different. Then, we listed transitional words that are commonly found in compare/contrast writing, such as similarly, on the other hand, like, furthermore, however, for example, etc. Students went on to write two paragraphs comparing and contrasting Valentine’s Day and a wedding anniversary.

We also diagrammed a few sentences and worked on Plexers.

Homework for February 21:
1. vocab: vigilant, peremptory, capricious, supercilious, pungent
2. Revisit your paragraphs about Valentine’s Day and a wedding anniversary from class, edit them, and type them (or rewrite them in neater handwriting) to turn in. Then, do the exercise again comparing and contrasting a medical doctor and a veterinarian. Print out a fresh Venn Diagram (linked above) or draw your own. You don’t need to turn in the Venn Diagram with your paragraphs, but do the exercise to help sort out the similarities and differences between the two professions. Ask for help if you need it!
3. Print this page and diagram the sentences.

February 7

We continued foundational writing today and worked on finding the main idea of a passage, as well as isolating supporting sentences that point to the topic sentence. Then I scared everyone when I asked them to write a paragraph to be read out loud. FEAR AND LOATHING, I tell you. It is hilarious the extent some will go to in an attempt to avoid eye contact! 🙂 They should’ve brought the passage and subsequent paragraph home today if you care to look at it. We also diagrammed four types of pronouns, again, to everyone’s dismay. Thank goodness for Plexers or the class would be 55 minutes of misery!

Homework for February 14:
1. vocabulary: exploit, auspice, formidable, vertiginous, insolence
2. Complete the home test. (I sent home a copy with every student, but just in case it gets misplaced, click here to print out another copy.)

January 31

Today we talked about topic sentences and their role as presenting the main ideas of a paragraph. In higher-level writing, topic sentences can appear in the middle or end of a paragraph, but for our purposes, we’ll keep things basic and put topic sentences at the beginning of paragraphs. We’ll follow the “Sandwich Method,” which students should have drawn in their notes.

We also diagrammed five sentences together, which we’ll continue to do throughout the rest of the semester. We’ll keep building on our diagrams as we go along, much to the chagrin of every student!

Homework for February 7:
1. Define and study vocabulary: exultation, indomitable, confluence, abdicate, superfluous
2. Print this page as a guideline for writing topic sentences and paragraphs. Students need to write their paragraphs on separate sheets of paper. If handwriting is an issue, typing is fine!

January 24

We had a quick lesson today on choosing the right word – to avoid the general or generic and aim for the specific. We also talked about word choice in terms of connotation (positive and negative). This concludes our dissection of the English language, so it’s time to move onto writing. There’s a bit of writing in the homework this week, but we’ll dive in fully next week.

A quick word, parents: There was extra chattiness in class today (mostly involving a specific group). Please remind your kiddos to keep the video game talk, the busy tapping and fidgeting sounds, and other non-related conversation to lunchtime and study halls. I had to remind folks too many times today to stay focused. I know it’s dull content – trust me – but it’s hugely distracting when there’s extra noise.

Homework for January 31:
1. Define and study vocab: espionage, palliative, pantomime, arbitrate, apothecary
2. Print and complete this worksheet.

January 17

I was absent today but had a wonderful substitute fill in for me! Thank you, Mrs. Vaughn, for taking my place!

Today students should’ve been introduced to nine types of figurative language: metaphor, simile, hyperbole, oxymoron, personification, onomatopoeia, allusion, idiom, and alliteration. There was an accompanying in-class worksheet with figurative language exercises on front and diagramming sentences on back. Whatever was not completed in class needs to be completed as part of their homework, which I understand should be most of the diagramming. Hint: All of those sentences involve a direct object and either a predicate nominative or predicate adjective.

Homework for Jan. 24:
1. Define and study vocab: ingratiate, garish, vivacity, pseudonym, indignant
2. Print and complete this worksheet. (Don’t forget to complete the in-class page too!)

January 10

Please note the linked spring syllabus above!

We kicked off the spring semester talking about sentence structure and identifying six reasons a sentence may need correcting: fragments, run-ons, poor unity, poor clarity, misplaced modifiers, and excessive conjunctions. We also jumped into semantics with synonyms (two types), antonyms (three types), homophones, and homographs. Next week we’ll start figurative language.

I’ll have study sheets for students later in the semester, but for now, they need to take notes and go through the process of writing things down the first time. Please encourage your student to take notes! Only half of the class even attempts it. Trust me when I say these are good habits to start now.

We did a worksheet in class together, diagrammed a couple of sentences, and finished the hour with Plexers as usual. What used to take them ten minutes or more to figure out now takes them less than five! I’m impressed!

Homework for January 17:
1. Define and study vocab: rapscallion, frenetic, nomadic, havoc, obsequious
2. Print and complete this worksheet.

December 13 

Everyone survived the fall semester! I know it’s been a tough class for some kiddos, but I’m really proud of everyone for trying hard and giving their best effort on the final test. I am still in the process of grading them, but my goal is to finish by tomorrow and email grades to parents. 

There is no homework over the break. I hope everyone enjoys a restful few weeks off. 

December 6

Today students took a shorter practice test that we reviewed immediately in class. I could tell by the groans that some students are stressed and worried about next Thursday. Please encourage your kids to review the study guide, look over the practice test from today, and rework the review sheet from last week. 

Please make sure your child has a pencil for the test! Pens are messy, particularly when they want to change an answer and do a lot of scratching out and scribbling!

I will grade their tests at home and email final semester grades within a few days. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns! 

Homework for December 13:
1. Define and study vocab: sphere, diminish, analogy, intervene, finite
2. Study for test! 

November 29

Today was all review! We worked on identifying parts of speech, connecting parts of speech with their definitions, and basic diagramming. About half of the class is still struggling to identify more than nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and I’ll tell you (parents) the same thing I told them in class today – one day a week of grammar is not enough for mastery.  Unfortunately, it takes a lot of tedious practice to nail down this stuff to a comfortable level. 

That means if your child isn’t doing well independently, then they may need extra work throughout the week to really drive homes these rules and methods.  Let me know if you need resources for extra work at home. (I highly recommend Rules of the Game.)

Next week they’ll take a practice test (a shorter version of the final test they’ll take on Dec. 13) and we’ll review the answers afterward. 

Homework for Dec. 6:
1. Define and study vocab: implicate, entity, hence, mechanism, transit
2. Finish the review sheet we started in class. They need to complete #6-8 on the back (three sentences to identify parts of speech and then diagram). Bring them back to class next week and we’ll review them.
3. Study! 

November 15

Thank you, parents, for being patient last week as I sorted out my website problems! 

Yesterday we wrapped up the last of diagramming for the semester, which included phrases of all kinds (mainly preposition and verbals). Then I handed out the study guide, which I created and worked on over the last few weeks. I hope there are no mistakes, which is my greatest fear when I’m making something from scratch on my own (i.e., no editor). I’ve always been a writer who needs an editor, but I tried diligently to create a helpful study guide for you to use with your kids. 

In case the guides got lost on the way home, which is entirely possible, I’ve linked them here: Basic Grammar and Basic Diagramming.

A few things:

  • Some students continue to struggle with vocabulary, which makes me wonder if they are truly looking up the words, reading all the possible definitions, and then studying those definitions throughout the week. It’s my preference that they use a traditional dictionary, not a student dictionary, to ensure that the words will be there. (Some say they haven’t found certain words in their dictionaries, which is curious because we haven’t even gotten to the difficult words yet!) 
  • Which brings me to the next point: Spring vocabulary is next level stuff. They are more challenging, so students will definitely need access to a full dictionary and not a modified, shorter student dictionary. Examples of spring words include pantomime, insolence, tumultuous, subterfuge, confluence, squall, etc. If you aren’t sure whether or not your child is doing well with vocabulary, ask to see their quizzes. I hand them back each week.
  • A few students are also struggling with diagramming, which is expected. I returned homework from last week to a few kiddos who need extra help. Be sure to check their folders.   

Homework for Nov. 29: 
1. Define and study vocabulary: analyze, conclude, valid, inferiority, scheme
2. Print and complete worksheets.

November 8

Information about the class on November 8 and homework due for November 15 was emailed. If you have any questions, let me know.

November 1

Yesterday we started with the basics of diagramming sentences. Approximately half of the students are familiar with diagramming simple sentences, and about a quarter of those are familiar with diagramming compound, complex sentences. Still, there is a handful for which this is new information. We’ll spend the rest of the semester diagramming and labeling parts of speech. There will be group work, individual class work, and the terrifying coming-to-the-board work.

We only have four more class meetings before the final in-class test. (That’s hard to believe, isn’t it?) I will be pulling together a “cheat sheet” of information to help your student study, particularly if he or she hasn’t been a stellar note-taker thus far. No worries – I too have a son who’s not a stellar note-taker. So, while the cheat sheet cannot be used during the final test, it may prove helpful as a study tool. I will get that to everyone prior to Thanksgiving.

If anyone needs extra help with diagramming, Grammar Girl on YouTube has helpful videos. Also, Khan Academy has excellent lessons on parts of speech and sentence structure, if your kiddo needs extra instruction (or helpful reminders). 

Homework for November 8:
1. Define and study vocab: furtive, grueling, diminish, deft, restitution
2. Print and complete worksheet.

October 25

Friends, we are nearly done with the tedious note-taking of parts of speech and punctuation. Yesterday we covered quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens, and dashes. Next week we’ll talk briefly about prefixes and suffixes, but then we’ll jump into basic diagramming. We’ll also endeavor to do review each week because some students are still struggling to understand various parts of speech and how they morph into other parts of speech depending on how they’re used. 

I also warned everyone that we will start the dreaded coming-to-the-board business next week, and no one is safe. I’m not going to force children out of seats, but I will call on everyone at some point to identify what they can in a sentence, even if it’s just one thing. I never expect perfection, but I do expect effort. We will be brave together.

Homework for Nov. 1
1. Define and study vocab: potential, misgiving, knoll, jut, gusto
2. Print and complete this worksheet. 

October 18

We kicked off the second half of the semester with punctuation and another review worksheet similar to the one we did on October 4. We’ll continue to do in-class exercises like these over the next few weeks since the paragraphs mimic expectations for the final test in December. While students are allowed to work in pairs and groups in class, the final test will be entirely on his and her own.

Homework for Oct. 25:
1. Define and study vocab: scurry, vigilant, translucent, swarm, repugnant
2. Print and complete this worksheet. 

October 4

Today we finished parts of speech with prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. We’ve covered A LOT of material in the first eight weeks, so I don’t expect anyone’s grammar to be perfect. However, I wanted to see how everyone would do identifying what they know, so I handed out a paragraph with a few dozen words and phrases underlined. I told everyone to do his/her best, and that it was fine to work in groups if need be. Just take a stab at it! It was intimidating, but that was the point.

Before class ended, I went through each sentence so students could write the correct answer beneath the underlined words. A few students stopped participating at this point, so some went home with partially finished work. (Ask to see the worksheet so you’ll know whether or not your child participated!)

I took that opportunity to remind them that something similar to this paragraph will appear on the final semester test. A look of fear washed over the room, which told me the experiment was successful. Grammar is not mastered by a few worksheets a week. It takes a long time to solidify some of these rules – and frankly, there are times when I’m unclear about a word or sentence. Yet, the practice will *only* help them. Studying is essential. Re-writing notes can be a helpful exercise. 

Homework for October 18:
1. Vocab: concoction, bluff, hasten, outlandish, recuperate
2. Worksheets on prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.
3. Home Test No. 2

September 27

Today we covered adjectives (proper, comparative, superlative, demonstrative), adverbs (comparative, superlative), and articles (definite, indefinite). We also reviewed verbals since those can be hard concepts to grasp. Next week we’ll cover prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections, which will wrap up parts of speech. After fall break we’ll work on punctuation and diagramming sentences in preparation for a semester of writing in the spring. 

One thing I feel compelled to address is my own confusion about who understands the content and who doesn’t. I know some parents help their kids with the worksheets (and possibly the home tests), which is fine, but that doesn’t help me know what needs to be covered further. The class is painfully silent, minus a few, so I have a hard time gauging who’s lost and who’s bored because all the content is review for them. When I ask for volunteers to come to the board to identify parts of speech, the same few students raise their hands. The rest? Crickets. Blank stares. Part of that is fear, but I wonder if part of it is mass confusion.  

I need to hear from you, parents. Let me know if your child is coasting along until the writing part begins. Or, let me know if your child requires a ton of your help to accomplish the homework. Or, let me know if you too can’t gauge what he/she understands. There will be a ton of writing in the spring. If they are lost now, they’ll be frustrated later

Homework for Oct. 4: 
1. Define and study vocab: ominous, monotonous, emerge, dismal, eavesdrop
2. Complete worksheets.

September 20

I returned the first home test to students today and told them that if they weren’t happy with their grade, they are welcome to take the test a second time. (Parents, feel free to print it out from the Sept. 6 entry and proctor it.) I know this is the first academic class for some, so I’m happy to extend plenty of grace as they adjust. I want to give students every opportunity to succeed, especially since grammar is dull and tedious! 

That being said, the next home test is only a couple of weeks away, and we’re moving forward with completing parts of speech so we can tackle punctuation when we come back from Fall Break. Then we’ll slide into diagramming. Good times!

Today we discussed the difference between Active and Passive language, a subject we’ll circle back to next semester when the writing begins. Then we covered Verbals (Participles, Gerunds, and Infinitives), which are verbs that present as other things, such as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. 

I understand that some students are still in review mode right now. They are already familiar with parts of speech and other basic elements. However, some kiddos are getting their first experience with mechanics, so thanks to the ones who are being patient. We all appreciate it.

Finally, a note about vocabulary. I encourage students to look up the definitions in an actual dictionary. Yes, I’m old school, but the mental exercise is good for them. 

1. Define and study vocabulary: illuminate, exasperation, cunning, dispel, malleable
2. Print and complete worksheets.

September 13

We started class by reviewing how to choose the right pronoun for subjects and predicates (which can be tricky with incomplete comparisons). Then we moved on to linking verbs and helping verbs, followed by more review on transitive and intransitive verbs. 

Before having fun with Plexers, I wrote sentences on the board and asked for volunteers to come up and give their best effort identifying the parts of speech they recognized. I had three eager students and nine absolutely terrified students. No big deal today, but I warned the class that at some point this semester, I’ll invite them to the board to identify what they know. 

*I’ve modified the syllabus and will give students a new copy on Thursday. If you’d like to print it, click here.

Homework for September 20:
1. Define and study vocab: sabotage, waft, zeal, muster, meticulous
2. Print and complete these worksheets.

September 6

This afternoon we moved on to verbs – transitive, intransitive, verbs with direct and indirect objects, and myriad forms and tenses. We’ll keep talking about verbs next week since we’ve only scratched the surface. 

As usual, most students took notes. Several didn’t. If you want to know whether or not your child took notes, ask to see them. I sent everyone home with the first of three home tests. They may use their notes on home tests. The fourth and final test of the semester will be taken in class with NO NOTES. Just wanted to make that clear. 

Homework for September 13: 
1. Define and study vocab – defiance, egregious, jostle, pertinent, recluse
2. Print and complete worksheets on verbs.
3. Complete the home test and bring back to me next Thursday. (If your student lost the test on the way home, here’s a copy.) 

*A note about the test: #2 in the first section will be confusing because the word contraction is missing from the instructions. Please tell your student to skip #2 or write contraction in the blank. Apologies! (This is what I get for pulling from multiple sources to create a test!)

August 30

Today we started with the vocabulary quiz and a brief review of nouns and types of sentences. We’ll do that every time to freshen memories and get students engaged. Repetition is key for mastery.

Pronouns were our primary lesson – singular, plural, subject, object, possessive, indefinite, reflexive, intensive, interrogative, and demonstrative. We also covered appositives and appositive phrases.

Parents: Almost everyone took notes, so if you’d like to know whether or not your student paid attention and took notes, ask to see them. My only request is if your student is already a grammar whiz, please remind him/her to be patient and quiet while the rest of the class listens and participates. Today we had a lot of chatter, which isn’t helpful for those who are trying to listen and learn.

A word about the homework packets: I will effort to keep the page number to six or fewer. We won’t always use the workbook. Sometimes the worksheets will be copied from other sources, or they will be my own creation. Also, I won’t return them to you unless the student missed a significant amount and requires extra help. Otherwise, the worksheets are for practice and a way for me to gauge what students retain. Please do your best not to help them too much. A little assistance is fine, but between the instructions on the pages and their notes, they should be able to accomplish much of the work on their own. (Please be in touch if this isn’t the case!)

Homework for Sept. 6:  
1. Define and study vocabulary words: materialize, quell, scarcity, terse, aptitude.
2. Print and complete worksheets.

August 23

We started the class with a quick vocabulary quiz and recap of last week’s lessons. I collected the worksheet packets and will return those next week. 

Today’s lesson was all about nouns – proper, common, plural, singular, collective, possessive, compound, concrete, and abstract. Hopefully, your student took notes or has a fabulous memory!

We ended with Plexers, which everyone loves. 

Homework for August 30: 
1. Define and study vocabulary words: jargon, headway, foresight, aplomb, engross
2. Print and complete worksheets. (Please feel free to print in black and white, front and back, or shrink them and print two to a page. I will attempt to keep the worksheets minimal in count.) 

August 16

Today we started with introductions and jumped right into the first lesson on the four types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative). We also covered subjects and predicates, what denotes a fragment, and the differences between a simple, complex, and compound sentence. (Ask your student to show you his/her notes!)

In the remaining minutes of class, we worked on Plexers, or perplexing rebuses, which everyone seemed to enjoy. It’s a great exercise in logic and creativity. (This is my attempt to make grammar class a little entertaining.) A few of the students seemed excited to quiz parents and family members tonight, so get ready!

Homework for August 23
1.) Define and study vocabulary words (apprehensive, conspicuous, momentum, precipice, kindle)
2.) Print and complete worksheet packet. 

error: Please, no copying.