Follow Me Through the Dry Landscape of Grammar

Those of us who teach grammar know how dry it is. And thus, some English teachers do not teach it, opting instead for group projects.

I had no idea this was happening all around me in the N-Wing in 1992.
In N-9, we learned grammar and we had fun.

My starter with 9th graders was a ruse. I appealed to their sense of play.

OK, before we begin our journey through Warriner’s Grammar, let me tell you about what happened to me in 1962 after Mrs. Whooton, my mean 7th English grade teacher, threw an eraser at me while I just trying to diagram a sentence.

Your teacher threw an eraser at you? Oh my God, like what did you do?

I ducked. It sailed past my right ear, smacked the board in a dull whack, causing chalk dust to fill my nose. Twenty feet away, Mrs. Whooton looked like a short steam engine; she was coming my way, her wide grey skirt moving quickly up the tracks.

And then what did you do?

I ran out of the room, like a jackrabbit. But that is a story for another day.

Today we are going to review the parts of speech.

Just the words, the parts of speech, had a fusty effect. Bread, left out on the counter for only ten minutes, begins to harden. I digress. My students only seemed like stale bread at that moment. One has to work quickly with quick minds.

We reviewed the parts of speech from the noun to the preposition. They yawned, groaned, and sighed.

OK, now for your homework: tonight, you must pick one part of speech and write 750 words, double spaced on why that part of speech is just like you.

Huh?

Huh is an interjection. Perhaps you will select that part of speech. The bell rang and the next set of victims trudged in, their large feet moving them forward like cartoon characters.

The next day, the students entered N-9.

The majority had selected nouns. I asked several students to read their opening paragraphs.

I am a noun because my name is Vidya. So let’s start with me. I love to write about me…

Verbs took second place.

I am a verb, always in motion; that is, unless I am inert. I am the mitochondrion of a cell, the energy source…

Adjectives came in third.

Since I want to go into art, I am an adjective. I love to decorate my room, improve my writing, and separate myself from others. The limiting nature of adjectives appeals to my need for individuality…

No one picked an adverb.

What? Not one of you picked an adverb?

Jutting faces pulled back a bit; smiles leveled out.

Terrific! You show great grammatical restraint. Too many adverbs wreck writing.
Take out your papers. Let’s write the worst sentences we can, using too many adverbs. By the way, too is an adverb.

But before we do this, is anyone a preposition?

Photo by Cheri Block Sabraw, 2007 Follow Me

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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9 Responses to Follow Me Through the Dry Landscape of Grammar

  1. lakeviewer says:

    When I began teaching in the 60’s, grammar was going on sabbatical. In its place ‘authentic speech’ jazzed up the rhythm and tempo of English lessons. Students were checking out; and teachers worried about being relevant.

  2. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Hmmm…I was a student in the 60’s here in California. We had grammar instruction. The 70’s seemed to replace grammar with groovy.

  3. andreaskluth.org says:

    Am I right that I could choose to be a gerund, thus being both a noun and a verb at the same time?

  4. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Hi Andreas.

    Well… sorta, kinda, maybe, stuff-like. This question reminds me of a transgender person I know. He was once a verb but now she is a noun. Is he both a verb and a noun?

    Gerunds are not hybrids. As you know, they are verb forms functioning as nouns.

    The most common speaking error I hear concerns gerunds. Both Former President Bush and President Obama make the same error, so it is non-partisan one.

    Bush: All agree that me flying that plane onto the aircraft carrier deck and declaring Mission Accomplished was a premature boast.

    Obama: To all small business owners: We appreciate you paying your taxes and look forward to spending even more of them.

    I tell my students not to modify a gerund (noun) with a pronoun but rather use a possessive adjective.

    My flying/your paying

  5. Lucinda Mae Leong says:

    When I read your piece I remembered one of my high school English teachers saying to us: “If only you would all read, my job wouldn’t be necessary”.

  6. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Lucinda,

    I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said,

    The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.

    So to some extent, your English was on to something.

    I would amend your teacher’s quotation to say, If you would all read world classic literature, history,hard science, the Western Canon, philosophy, music and art history, then my my job might be unnecessary but until then, take out your books….:)

    You point is well taken. Thank you for your comments.

  7. Sunny says:

    You got me here. I can’t stand adverbs, but use a lot of them all the time.

  8. Christopher says:

    “……..is anyone a preposition?………”

    It used to be that to end a sentence with a preposition was the worst thing you could do, next to taking the Lord’s name in vain.

    Today, I end my sentences with a preposition at every opportunity just to get people mad. I am, though, still afflicted with guilt each time I do this…….

    • Cheri says:

      This comment made me laugh. Yes, there have been some funny jokes with profanities and then a preposition at the end. I’m sure you have heard these jokes.

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