Robi Alstrom's blog

Order of Adjectives

One way to work on adjective use is to unscramble sentences. Begin with a base sentence with each word on a separate card. Give the cards to students and have them arrange themselves in a sentence at the front of the class.

            The boy chased the puppy around the table.

Next, give adjectives to students and have them join the sentence in the proper place. Note that English grammar places adjectives before the nouns they modify, but in Spanish, adjectives follow the nouns they describe, so provide practice for English learners with this activity.

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Conjunctions: Road Signs for Meaning

            Most grammar texts define conjunctions as words that “join” or “connect,” and they are usually listed as function words. Content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) generally carry the meaning of a sentence while function words (determiners, conjunctions and prepositions) are the grammatical glue that holds the sentence together. I think these definitions do conjunctions a huge disservice.

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Share the S: Grammar for English Learners

One of the difficult grammar constructions for English learners is the third person singular verb. We can all admit that it’s a little confusing that we make nouns plural by adding an s at the end of the word but that we make verbs singular by adding an s at the end. Since native English speakers grow up hearing this in oral language, most students don’t give it much thought. Nevertheless, English learners struggle with this concept and need explicit instruction in subject-verb agreement.

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It's All About the Who and the Do

In order to create better writers, grammar instruction should start early using engaging oral language activities that focus on how words function. Rather than isolating and labeling individual words, teachers should start with the sentence and what it takes to create a complete sentence. As teachers we know that every sentence must have a subject and a predicate, but using this terminology is more likely to confuse students, not help them understand the concept.

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On the Use of Leveled Text

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion going around reading circles about the use of leveled text. The argument centers on the question: “Should students read grade-level complex text, or should they read text at their instructional or independent levels?”

Dr. Timothy Shanahan strongly supports the use of complex text for the following reasons:

1.     Easier text is not more motivating.

2.     Not all texts need to be at an instructional level.

3.     Text level is not the only feature of the learning situation that can be varied.

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Reading Fluency: Don't Just Weigh the Pig

     Imagine that you are a pig farmer. Before you take your pig to market for sale, you want the fattest pig possible. However, weighing the pig everyday will not make the pig fatter. For the pig to gain weight, you have to feed it. The same is true for reading fluency. Of the five essential components of reading, fluency seems to be the most misunderstood. Let’s look at some common misconceptions. 

Misconception #1: Faster reading is better reading.

Inflection or Inflection?

Inflection or Inflection?

Typically, when most teachers hear or read the word inflection, they think of the change in pitch or loudness of the voice in speech. But when the word inflection is used in the Common Core State Standards, this meaning doesn’t make sense. Let’s look at Kindergarten Language standard 4b:

L.K.4b: Use the most frequently occurring inflections and affixes (e.g., -ed, -s, re-, un-, pre-. –ful. –less) as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word.

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