Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

R is for. . . Reflexive Pronouns Cause A Ruckus

a-to-z-letters-2013A to Z 2013R-Day in the A to Z Challenge. The month is winding down, and the remaining letters are thinning out. Let’s see. Eight more letters after this, but who’s counting?

Reflexive Pronouns Cause A Ruckus

Grammar Girl, a popular grammar and writing blog found on the Internet, says that she receives a lot of questions related to proper and improper use of reflexive pronouns.

People seem to have strong opinions on this topic. One group sees or hears mistakes in using reflexive pronouns, and they get bent out of shape. Another group doesn’t even notice the mistakes. And some think the improperly used reflexive pronouns are used correctly and look down on those who don’t use them the same way. What’s the truth? Who is right?

One theory is that people get confused on when to use I or me in sentences, so they use the reflexive pronoun myself instead.  Another theory is that using a reflexive pronoun like myself sounds smarter, so people use it more frequently. And some people think the right reflexive pronoun is wrong, so they change it to the wrong one. They hypercorrect.

Form of Reflexive Pronouns:
Add    ––self to singular pronouns:    myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself
Add    —-selves to plural personal pronoun:    ourselves, yourselves, themselves

Do not add  —self to his or our    hisself       ourself
Do not add  —selves to their         theirselves

Function of Reflexive Pronouns
Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of the sentence.
Note: Subject and object are the same person or persons.        Subject  =  Object
The reflexive pronoun comes after a verb or preposition and completes the meaning of a sentence.
Drop the reflexive pronoun, and the sentence is incomplete in meaning.

Here’s how reflexive pronouns look in short, Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O) sentences.
Read sentences across chart. Notice how the reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject pronoun.

001 (4)

Look at the reflexive pronouns in the well-known fairy tale, Cinderella and The Handsome Prince Reflexive Pronoun.

001 (5)

Errors on Compound Subjects
Now that you see the correct way to use reflexive pronouns, we’ll look at some improper reflexive pronoun use. Many common reflexive pronoun errors occur with compound subjects.

Note: Never use a reflexive pronouns as a subject or part of a compound subject.
Note: Name yourself last in compound subjects and objects. That’s good manners.

001 (6)

To check on accuracy of compound subjects, read the subject as a single subject first.

Myself went out for dinner.
I went out for dinner.

Can you see how this helps you pick out the right pronoun to use?


Myself      went out for dinner.
Ourselves   went out for ice cream.
Himself    will announce the prize winners.

Errors on Compound Objects

Use the same strategy to check on compound objects. Read the two objects one at a time as a single object. Your ear will tell which one is correct.

001 (7)

Don’t be afraid to use I and me in sentences. Just use I as the subject pronoun, and me as the object pronoun.

Your Turn:
Can you find the reflexive pronouns in these sentences?

1. The winning athlete patted himself on the back.
2. I taught myself to play mah-jongg.
3. Our visitors kept to themselves during the party.
4. The Boy Scouts congratulated themselves on their championship award.
5. The Boy Scout Troop congratulated itself on its victory.
6. Jeremy reminded himself to do his homework before watching TV.
7. I promised myself that one day I would go on a Caribbean cruise.

So what. Who cares?
Incorrect use of reflexive pronouns seems to irritate those people who know how to use them correctly. Why not join those who know the difference.

Just one other thing. Grammar and usage change over time, so we need to check back on this particular issue in a few years.  Who knows, it may become more acceptable to use myself in subject and object positions in a sentence since so many people do use it that way now. I hope not, but that’s how our language changes.

The Last Meow

princess catHey, I’m already asleep.Grumpy cat says no

I’m dreaming about Cinderella at the ball.

Maybe a handsome prince will come and carry me off.

What did Grumpy Cat say?

Aww, c’mon, Grumpy Cat, give a sweet princess a break.

Meow for now.  ={^.^}=

Q is for Quirky Dreams, Susie Q, and Prepositional Phrases

a-to-z-letters-2013Today is Q-Day in the A to Z Challenge.

I had a quirky dream about prepositional phrases last night. No kidding.

I think it’s because I had intended to write about these preppie guys yesterday on P-Day. Unfortunately, my snarky button jammed, and I couldn’t think up anything clever to write about them. I bet you’d have trouble writing something clever about prepositional phrases, too. Admit it.

At any rate, Susie Q, my secret mentor, urged me to go back a day in time and reconsider those pesky prepositions and their phrases. At first I resisted, but as sleep further eluded me,  a song I learned in third or fourth grade sixty alotta years go popped into my head:Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.” (See the three prepositional phrases in a row?)

That’s when I knew I had to get up and write my post.

Okay. So here it is. Snarky or not.

Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
Prepositions are words that connect or form relationships with nouns, noun phrases, pronouns, and sometimes verbs in sentences.  They fall in pre-position to, or before, nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns (Kolln, 1994). Eight prepositions (of, to, in, for, with, on, at, by) are among the twenty most frequently used words in English. Here are a bunch more prepositions:


Prepositions have been called a lot of names: the Big Daddy of Phrases (Rozakis, 2003), tasty morsels for the grammar gourmet (Michael Strumpf, 2004), and mushy abstractions and great circumlocutions (Hale, 1999), to name a few.  June Casagrande (2010) calls them “devious” because they sometimes get plunked in the wrong place in the sentence causing humorous gaffes.

Constance Hale, in Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Effective Prose (1999), had this to say about prepositions:

In the hands of Charles Dodgson, Sr., [Lewis Carrol] [didn’t we just talk about him just a couple of days ago?]  create mischief, what with cows rushing up chimneys and mayors in soup plates and men in teapots and donkeys in thimbles. Most writers, though, are content to use prepositions to ground their material, to tie noun and pronouns logically to other parts of speech. In this regard, prepositions are indispensable.

Prepositions are groupies, not loners. They love company and crowds. In fact, they need company in order to function; otherwise they sit in the corner hanging their heads. Look around for some nouns, and you will find prepositions near by, hanging on for dear life. Rarely will you see a preposition hanging out by itself. (Well maybe on restroom doors!) That’s just no fun. Boring!

And worse than being groupies, prepositions are grabbers. They latch onto nouns and pronouns to justify their existence. Their job is to tell location, direction, time, and relationships in sentences. Here you can see how they grab nouns to help them. (We’ll talk about pronouns and prepositions another day.)

001 (2)

  • Prepositions form phrases.
  • Prepositional phrases begin with prepositions.
  • The preposition in the phrase grabs an object: a noun or pronoun.
  • Prepositions can be simple (one word: of, to, behind) or compound (two or more words: in back of, in addition to).
  • Sentences may have one or more prepositional phrases.

Red Alert: Don’t be tricked: the noun that the preposition grabs is NOT the subject of the sentence! You can hear those preppies chortle when they catch you in that mistake.

Prepositions have another famous trick; they cozy up to verbs, you know, maybe to make the nouns and pronouns jealous. They like to “show off,” “object to,” “interfere with,” and “be shocked at” whatever is going on.

Let them have their fun. After all, if you were a preposition, wouldn’t you feel entitled to a little action now and then? Beats just sitting around with those boring do-nothing pronouns, doesn’t it?

Function of Prepositions
 Prepositions are noun-stickers (Goode, 2002).  Look at how these prepositions stick phrases into this song.

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through white and drifted snow-oh.

Read these lyrics without prepositional phrases, and the song just doesn’t sound right or make sense.

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through white and drifted snow-oh.

2. Prepositional phrases answer questions. Which one? When? Where? Which direction?
The answers to these questions enrich writing by adding specific details and depth to sentences and stories. They describe the setting and action and help readers form pictures in their minds.

3 Prepositions act like adjectives and adverbs. They are great pretenders. They are chameleons and change their colors depending on whether they want to act like adjectives or whether they want to be adverbs. Because people use prepositional phrases in speech all the time, they are hardly aware that they are using adjectival prepositional phrases or adverbial prepositional phrases. Maybe you don’t need to know whether the phrases are acting like adjectives or adverbs, but you do need to recognize these prepositional phrases in writing because they cause some common writing errors.

So what. Who cares?
Writers have a love-hate relationship with prepositional phrases. They love prepositions because they enrich writing and woo the reader, but prepositional phrases can cause problems. They might

  1. leave a sing-song lilt to the writing (example:  “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go”);
  2. lead you down the garden path to passive voice;
  3. lead  to subject-verb agreement errors (remember that Red Alert above?);
  4. lead to wordiness, either with extra words or with extra phrases;
  5. cause ambiguity when the prepositional phrases land in the wrong spot in the sentence; and
  6. cause ambiguity when subtle differences between words change intended meanings.

I will write about these problems individually in future posts.

Finally, I will not write about that myth that lies about prepositions not ending sentences. It’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition if otherwise the sentence would sound odd. But so many grammarian reformers, satirists, and critics have already written about that, that I won’t expound on it any further. That okay with you? Besides, Roy Peter Clark (2006) will call you a crotchety critic and one other rather disparaging epithet (that I won’t print here) if you bring up that subject again. Enough said.

And do you think I could type this whole post without misspelling preposition each time? Nah. Each time I typed preposition I got that cute red squiggly underlining to nag me to fix the spelling. Okay, I did.

Casagrande, June. It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2010.
Clark, Roy Peter. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. New York: Little, Brown, 2006.
Goode, C. Edward. A Grammar Book for You and I (Oops Me!). Sterling, VA: Capital, 2002.
Hale, Constance. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. New York: Broadway, 1999.
Kolln, Martha. Understanding English Grammar, 4th ed. New York: MacMillan, 1994.
Rozakis, Laurie. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style. New York: Alpha, 2003.
Strumpf, Michael and Douglas, Auriel. The Grammar Bible. New York: Holt,2004.

A to Z Blogging Challenge Post Q. Find a list of all my 2013 A to Z Challenge posts here.

The Last Meowcat on cactus Curt

All this yammering about prepositions is boring and definitely not spine-tingling excitement. I’d rather sleep on a cactus than pay attention to this stuff.  Better yet, maybe a nice nap on a sunny windowsill. Hmmmm. Yes. That sounds about right.

=(^;^)= Meow for now. 

And My Cat  Where do cats sleep

P is for Parade, Pies, Paint–Ocean City Doo Dah Parade, 2013

a-to-z-letters-2013Day 14 in the A to Z Challenge: P-Day

Parade, Pies, and Paint

I missed the Ocean City Doo Dah Parade this year because we were painting in our church in Margate, NJ, getting reading for volunteer groups coming to help repair Superstorm Sandy damage.

Ocean City had damage, too, like many other coastal towns, but volunteers have helped here, too, and life is returning to normal. To prove that, The 2013 Doo Dah Parade went on as scheduled. Here is a video clip of all the silliness that went on. The shaving cream pies were a big hit.

See my post from 2012 for pictures of a Doo Dah Parade.  Saturday Silliness: Basset Hound Doo Dah Parade 2012/08/04.

Here are more Ocean City stories from 2012.


The Last Meow

cats dressed upBy the way, don’t ever dress up us kitties like this. It is beneath our dignity. Save it for the dogs. They don’t have enough sense to care!

Hey. WooHoo. Lookee. I can see the weekend from here. WooHoo, WooHoo.

Meow for now. =<^y^>=And my cat...judo

O is for Ocean City, NJ: Pizza, Saltwater Taffy, Frozen Custard, Caramel Corn

a-to-z-letters-2013A to Z Challenge, Letter O, Post #15.

Wow, we are moving along in this A to Z Challenge!  Day 15 with 11 more posts to go.

O can only stand for one thing for me: Ocean City, NJ.

And guess what. Food Network Magazine says the same thing in its May 2013 issue “Walk the Walk: 001These amazing boardwalks are worth a stroll this summer.”

Ocean City, NJ is right in there with Myrtle Beach, SC; Kemah, TX; Old Orchard Beach, ME; and Santa Cruz, CA. The authors of this article acknowledge that there are many great boardwalk towns along our coasts, and they loved them all: big, small, run-down, flashy–and especially those fighting their way back after Hurricane Sandy (Coney Island, NJ). They settled on five boardwalks in the article.

For Ocean City, NJ, they got most of my boardwalk favorites: Manco & Manco Pizza, Shriver’s and Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, Kohr Bros. frozen custard, and Johnson’s caramel popcorn.

We also love George’s Homemade Ice Cream, Hula Restaurant and Sauce Company (formerly Hula Grill) for the best coconut shrimp anywhere, Bashful Banana for yummy muffins, and Ward’s and Mallon’s Bakeries for the yummy cinnamon rolls.

If you want to do something other than eat, you can go down to the beach, or stay on the boardwalk and ride the rides at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, Playland’s Castaway Cove, Gillian’s Island Water Park. Miniature Golf? We’ve got plenty of that, but watch out for gorillas, sharks, alligators, and pirates along the courses.

You can tell that I love Ocean City, NJ, and I have written about it before, and I’ll probably write about it again.

download from camera 4-2011 1021O is for Ocean City, NJ   2012/04/08
Dining Out: Pizza at Home and Pizza in Italy  2012/08/08
Saturday Silliness: Basset Hound Doo Dah Parade 2012/08/04
Relay for Life: Wash Out or Not 2012/06/25
Bike MS: City to Shore, September 29, 2012

download from camera 4-2011 328

The Last Meow

We kitties love the beach, too. And lookee there, we even have a shop just for us, right next to Johnson’s Popcorn. I can get my very own Ocean City Beach Patrol sweatshirt.  Meow for now. =<^,^>=cat-on-beach1 Travel Times Mag

Ocean City Dog and Kitty

N is for Nora’s Ark – In Times of Trouble, People Help People

a-to-z-letters-2013When tragedy hits a community, the people of the community bind together to remember and honor those who have been hurt, to help one another repair damage, and to find ways to move on with their lives despite their losses. They learn valuable lessons in the process.

Several weeks ago, a box arrived in the morning mail at Margate Community Church in Margate, Newworkgloves Jersey. In the box were sixty-six pairs of work gloves, a large number of cards and notes, a check for building supplies, and a letter from the pastor of the Waterbury Congregational Church (Vermont) explaining the purpose of the box and its contents. The box also contained a children’s book  entitled Noah’s Ark by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock.

superstorm sandyThe members of the Waterbury Congregational Church had heard about the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy to the coastal areas of New Jersey and New York in October of 2012. It reminded them of their own disaster just one year earlier in August of 2011, when Hurricane Irene (although then reduced to tropical storm status) caused significant flood damage to hundreds of homes, farms, roads, railroads, bridges, and utilities in their area.

They knew, first-hand, the enormous effort that would be required before lives in some of the heavily damaged coastal communities of New Jersey and New York could return to normal. After all, their own lives have not yet entirely returned to normal, and it has already been well over a year since their flood disaster.

The Waterbury Congregational Church also heard that volunteers from churches around the country planned to travel to Margate to help rebuild damaged homes. The volunteers planned to camp out in the Margate church and work in nearby communities during the week, coordinating their efforts with Habitat for Humanity, the United Church of Christ disaster relief groups, and local relief groups. The check for building supplies will help meet some of the rebuilding needs.

The letters and notes in the box from members of the Waterbury church expressed concern about the storm damage and gave encouragement for the future, citing their own first-hand experiences with natural disasters. As many of the notes were read aloud during one Sunday morning service, their sentiments touched our hearts and brought tears to our eyes. All of the cards, notes, and letters, now posted on a bulletin board in our Fellowship Hall, will be read by the volunteers who come in to work.

Last Sunday, Pastor Dave Fleming of the Margate church, read the book, Nora’s Ark, to the children of the church.  Nora’s Ark tells about the Vermont Flood of 1927. The author, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, was only a child001 at the time of the flood, but she remembers it well.

It is a beautiful, well-told, true story of how Grandpa, Grandma, and granddaughter, Wren, help out their neighbors whose homes and animals had washed away in the Flood of 1927.

Nora’s Ark gives a perfect lesson on identifying what is important in life. What is important, as Grandma would say, is that neighbors help neighbors.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Emily Arnold McCully.

And those sixty-six pairs of work gloves? They’re gonna get a good workout! Volunteer church groups have asked for shelter in the Margate church, and the church’s own volunteers are getting ready to help feed these guests.  After all, that’s what churches do. In times of trouble, churches help churches, and churches help their communities.

Special thanks to the Waterbury Congregational Church in Vermont for their ministry of love. . .  and those sixty-six pairs of gloves. We’ll pass them on…well, maybe we will buy new ones and pass them on to another community that needs help.

M is for Marathon (as in Boston Marathon, April 2013)

Boston Marathon banner

This quote by David Meyer sums up the feelings of us all about the tragic events in Boston on April 15, 2013.

I ran the Boston Marathon for 10 straight years.  I didn’t run today.  But over the past decade, I have witnessed close up — over and over again, the strength, the beauty and the determination at the heart of the human spirit.  And those are the very qualities which we must all call upon now to help transcend the utter horror of today, and continue, each in our own, quiet ways, to express the goodness implanted at the core of our souls.  May God grant comfort to the mourners, healing to the wounded, and the strength of faith to us all.   David Meyer, Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, Marblehead, MA

The following encouraging words were posted by Stella Carolyn on her blog.


Strength. Love. Peace. Resilience. Boston. You will recover, but you will remember. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those killed or wounded, as well as to all the runners and supporters of the Boston Marathon.

L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck

a-to-z-letters-2013This is a round-up of my posts in the 2013 A to Z Challenge (in progress). At this date, April 14, we are almost halfway to the finish line. At the end, all 26 posts will be listed here.

Updated May 1, 2013 at completion of A to Z Challenge.

Week 1
A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks 2013/4/1
B is for Blogging Bliss, Boohoos, and Booyahs  2013/4/2
C is for Complements and Compliments. So what. Who Cares?  2013/4/3
D is for Direct Object or Happy Birthday  2013/4/4
E is for Eats, Shoots and Leave: Punctuation matters  2013/4/5
F is for F.A.S.T: Know the Signs of Stroke. It Can Become Personal in An Instant 2013/4/6

Week 2
G is for Great Gobs of Grammas’ Grammar Goodies and Goofs  2013/04/08
H is for Hyper-Hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives 2013/4/9
I is for Invented Spelling of Kids and Cats 2013/4/10
J is for Jabberwocky and Invented Words 2013/4/11
K is for Kernel Sentences: Nouns and Verbs Control the World  2013/04/12
L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck   2013/04/13

Week 3
M is for Marathon (Boston Marathon, April 2013)   2013/04/15
N is for Nora’s Ark: In Times of Trouble, People Help People  2013/04/16
O is for Ocean City NJ: Boardwalk Pizza, Saltwater Taffy, Frozen Custard, Caramel Corn  2013/17/13 
P is for Parades, Pies, Pain–Ocean City Doo Dah Parade 2013/04/18
Q is for Quirky Dreams, Susie Q, and Prepositional Phrases  2013/04/19
R is for. . .  Reflexive Pronouns Cause A Ruckus   2013/04/20

Week 4
S is for Stats and Milestones-10,000 Views Milestone. WooHoo.  2013/04/24
S  is for Saturday Silliness. Where Do Cats Sleep (Reblog from 2012)
T is for Tikki-Tikki-Tembo Needs a Pronoun 
U is for  use, Usage, Utilize, and Other Useful and Utilitarian Units  2013/04/25
V is for Vampires Invade Grammar World 2013/04/26
W   is for Whose Woods These Are  2013/04/27
X is for X-It Strategy 2013/04/28
X Bonus Xena Warrior Puppy Helps Autistic Boy 2013/04/28

Week 5
Y is for Your, You’re, Y’all, Ya’ll, Yall, You All, You Guys, and Yakety Yak  2013/04/29 
Z  is for Zoomorphic Architecture: Cats Immortalized 2013/04/30

The Last MeowMonday Cat

Did you say today is Monday? How many days ’til Friday?

=<^  _  ^>=      Meow for now.

K is for Kernel Sentences: Nouns and Verbs Control the World

a-to-z-letters-2013Today is K-Day in the A to Z Challenge. It is also Friday. Yippee! My kitty friends are happy about that.

Today we will focus on some easy grammar:

kernel sentences.

A kernel sentence is one type of base sentence structure on which longer sentences can be built. It has a pattern that looks like this:

__________________    __________________
Subject                                               Verb

For now, fill in the slots with one noun and one verb and you will have a kernel sentence. These two words can easily be expanded into longer sentences at another time.

One way to do have fun doing this is to write S-V list poems.

Begin with a title, then add specific, present-tense, active verbs to expand the topic. Repeat the title at the end, perhaps adding a twist.

Mario dribbles.
Maria screams.
Manuel shoots
Jose dashes.
Jorge pants.
Cole sweats
Larry scores.
Sasha cheers.
Latitia swoons.
Basketball Romance!

Hands clap.
Feet stomp.
Men march.
Sirens wail.
Balloons float.
Flags wave.
Drummers bang.
Buglers blow.
Ladies dance.
Children cheer.
Popsicles melt.
Lines overflow.
Bodies jive.

Be creative and have fun with this. Brainstorm topics with students, then let them have a go at it. You will be surprised at the results.

So what. Who cares?

When students get a very firm handle on nouns and verbs, grammatical problems eventually disappear.

Teachers can teach the following concepts in very simple form using kernel sentences. It is much easier to see the patterns in two-word sentences. When students master the concept in the simplest form, they can then move on to expanding sentences.

  • subject-verb agreement
  • verb tense consistency
  • active verbs
  • parallel structure
  • vocabulary nuances

A firm handle on nouns and verbs will later help students reduce long sentences down to kernel sentences. If students can do this, they will be able to straighten out some of the most common errors.

  • sentence fragments
  • fused sentences (comma splice)
  • run-on sentences
  • lack of agreement between subject and verb
  • verb tense shifts in sentences
  • faulty parallel structure
  • punctuation errors

Of course, any programs designed to improve students’ speaking and writing must have lots of opportunity for conversation and creative and academic writing.  Writing subject/verb poems is only one aspect of a much larger focus on language, but it can help those students who are unsure of basic sentence structure concepts.  Spend a few minutes each class on grammatical structures and your students will learn patterns that will help them improve in both speaking (ESOL) and writing.

The Last Meow

I have only one word for you all:

cats FridayMeow for now.    =<^o^>=

J is for Jabberwocky and Invented Words

a-to-z-letters-2013J-Day in the A to Z Challenge. That means it Thursday! That’s cool.already Thursday cat

Yesterday I wrote about invented spelling of kids and cats; today I’m writing about invented words by poets. How are these similar?

Kids use their developing knowledge of phonetics to sound out words as they write. Before they become proficient in formal spelling, they write strings of letters to represent individual whole words. Of course, they can “read” their own stories back to listening adults who can’t quite comprehend this early genius.

Invented words, on the other hand, combine familiar sounds with familiar word parts and word meanings to form new words.  Invented words also follow grammatical rules. Nonsense nouns, for example, can have an article, be a plural and/or a possessive, or have a noun ending. Nonsense verbs show past, present, or future tense. Adjectives fall into their place just before a noun.jabberwocky_340x400

One fairly well-known nonsense poem, “Jabberwocky,” is a poem written by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898) in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872).

Alice is none other than the major character in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the little girl who fell asleep on a riverbank and journeyed to another world, a strange one at that. (And Alice, it turns out, was a real person, the daughter of Dean Liddell, dean of Oxford University, and friend of Carroll.)

Things seem to be backwards in this strange world, so when Alice finds a strangely written book, she holds it in front of a mirror, and lo and behold, a story appears. Or is it a story?


‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mom raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
. . .

What? Even Alice, wise little one that she was, could not understand the poem. Alice meets up with Humpty Dumpty who explains the meaning of the poem.borogoves

brillig (noun)….four o’clock in the afternoon (tea-time?)
(the time to begin broiling something for dinner)
slithy (adj)…..lithe and slimy
toves (noun)…badger/lizard creatures with corkscrew tails and noses that can dig holes
gyre (verb)…..  go round and round
gimble (verb)… make holes
wabe (noun)…   in the grass

mimsy (adj)…flimsy and miserable
borogoves (noun)…shabby looking birds with mop-like feathers
raths  (noun)……sort of a green pig
mom (adj)…..lost, away from from home
outgrabe (verb)….. bellow and whistle, shriek and squeak

Does it make better sense now?

Around dinner time, all kinds of crazy things started happening! Weird-looking animals (toves, borogoves, and raths)  began doing strange things like digging holes and making a lot of noise. Maybe they sensed the frightful Jabberwocky lurking nearby!

So what. Who cares?

Nonsense poems have a long history. Some say they have been around since Aesop’s fables and early folk tales.  The writers play with words and present humorous scenes to stimulate the imaginations of readers. Sometimes hidden meanings lurk behind the words, as when jesters make fun of the ruling powers that be, when double meanings hide the true intent of the words. But as often as not, the words just tell a silly story. The words flow in a rhythmical and pleasing way and provide entertainment for listeners.

The Last Meow

Jabberwocky. Smabberwocky. Enough of that nonsense. How about getting me a snack? All this educational stuff tires my brain.

Meow for now.   =<^-^>=weekend cat

I is for Invented Spelling of Kids and Cats

a-to-z-letters-2013A to Z Challenge: I-Daycrayons

Little children love to write. They pick up a crayons, markers, pencils, or pens and start out scribbling, and sooner or later, their scribbles start to look like shapes and squiggly letters.

This is all part of the early childhood developmental process. Just as they learn to crawl first, then walk, children go through developmental stages as they learn to speak and write.

kids writing 1

After scribbles, they make strings of letters as they tell a story about a picture. Later, they write one consonant letter to represent a word. The parent or teacher can’t yet read the story, but the child can read it back without hesitation.

Still later, the children become more proficient with beginning and  ending consonants and a few vowels. They write stories that are a bit more understandable to the adult reader.

001 (10)

(Me and my best friend sledding downhill with my friend’s dad. His made a jump for us.)

Educators use the term inventive spelling or invented spelling because children use the letters they know to create their stories even before they have formal spelling instruction. Yet this early writing clearly shows that the children are using the phonics they have learned directly or indirectly. Children whose parents have read to them a lot often have some nonphonetic “sight words” under their control, too.

Later, as they learn some rules for spelling and writing, their sentence patterns may become a bit choppy.  Their writing reflects their oral language patterns and may omit punctuation.

I want to play NO you can’t go out to play You were a bad girl.

Finally, children put their phonics knowledge, sight word knowledge, oral language, and punctuation skills together, and they begin to write stories adults can read. While there still may be errors in punctuation and capitalization, this next writer has reached the level where he can communicate through writing, and this is the ultimate goal of spelling and writing.

circusOn Saturday mom, Dad and I went to the circus. The ring master announced the acts. We saw a lion tamer put his head in the lion’s mouth. Then some acrabats swung on the trapeze up in the air. My favorite act was the one where the clowns ran around and tripped each other.

This developmental process is not level across the ages. One of the great surprises that I had when I first began teaching was the great range of ability and achievement in a single classroom.  There were always some children well ahead of grade level and some children that lagged behind grade level. This is the constant challenge that teachers face: how to meet the needs of all of these individual children and their widely varying achievement levels. It is honestly exhausting, but teachers do it day after day. And they still smile.

At any rate, teachers encourage children to write using whatever knowledge of phonetics they have at any given time. The more they practice sounding out words, the better they will get. And that’s really what invented spelling is: sounding out words using the sound-letter knowledge (phonetics) already known to the child. How exciting to compare a child’s writing sample from the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year. (This is why child portfolios of classroom work are so valuable for teachers and parents.)

Parents sometimes don’t understand the term invented spelling. I think the word “invented” sometimes throws them off. I like to call this type of spelling “early phonetic spelling.”

So what. Who cares?

Teachers care. I give a special hand to teachers for their hard work in the classroom. As a teacher, then later as an administrator, I was deeply impressed with the dedication and care teachers demonstrated on a daily basis. I am retired now, but teachers still hold a special place in my heart.

Teachers know and understand child developmental levels and know how to work with each child at his or her own level. They can read a piece of children’s writing and peg their phonetic levels based on the type of writing the child displays. They plan their lessons based on these trained observations of student writing. This is teaching at its best.

Take a look at this very well-done  “Message to Parents from Your Child’s Teacher” by Christine McCartney. It has an important message for parents about education.

The Last Meow

cat grammar5Cat memes have become quite popular on Internet. Cat spelling and grammar have even developed rules for correctness (with variations, of course). Cats have fairly consistent syntax (sentence structure), but there spelling is still….well, at the inventive level. However, I think this is primarily due to their independent natures, their own desire to remain in control, and finally, their desire to do whatever the heck they please. And what can you, the adult, do about this? Nothing. Nada. Nil. Fageddaboutit. Cats win every time. They are, after all, the superior race.

=<^.^>=  Meow for now.

cat- bleah

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