Mechanics of Writing

This class is designed to help students solidify basic grammar, build cohesive paragraphs, and lay the groundwork for writing academic papers in middle and high school.

We’ll spend the fall semester studying parts of speech and learning how to write and diagram simple and compound sentences. Spring will be dedicated to writing expository, persuasive, descriptive, and narrative paragraphs. I intentionally structure this class so students can move seamlessly into MS English A with a working knowledge of how to build paragraphs.

Each week I’ll post a brief review of what we accomplished in class followed by homework assignments and links to other materials that might be helpful. I’m always available by email or phone, so please contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Click here to view and print the syllabus
and vocabulary list.

Parts of Speech: Nouns and Subjects
Parts of Speech: Verbs
Parts of Speech: Pronouns
Parts of Speech: Modifiers
Parts of Speech: Verbals
Parts of Speech: Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Interjections
Types of Sentences and Basic Punctuation

Nov. 14

Today we discussed the difference between denotation (the literal meaning of a word) and connotation (the emotional meaning behind a word). For example, some words have a neutral meaning, such as group. However, saying team has a positive connotation because it presents an emotional image of teamwork and camaraderie. On the other hand, the word clique presents a negative image of the original word, group.

We also continued workshopping the topic sentences from three weeks ago. Then I handed out the homework that is due Dec. 5. It’s a five-page packet of commonly misused words. Students need to draft sentences using each word properly.

Homework:

  • Define and study vocabulary (these are our last words of the semester): scurry, vigilant, translucent, swarm, repugnant
  • Start working on the Commonly Misused Words packet. Turn it in Thursday, Dec. 5.

Nov. 7

Today we workshopped their topic sentences into paragraphs using the Sandwich Method. We will continue working on them next week, so be sure to keep those pages tucked in notebooks!

I sent home the third Home Test, which is open book as usual. If your student loses a copy, be in touch and I’ll email it to you.

Homework: Complete the Home Test and return it to me in class next week.


Oct. 31

Yesterday we talked about topic sentences and their place in an academic paragraph. I explained that these guidelines apply to academic writing – expository and persuasive writing – not descriptive and narrative works. We’ll get to creative writing in the spring. Right now, we’re focusing on the tedious work of how to draft sentences and paragraphs that inform or persuade.

A topic sentence introduces the reader to the information coming ahead, and there are generally five types or ways to write a topic sentence:

1. List Statement: A list statement tells the reader exactly what the paragraph will be about by listing the three-star ideas. For example: My favorite sports include soccer, football, and racing.

2. Power Number Statement: Power Number Statements do not tell the readers each of the star ideas but use number words (many, few, a number of, four…) to present the general topic. For example: There are several reasons why the Green Bay Packers can make it to the playoffs.

3. Two Nouns and Two Commas: Two Nouns and Two Commas always starts with a noun (a person, place, or thing), describes it, and then makes a statement about it (an appositive). The description part of the sentence is surrounded by commas (one before the description, and one after it). For example: The Green Bay Packers, my favorite team, could make it to the playoffs.

4. Occasion Position: Occasion Position topic sentences start with an occasion (a dependent clause) and use words like when, whenever, although, even though, and they end with the writer’s position on the topic (an independent clause). For example: Whenever I cheer for a football team, I root for the Green Bay Packers.

5. Get the Reader’s Attention: These topic sentences try to grab the reader’s attention by making a declarative statement that is thought-provoking, controversial, or interesting. For example: The Green Bay Packers is the best football franchise in the NFL.

All of this should be in their notes, but I posted it here just in case. We also talked about the Sandwich Method for drafting paragraphs, which we’ll dig into further next week.

Homework:

  • Define and study vocab: concoction, bluff, hasten, outlandish, recuperate
  • Write ten topic sentencestwo sentences for each type listed above. They can be about whatever subject you choose, but make sure the subject is interesting enough to you. We’ll use these sentences as starting points for drafting paragraphs next week. (If handwriting is an issue, please type the sentences.)

Oct. 24

I can’t tell you how thrilled everyone was today when they learned they wouldn’t be taking notes the entire class time! There was an audible relief that swept the room! I told them the section with parts of speech was intense, but I promised there is a method to my madness!

Today we worked through sentences that were awkward in various ways – disjointed, misplaced modifiers, run-ons, etc. We talked about how our ears are just as reliable as our eyes when it comes to writing, which is why I ALWAYS recommend they read their work out loud! It’s a habit I still have today as a journalist. Sometimes we know a sentence is awkward, even if we can’t define why it’s awkward.

That being said, there is no one perfect way to rewrite an awkward sentence, so everyone took turns sharing what they wrote. Some students tried fixing run-ons by making new run-ons, but it’s all a work in progress. We will spend the rest of the semester working on it.

Homework:


Oct. 17

So, some students really struggled on the second test, which tells me the following: 

  • Some students have test anxiety and struggle to manage the pressure of an in-class test, or
  • Some students 1) don’t take coherent notes, or 2) don’t have my own notes printed off from the class page and tucked inside their notebooks, or
  • Grammar just isn’t their thing! (Totally understandable! We are a weird bunch, so I get it!)

In an attempt to boost confidence and reinforce the seeds that have been planted so far, I sent home an extra credit worksheet that your student is welcome to do. It’s not required, of course. Not everyone is struggling and needs to do extra busy work. However, it may be helpful to reinforce the things we just covered.

We spent the entire class time today reviewing the things we learned in the first half of the semester in preparation for writing. Since I don’t know where everyone is writing-wise, the homework for this week is their first writing assignment (in addition to vocabulary and, if necessary, the extra credit). Please do not overly help your student complete this work. Of course, help them understand what’s required, maybe brainstorm ideas with them, but don’t sit down and help them write. I really need to see what each student understands about subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, and so on. This will help me plan well for the rest of the semester. 

Let me know if you have any questions!

Homework:

  • Define and study vocab: illuminate, exasperation, cunning, dispel, malleable
  • Write (or type, if you prefer) two paragraphs with varied sentence structures based on the examples and suggestions provided (we covered sentence structure on Sept. 26, so it’s not brand new info). Complete the extra credit worksheet too, if desired. I handed out the assignments in class, but here they are just in case: Homework – – – Extra Credit

Oct. 3

Today students took their second tests in class. A few chose to finish them at home, which is completely fine. When we return from fall break, we’ll spend some time reviewing the first eight weeks but then we’ll move on to building strong sentences. The writing portion of this class will begin! 

Speaking of, I am happy to accept handwritten writing homework, though I know (from personal experience) that not all handwriting was created equal. If your student has particularly tough handwriting, or if he/she is an exceptional typer, I am happy to accept typed homework. That will eventually become a requirement, but not yet. I just wanted everyone to know that’s an option.   

Have a wonderful fall break!


Sept. 26

Today we talked about the four types of sentences and sentence structures, which seemed to be review for most of the class. (It was at least somewhat familiar.) We also reviewed diagramming.

PLEASE NOTE: I made a change in the syllabus so that there will be no homework over fall break.

Instead of sending home a test on Oct. 3, I decided they can take the test in class with their notes. (Updated syllabus is here.) To help your student be more prepared, print off the notes I have linked above in the yellow box. They may use them to complete the test. If your student has test anxiety and cannot finish the test during class, he/she can take it home and bring it back when we resume classes on Oct. 17.

Let me know if you have questions!

Homework:

  • Define and study vocab: deviate, qualitative, albeit, mediate, coincide
  • I handed out the homework for this week, so your student should have it in his/her folder! (If it got lost, click here.)

Sept. 19

Today we covered the last few parts of speech (whew!) and then practiced diagramming. For our last two class meetings prior to Fall Break, we’ll talk about types of sentences and passive/active language. The first part of the fall semester feels tiresome, but we’ll just keep reviewing everything as we move onto writing.

Homework:


Sept. 12

Today we talked about verbals (linked above in the yellow box), which are tricky little verbs that function as other parts of speech. Then we dug into diagramming simple sentences, which I could tell was a wee bit overwhelming. When it comes to the homework, please have the student do his/her best – take a stab at it, really – and we’ll go over it together in class next week. Don’t stress!

Homework:

  • Define and study these words: defiance, egregious, jostle, pertinent, recluse
  • Print and complete this worksheet on verbals and diagramming. Again, no stressing allowed! 🙂

Sept. 5

Today we went over modifiers (adverbs and adjectives), which I’ve linked above in the yellow box. Now it’s time for the first home test! There’s no vocabulary, and the test is open notes. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Homework: Home Test 1


August 29

Today we muscled through six types of subject and object pronouns! (My notes are linked above in the yellow box if you’d like to print them out.) Everyone is doing a great job trying to keep up, but I suggested that if taking notes in class leaves them feeling jumbled, sometimes re-writing the notes neater and more organized at home is helpful. I know that sounds like a punishment, but it’s not! Transcribing is a powerful tool for memorization. If your student’s notes look like a hot mess, maybe it would be a good idea to re-write them this week.

We are nearing the first home test, which is open notes, so keep that in mind.

Homework:


August 22

Today we talked about verbs – transitive, intransitive, linking, and helping. We also talked about Direct and Indirect Objects. It seemed daunting for some, but don’t despair! We will keep reviewing until those things are locked in.

Parents – if you want to use my personal notes to help your student, I’ve linked them above in a yellow box.

Homework:


August 15

Everyone muscled through his/her first day of hardcore note-taking! We covered the eight Parts of Speech, then focused on the various types/cases of nouns with examples for each one. We finished with subjects and what the baseline looks like for a diagrammed sentence.

As I explained in class, my goal is to have 30-35 minutes of instruction and note-taking, 15-20 minutes of practice on paper or at the board, and then spend last few minutes on Plexers. Taking notes is imperative since the homework and take-home tests are open notes. Plus, all that repetition is key for driving home the rules of grammar.

Homework:

  • Define the following words in preparation for a vocabulary quiz: apprehensive, conspicuous, momentum, precipice, kindle
  • Print and complete this worksheet to turn in next week.