Friday, May 31, 2013

Adverbials (Time and Sequence)

(just) as
as soon as
by the time

Since is a tricky one because it can be a preposition, an adverbial of time and sequence or an adverbial of cause and result. After, before and until can also be prepositions and while is also an adverbial of contrast.

Before Cut-Eye Higgins had a chance to reload his pistol, the road agents had surrounded the stagecoach and its passengers. (before is an adverbial)

Before this adventure, Jack had never even tasted coffee. (before is a preposition)

What I find so important when teaching adverbial clauses is that students must learn to identify subjects and verbs. I've always taught my students to underline a subject once and a verb twice. I suggest using this procedure in my answer keys to help students make sense of complex sentences.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adverbials (Cause and Result)

So is the coordinating conjunction used to connect ideas that are related by cause and result; below is a list of adverbials. Students need to be taught that so combines two independent clauses, but adverbials begin a dependent clause and require an independent clause to complete a complex sentence.

Cause and Result

as long as
forasmuch as
inasmuch as
now that
so that

Here are some examples from By the Great Horn Spoon.

Praiseworthy earned the nickname Bullwhip because he knocked out the road agent with such force.

Praiseworthy and Jack let go of their belts so that they wouldn't drown.

Jack stuffed the pig through the porthole since he didn't want the cook to see him.

Now that Praiseworthy is a miner in the diggings, he wears a red shirt and a wide-brimmed hat.

I will soon have up my second packet for By the Great Horn Spoon. It reviews coordinating conjunctions and adverbial clauses and requires students to decipher relationships between clauses. It also presents the 12 rules of punctuation in context in the same way my Gold Rush punctuation activity does.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gold Rush Punctuation Activity

Here are some photos from Open House. These pocket charts are available at Lakeshore (item #DD524) and work with this activity perfectly; each chart has six rows, so with two of them, you'll have the right number to pair with my 12 rules of punctuation. The yellow squares were the rules of punctuation, and you can see the beautiful artwork the kids did. Below is my adorable son, Gregory, with his Depth of Knowledge Dodecahedron or "Bloom Ball." This By the Great Horn Spoon activity was created by his teacher and is available on TpT. He was so proud!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Punctuation Rule #8

Rule #8 states that a comma should be placed before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, so, for, or, not, yet) when it separates two independent clauses, but it should not be placed when these words (and, but, or) separate a compound predicate.

This is a complicated rule which I will explain further in this post. My {freebie} chart on TpT omits nor because it is the least commonly used of the conjunctions. That {freebie} is designed for fourth graders, and the rule as I've stated it is true but incomplete given that many fourth graders are still struggling with what constitutes a complete sentence. 

A second part of this rule is that when the independent clauses are joined by and, but, or, or nor and they are short and have parallel structure, the comma is optional. A comma always precedes for, yet and so, no matter the length of the clauses or the parallelism. Some examples (using By the Great Horn Spoon) follow.

The Sea Raven stopped in Callao and took on enough coal to fill its bunkers. (compound predicate)

Jack took his squirrel gun to hunt a jackrabbit for dinner, but he found the rogue who had stolen their belongings instead.

Captain Swain took a shortcut through the Strait of Magellan, and he won the race. OR
Captain Swain took the shortcut through the Strait of Magellan and he won the race.

I also left out how the semi-colon can be used with coordinating conjunctions.
So for those students who are ready for more of a challenge or for your own understanding, here is even more on rule #8.

A semi-colon can precede a coordinating conjunction when it separates independent clauses which contain many commas. For example (using California Gold Rush history)

James K. Polk, who was the 11th President of the United States, confirmed the existence of gold in a speech to Congress on December 5, 1848; and when the Emancipator and Republican published that speech three days later, there was literally a stampede out west.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Commas and Semi-Colons

Last Friday and this Monday, I taught my By the Great Horn Spoon punctuation activity in Gregory's 4th grade class. We went over the rules of punctuation, many of which were new to the students. They were receptive, attentive and eager to try the exercise. The note-taking was a little difficult for some of the students (and I know this from my experience with Gregory). The activity worked out very well in groups, and I will be posting pictures of their finished work on my blog soon. What I loved, aside from these hard-working students and how they dove into the activity, was how easily I was able to check the rule sheets. I simply pulled off the ones that there were incorrectly placed and taped them at the side. The groups were color-coded, so they immediately knew their group had more work to do. Of course, the underlined strips which included more than one rule were the most difficult.

The exercise made me think more deeply about the order and content of the rules.
The rule about lack of punctuation in reported speech isn't really necessary. I used it in my teaching because I was working with ESL students, but I can see that these students don't insert commas incorrectly; furthermore, trying to make sense of the word "that" and its many uses can be overwhelming. Rules about coordinating conjunctions and items in a series need practice well before rules about adverbials and adjective clauses. It would be much better to introduce these rules slowly throughout the first half of the year. Many students in fourth grade are still struggling with what constitutes a complete sentence, so introducing the semi-colon at this point is great but requires patience and many examples. And switching rules 11 and 12 would be "smoother."

If the rule sheet is part of their writing folder at the start of the year, I think that revising their work becomes easier throughout the year. A teacher can simply mark "rule 8," which requires students to reflect on their own writing and the relationships between their ideas.

The whole exercise really focuses on learning the rules and identifying. Working in practice with error analysis exercises is my next step.

Each of the punctuation packets I make now will be power point files with a list of the rule sheets, the group activity in "strips," and the individual activity presented in bubble format. This should give students ample practice.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Whipping Boy

The Whipping Boy: A Common Core Grammar Review is a freebie in my store. This is an error analysis exercise; the answer key is posted below. Some items have more than one answer because the sentence can be revised multiple ways. If you see that your students need help with the punctuation rules, check out Writing Folder Essentials.

1) Jemmy is a street-smart boy who was taken from the sewers to serve as the royal whipping boy. OR Jemmy is a street-smart boy. He was taken from the sewers to see as the royal whipping boy.

2) Prince Horace likes practical jokes; consequently, he is called Prince Brat behind his back.

3) Prince Horace never listens to his tutor. Therefore, he has never learned to read and write. OR Prince Horace never listens to his tutor; therefore, he has never learned to read and write. OR Prince Horace never listens to his tutor, so he has never learned to read and write.

4) Prince Brat is a selfish boy who enjoys watching the whipping boy be punished.

5) The prince forced Jemmy to come along when he ran away because he wanted a friend. OR The prince forces Jemmy to come along when he runs away because he wants a friend.

6) The prince desperately wants to make friends, but he goes about it the wrong way.

7) Cutwater and Hold-Your-Nose Billy, two ruffians with a reputation for murder, kidnap the boys and hide them deep in the forest.

8) Hold-Your-Nose Billy, who earned his name from all the garlic he eats, didn’t recognize the prince.
9) Jemmy tries to stop the prince from revealing his identity; however, Prince Brat refuses to cooperate.

10) Before he left the castle, the prince packed a basket full of fruit tarts, veal pies, and roast pheasant.

11) Jemmy tricks the rogues into believing he is the prince because he wants them to send Prince Brat back to the castle with the ransom note.

12) The vagabonds plan to send the prince's horse back to the castle along with the ransom note.

13) Since Billy doesn't know how to read and write himself, he asks Jemmy, who he thinks is the prince, to read the note backwards.

14)  Jemmy hides under the bed of straw so that he can escape.

15) Jemmy helped the old man get his stagecoach out of the mud; he positioned some driftwood under its wheels.

Prince Brat wants to be a good friend, so he helps Jemmy find pieces of driftwood to sell.

17) The woman who gives the milk to the boys talks about Prince Brat without knowing who he is.

18) When Prince Horace realizes that people think he is a spoiled brat, he is deeply hurt.

19) There are rats in the sewers, particularly near the tunnel under the brewery.

20) Johnny Tosher, a rat-catcher from the sewers, helped the boys get away from Cutwater and Billy.

21) Prince Brat throws the scoundrels off their trail when he grabs the birdcage out of Jemmy's hand and flings it in the direction of the brewery. 

22) By the end of the story, the reader understands that Prince Brat was running away to experience life and enjoy freedom from all the royal trappings; likewise, the King reveals his own frustration with having to live in the palace. OR ....trappings. Likewise, the King reveals . . . .


Transitions are those words that can begin a sentence (typically followed by a comma) or can come in the middle of the sentence (whoa---now you have to know the rules for the semi-colon); they join ideas beautifully and create flow in your writing. They can be categorized as follows:

additional information: (additionally, also, furthermore, in addition, moreover)

restatement: (actually, in effect, in other words, in short, indeed)

restatement to intensify: (as a matter of fact, in fact, indeed)

exemplification: (for example, to illustrate, for instance)

contrast: (conversely, however, in contrast, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary, on the other hand)

cause and result: (accordingly, as a result of (THIS), consequently, for this reason, hence, thus, therefore)

comparison or similarity: (by the same token, equally, in a like manner, in the same manner, in the same way, likewise, similarly

choice or alternative: (alternatively)

time and sequence (after (THIS)

Check back soon for the rest of the list.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Descriptive words for summaries

Now in the fourth grade, along with other types of writing, Gregory continues to write summaries of the books he has read. His teacher this year had the students compose their summaries online on KidsBlog. Students were able to comment on their peer's summaries. All submissions were reviewed by the teacher before anything was published.

In these summaries, students are usually asked to write a topic sentence including a descriptive word about the story, the author(s) and an underlined title. For example,

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman is an entertaining story about a prince who is spoiled, a street-smart rat-catcher who serves as the royal whipping boy, and the unlikely friendship that develops between them. 

I've worked with Gregory on so many different books that are all "good." His classmates, who I meet with weekly during Literature Circles, for the most part, describe what they are reading the same simple way. Hence, the list below from which students, including my boys, can choose.

Thought of another? Add yours in the comment section below.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Punctuation Review and By the Great Horn Spoon

You would think I couldn't come up with another sentence about this book, but I have. Not just another sentence, but 42 new sentences that pair with the Punctuation Rules I posted. This is a "get them up and out of their seats" activity. A little glue or tape, some group or pair work, and a fun way to review sentence structure and By the Great Horn Spoon. Did I say fun? Well, for those of us who are punctuation-obsessed, this IS fun!

Rule #1

Praiseworthy and Jack departed Boston aboard the Lady Wilma on January 27, 1949.

Rule #2

The Lady Wilma left Boston Massachusetts in January, 1949. (also rule #1)

Rule #3

Praiseworthy uttered, "By the Great Horn Spoon," when Aunt Arabella agreed to marry him.

Rule #4

With the gold dust hidden in his glove, Praiseworthy knocked the ruffian 15 feet up hill and later earned the nickname Bullwhip. (also rule #8)

Rule #5

Weakened and worried about the lost map, Dr. Buckbee wrote to Praiseworthy offering to split the fortune fifty-fifty if he could help.

Rule #6

Quartz Jackson, one of the Hangtown miners, brought his missus to the diggings to show her off.

Rule #7

Jack and Praiseworthy could have gone to Roaring Camp or Cut Throat or Angels Camp, but they settled on Hangtown. (also rule #8)

Rule #8

The Sea Raven stopped in Callao and took on enough coal to fill its bunkers and decks.

Rule #9

Once Jack had finished the last of his coffee, he earned the nickname "Jamoka Jack."

Rule #10

Because of the coal dust on Good Luck, Praiseworthy came up with an idea to find the scoundrel who stole their passage fare. (also rule #4)

Rule #11

The Lady Wilma departed Boston in late January. Finally, its five-month-long journey ended when it docked at the wharf in San Francisco, California. (rule #2)

Rule #12

Praiseworthy and Jack left Hangtown for Shirt-tail Camp; they had heard about a tooth-extractor named Doc Higgins working there.

To download the instructions and purchase the complete activity, visit my store.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Island of the Blue Dolphins

When Gregory read this a few months ago, I never got around to it. Fast forward to Mother's Day on Manhattan Beach, and while the boys dug in the sand, I almost finished the book. There is a lot of great material to work with . . .

The children saw a red ship arriving with a pair / pear of red sails.
The villagers of Ghalas-at feared the Aleuts would sail / sale away and not pay them fairly for the otter pelts. 
And who doesn't need more practice with their, there and they're!
Their / There / They're weren't many tall trees on the island.
They were afraid the Aleuts would return to their / there / they're island to hunt more otters.
Their / There / They're afraid that the Aleuts will leave without paying them an equal share, so the villagers watch the Aleuts from afar and count the number of pelts they take.

So far, I've worked on homophones, possessive noun forms (and there is ample material here with the dogs' lair and all the other animals mentioned), and coordinating conjunctions. I do have notes on subordinating conjunctions, but I haven't yet added them to the packet. I find the best way to incorporate them is to work with the most well known, time and sequence. Students tend to use when, before and after in their writing naturally. Getting them to understand the structure and add a comma is a first step to introducing the many subordinating conjunctions that exist in the English Language. 
Most of the books I've worked on have been entertaining or delightful. This, however, was not. The part that I took away, and would want my children to take away from reading this story, is how this woman persevered.

When I visited the San Gabriel Mission on my son's field trip this year, lo and behold, a picture of the lone woman of San Nicolas Island. 

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

Last night I was wandering through the children's room at Vroman's and saw a book titled The Ballad of Lucy Whipple. When I saw it was a Gold Rush adventure, I hesitated about 2 seconds before buying it. The story presents an alternate perspective on those who traveled to the Gold Rush. Quite unlike Master Jack Flagg in By the Great Horn Spoon, Lucy Whipple does not want to leave her home in Massachusetts and embark on this adventure.

I've already read the first chapter to Gregory. It tells the story of a young girl who travels with her mother from Massachusetts to the Gold Rush. Her father has died, she is homesick and very unhappy to be in California, and her mother takes a job working in a boarding house in Lucky Diggins. I can't wait to read Chapter 2.

May 15th
On days when Gregory outright refuses to read, I read to him. This is our pick for now when he tires of The Return of the Indian. So we've gotten through four chapters. Lucy Whipple comes out to California by ship with her mother and younger siblings. Her father has died of pneumonia, and her mother has fulfilled their lifelong dream of heading West. She runs a boarding house for miners in the Gold Rush at a camp called Lucky Diggins. Lucy, who was born California Morning Whipple, has decided to change her name because she finds it ridiculous to be called California now that she lives there. She hates everything about California and writes constantly to her grandparents back home in Massachusetts. Through her letters, the reader has a window into her thoughts.

June ??
Chapter 6, pg. 194 Houghton Mifflin's History of Social Science
Lo and behold, I was reading Gregory's social science book to help him answer questions about how California became a state, and I found an excerpt from The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman. I haven't read the excerpt yet because I am just at Chapter 11, and this is taken from further on. Last night, while reading, I believe I reached my favorite part of the story. Lucy befriends a "brown man." Actually, he befriends her because he fills her berry buckets for her while she is busy reading. This is the first time she has ever met an African American. She learns about slavery and freedom from him. He calls himself Joe because that's what his slaveowner called all his slaves. Lucy gives him her father's name....Bernard and a new last name: Freedom. I'm eager to see where the story goes next.

While Lucy is busy reading The Count of Monte Cristo, Joe quietly fills her buckets with berries. (adverbial of time and sequence).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

12 Punctuation Rules for Fourth Grade & Beyond

I made a few changes to my rule list, mostly to do with formatting. If you are a punctuation expert, you'll notice I left out anything to do with reduced clauses. For example, I think it would be very difficult for fourth graders, who are still struggling with parts of speech and what makes a complete sentence, to understand the following types of structures.

After they hit pay dirt, miners would stake a claim by piling up rocks in four corners.

After hitting pay dirt, miners would stake a claim by piling up rocks in four corners.

I also think that the understanding of when a comma precedes an adverbial clause that follows an independent clause is too confusing. I have to really think about those myself, and it's not really essential to understanding sentence structure. Hence, I left that out.

I'm now formatting my Gold Rush examples in Power Point and will have them up, along with a photo of what the finished product can look like in a classroom, shortly.

For a copy of my punctuation rules, visit my store by clicking on the TpT button. They are included in my Writing Essentials packet. See the other great resources available on this collaborative and exciting website.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Punctuation Rules

I revised the punctuation worksheets from my ESL teaching and developed a list of 12 important punctuation rules for 4th graders to know. It's quite comprehensive, but a few less easily understood rules have been left out. It is more comprehensive than a similar TpT resource which was created for middle-schoolers, but I felt that identifying transitions and adverbials and knowing the difference between a prepositional phrase and a dependent clause is key to understanding how sentences and parts of a sentence work. Included are the comma and semi-colon rules, but I've left out the lesser-used colon. I believe there is enough confusion with transitions, adverbials and prepositional phrases. I've paired these rules with examples from the Gold Rush and am hoping to have it in my store by the end of the week, but I've shared the list of rules for free in my TpT store. I've also begun a Gold Rush board on Pinterest. Thrilled to have found the transcript from the PBS video, I thought it ideal to have one place for all these interesting resources.






















Thursday, May 2, 2013

Easier than I thought!

There it is....the TpT button which will take you directly to my store. Now to the widget :)

I celebrated my first "anonymous" feedback and 4.0 rating by paying joining TpT with a premium membership. Last night I googled my work to see how high up it comes in a search and I saw this statement on Pinterest....this woman is a genius! Turns out it is Mrs. K :) Spurred me on, though, to finish Indian in the Cupboard and to refine the punctuation rules. Should be up soon.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Creating a button!

Mrs. K is here patiently helping me create a button for my site. I spent the morning working on punctuation rules and became even more enthralled with the California Gold Rush. Two of the people interviewed in the video have published books on the subject, both of which seem fascinating. J.S. Holliday wrote The World Rushed In and JoAnn Levy wrote several books on the Gold Rush which highlight the often undervalued role women played.

There is a PBS video out there that I must get my hands on!

Indian in the Cupboard

How could this book not have won the Newbery Medal? I'll have to research what it was up against that particular year.  

Indian in the Cupboard tells the story of Omri, the youngest of three brothers, who receives a cupboard for his birthday. He wishes that the cupboard become magical. With the special key his mother gives him from his great-grandmother, the cupboard does become a magical place where plastic toys become real. The toy-Indian which his friend, Patrick, gives him for his birthday is the first toy to come to life. Omri befriends Little Bear, an Iroquois chief. Mesmerized by the minute details of his elaborate costume, Omri learns about the Iroquois and begins to see that what he's learned about Indians from the movies isn't necessarily accurate. Omri cares deeply for Little Bear and treats him, not as a toy, but as a person with feelings and needs. When Omri eventually shares his secret with Patrick, more plastic toys come to life, and they must work together to keep their secret.

Gregory DEVOURED the story. He has gone on to two of the sequels, but something about The Magic in the Cupboard was confusing, and he stopped there. That might be a good choice to read aloud to him once I've caught up with the sequels. For now, I have a 16-item worksheet which covers chapters 1-8 up on TpT for free.

Students practice adverbials of time and sequence in the context of this entertaining read.

(just) as
(just) after
as soon as
by the time

Here is an example. Students must reorder the bold and underlined words to form the adverbial clause. They have to pick out the adverbial, capitalize it, and use both their understanding of the story and parts of speech to put the clause together correctly.

was girl when mother little Omri’s a, her grandmother gave her the key to a red leather jewel box.

Although my expertise truly lies in grammar, my experience with the fourth-graders in Literature Circles inspired me to work on a "finding evidence" worksheet. I think this type of exercise can be a first step in helping students figure out how to use the text to support their writing. I've come up with the following statements requiring textual support. At a higher-level, students could work in pairs to complete such an exercise, but to see where students are at individually, a match-up exercise with actual quotes from the book could work well. It would be important to add an extra quote for a truer assessment.
Omri thinks of the Indian as a toy even though he’s alive.

The Indian is afraid when he finds himself in the cupboard.
Omri admires the Indian.
Little Bear teaches Omri new things.

Omri is curious about the Indian and where he comes from.
Patrick is confused by Omri’s “strange” behavior.      
Omri is protective of this magical cupboard and its contents.
Omri has a sense of humor.