Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ESL Site of the Month!

Grammaropolis has been named the EnglishClub.com ESL Site of the Month. It's a great honor, and it's also a reminder that 24% of the traffic to Grammaropolis.com comes from outside the USA, with Spain and Brazil leading the way. Previous Site of the Month winners include Grammar Bytes and The Learning Network from the New York Times. Continue reading "ESL Site of the Month!"

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Help us make the single #1 on Sirius XM Kids Radio!

Welcome To Grammaropolis is getting heavy airplay on Sirius XM's Kids Place Live! Doctor Noize's last single, Banana, went straight to #1 on the national kids' chart, and now the parts of speech need your help to do the same for their song.

Email or call Kids Place Live! and request Doctor Noize's Welcome To Grammaropolis. Tell them how much you love your nouns and verbs and want to help the Mayor Of Grammaropolis build a 21st century Schoolhouse Rock.

It'll take you a minute to...
• Request the song via e-mail at kidsplacelive@siriusxm.com
• Request the song on Sirius XM Kids Place Live's Facebook Page
• Request the song online here
• Request the song by phone at 866-328-2345

We need you to help us build Grammaropolis into a major metropolis!
Continue reading "Help us make the single #1 on Sirius XM Kids Radio!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hey, Teachers! Tell Me What You Think/Use/Want!

This wonderful writeup on the iLearn Technology blog contains some great suggestions for teachers to use Grammaropolis in their classrooms, including printing out the character cards, setting up the games on classroom computers, and encouraging students to write their own stories with the characters.

That last suggestion made me realize that I have been remiss in not posting the assignment that got this whole thing started in the first place: the Parts of Speech Children's Book.

The Assignment: Write a children’s book from the perspective of a single part of speech.
  • Narrate a day in the life of your part of speech.
  • What happens?
  • What’s the conflict?
  • How does your part of speech solve it?
  • Other parts of speech should be characters in the story.
  • The story must effectively convey the purpose of your part of speech.
  • May be in first or third person point of view.
  • Color illustrations on every page.
Some qualities of Children’s Books to consider:
  • Personification of animals and objects
  • Strong characterization
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Clear storyline
Some things to think about for you, the personified part of speech:
  • What is your job?
  • What is an example of you doing your job well?
  • What is an example of a mistake you might make at your job?
  • Who are your friends at work?
  • Who don’t you get along with?
  • What do you do to relax?
  • Who or what stands in the way of you doing your job well?
  • How do you overcome those challenges?
That's it. I was amazed at the level of quality and imagination that resulted from letting the kids run with it, and I was impressed by how well they responded to a non-traditional grammar assignment. That's why I'm doing this now.

So, teachers, here's the part where I ask for your help. How are you using Grammaropolis in your classes? How have the students responded positively, and what have been some frustrations? What sort of things do you wish there were more of/less of?

The bottom line: How can I make it better for your you and your students?

Continue reading "Hey, Teachers! Tell Me What You Think/Use/Want!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Joy of Sentence Diagramming. That's Right, I Said It.

One of the core concepts of Grammaropolis is the visual representation of grammatical concepts. We can tell kids until we're blue in the face that an adverb modifies an adjective, but it might take actually seeing that concept in action for a young grammar learner to fully grasp it. Sentence diagramming is similarly exciting to me. Yes, I know that by admitting that I risk the cool kids not sitting with me at lunch, but I've finally learned to embrace my grammar geekdom. I love looking at a well-diagrammed sentence, seeing the connections between the words, experiencing the sentence as one might explore a new house: opening doors, descending stairs, poking through the attic. When I started teaching at Pinewood, I knew very little about diagramming, but the fact that my seventh graders could diagram noun clauses provided a certain motivation. Since then, I've come to see diagramming as a hobby of sorts.

Below is my diagram of this sentence from page 52 of Cormac McCarthy's astounding novel Blood Meridian:

"Already you could see through the dust on the ponies' hides the painted chevrons and the hands and rising suns and birds and fish of every device like the shade of old work through sizing on a canvas and now too you could hear above the pounding of the unshod hooves the piping of the quena, flutes made from human bones, and some among the company had begun to saw back on their mounts and some to mill in confusion when up from the offside of those ponies there rose a fabled horde of mounted lancers and archers bearing shields bedight with bits of broken mirrorglass that cast a thousand unpieced suns against the eyes of their enemies."

(I apologize for the blurred image - for some reason, it doesn't come out clear unless you click on the image itself.)

Experiencing a sentence as complex (and compound?) as this one in diagram form seems to unlock what makes McCarthy's prose so rich, precise, and hypnotic. I love the the litany of direct objects we "could see" in the first clause and the way the prepositional phrases in like the shade of old work through sizing on a canvas cascade down from one another.

This diagram also shows the writer's craft, the attention to revision that McCarthy is famous for. We see the repetition of base clause structures embedded in the sentence: you could see... you could hear... some had begun... some (had begun). Without the diagram, the power and energy of everything else might prevent us from recognizing this repetition.

So yes, sentence diagramming is awesome.

Continue reading "The Joy of Sentence Diagramming. That's Right, I Said It."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Awesome Grammar Has No Age Limit

First off, thanks to Cool Mom Picks for this great review of Grammaropolis. There are so many wonderful lines in there, but my favorite is, "...it's like Grammar Rock and the Mr. Men books had an adorable love child." The comparison is both flattering and, I think, appropriate.

Also in the review, it's mentioned that the ideal age for this is 7+, and while I agree--I've always thought that the target age is between 7-12 years old, right about the time kids are learning grammar in elementary and middle school--this got me thinking about my three year-old and his current fascination with being the Adverb. A couple days ago, he stood up and pointed across the room and told me, "Go over there. I'm the Adverb, so I get to tell you where to go and how to act." In the Adverb's defense, I suppose, my son also refers to that part of speech as "the one who shares his sandwich."

You might say that the only reason he talks about being the Adverb is that he happens to live in a house with Grammaropolis stuff all over the place, but I tend to think that the adverbial qualities of his existed before the advent of these particular characters. (And I'm sure his mother, and anyone who has ever met him, would agree. His will is strong; we'll leave it at that.) All Grammaropolis did was give him the terms with which to express himself. He was going to boss me around no matter what, but now when he does so, at least we all know he's being grammatically correct.

Continue reading "Awesome Grammar Has No Age Limit"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In Defense of the Subordinating Conjunction

After her recent session with the word sort game, my sister got after me about conjunctions. It's not the coordinating ones she minds so much (FANBOYS have never bothered her), nor does she really seem put off by the correlative conjunctions, those two words with the ellipses in between. Subordinating conjunctions? Now that's another story. She doesn't like them. She's angry with them. She's frustrated and wonders why we need all of them in the first place. When she shared her issues with me, I tried to explain how we need subordinating conjunctions to begin subordinate clauses. Subordinate clauses can be annoying sometimes, sure, but without them, we can't have a sentence like: When you come home to visit, I will give you a piece of cake.

Just imagine that sentence without the subordinate clause When you come home to visit. If you were to hear the independent clause, I will give you a piece of cake, without the subordinate clause, you might wander around wondering when that piece of cake was going to come your way. You might approach strangers and ask them about it; increasingly frantic, you might skip meals on the off chance that the cake would arrive. You wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything but the promise, vague though it might be, of cake.

That's where the subordinating conjunction comes in. The word When introduces the subordinate clause, turning it into an adverb clause and providing the listener with the exact information necessary to make sense of the cake delivery issue. No confusion, no starvation, only delicious, delicious cake.

When you come home, of course.

Continue reading "In Defense of the Subordinating Conjunction"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Welcome to Grammaropolis" Lyrics

It occurred to me, as I was thinking about Doctor Noize's excellent contributions, that it might be a good idea to post the lyrics of his song, Welcome to Grammaropolis.

The words come fast and furious, and the tune is nefariously catchy. The goal has always been for kids to want to memorize the song and thereby (perhaps without even knowing it) memorize the roles of every part of speech.

To that end, here we go:

Welcome To Grammaropolis
(Video Version)
by Doctor Noize, based on characters by Coert Voorhees

This is not that song!
So please don’t sing along! Hey!

Action Verbs are great words always making sure they’re heard
They animate the eyes on your face
And when they’re feeling transitive they hang out with the Nouns as is
And energize a person or place

Linking Verbs are sidekicks givin’ Action Verbs tips
Usually a form of “to be”
She says that “I’m a mellow yellow Cinderellow, not to say I’m jello --
Nothin’s really botherin’ me”

Well here’s a Noun that I’ve found on this grammar ground
Wrapped around a person, place or a thing
He likes to follow the Verb or Adjective word
Don’t mess around with the Nouns, ‘cause they name everything
Oh now everybuddy sing...

Welcome to Grammaropolis
It’s such a tough metropolis
I think I am the awfulest
At Grammaropolis! Hey!
Oh grammar! Good grammar!
Oh grammar! Good grammar!
Oh grammar! Good grammar!

I’m lovely, I’m bubbly, I’m kind and cuddly
I modify a Pronoun or Noun
What kind? Which one? How many? How much?
An Adjective is very profound

How, when, where, to what extent, under what condition
Will you tolerate the tone of an Adverb?
Adjectives and Verbs and other Adverbs say I’m bossy
But an Adverb isn’t really a bad word

They call me Preposition ‘cause I’m pre-positioned
To populate the start of a phrase
I got the map and the compass and I’ll kick your verbal rumpus
Into super high gear, lead you everyplace
Hey, I say...


Thank you for writing a song about me, dear!
Gramma, it’s not Gramma-opolis…
It’s Grammaropolis!
But this is not that song!
So please don’t sing along!

Pronouns confound, throw the Nouns in the Lost & Found
They take their place, they’re hangin’ around
An antecedent gives ‘em freedom, so you’ll know ‘em when you read ‘em
Otherwise there’s chaos in town
We’ll do it for half what Nouns normally charge…

Who’s normal? What’s normal?
Who’s normal? How normal?

Gather ‘round, join in, when we’re together we all win
A little middle riddle am I
Conjunctions are a junction with a function, no compunction or dysfunction
Joining words and word groups, oh my!

And when it’s “Hey!” “Say!” “Wow!” Pow!” -- do not have a cow
Interjections are emotional birds!
And Mr. Slang rang words absurd, don’t tell Mom you used that word
Slang is when a poopee becomes a tur--
--Don’t say that!
...I’ll pretend I never heard
Thank you, Gramma!

This is not that song!?!

Vocals & instruments performed by Doctor Noize
Gramma's voice performed by Janette Cullinan
Produced by Cory Cullinan
Mixed by Cory Cullinan & Justin Peacock
Mastered by David Glasser at Airshow Mastering

Continue reading ""Welcome to Grammaropolis" Lyrics"