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, "'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.

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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.

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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"

Doctor Noize Is the Best

I just want to take a minute to recognize the extraordinary talents of my good friend and the songwriter for Welcome to Grammaropolis, Cory Cullinan--better known in the music world as Doctor Noize. Please visit his website and enjoy his first CD The Ballad of Phineas McBoof (the first of many, to be sure) and the accompanying book.

The good Doctor and I spent just over three years together on the faculty of Pinewood School; he was the Music teacher and Choir Director, among other titles and responsibilities. I always admired the creativity of his lesson plans and his dedication to his students, and I'm thrilled that he agreed to lend his talent to the world of Grammaropolis.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What in the World is Grammaropolis?

I taught 7th Grade Writing for six years at Pinewood School in Los Altos Hills, California. The school had separate English classes for Literature and Writing, and I was therefore able to focus most of my class time on composition and grammar. Many of the students had come from Pinewood’s Lower and Middle Campuses, where there was an incredible effort to teach grammar, but about half the students came from schools with very little grammar background. This presented a challenge. How to teach grammar to a class where half the students could diagram noun clauses in their sleep while the other half had trouble with adjectives and adverbs?

One of my most successful assignments was when I had the students pair up and write children’s book from the perspective of a single part of speech. Using the personification, strong characterization, and a clear storyline, the main requirement was that the story effectively convey the purpose of the chosen part of speech.

It forced the students to think about the parts of speech in ways they could relate to. I may have told them that an adverb modifies a verb, adjective or other adverb, but that definition may not have meant as much as when they thought of putting an adverb in a story and figuring out how it would act. Suddenly, the adverb became bossy, and of course nobody had any trouble understanding how bossy people acted.

At the end of the assignment, the students illustrated the books, bound them, and read them to the younger grades. They were so excited to share their stories that they actually seemed to forget that it had all been a grammar assignment. They weren’t thinking about parts of speech; they were thinking about characters.

As a fiction writer, this intrigued me. I knew that there are many different learning styles, but most of my grammar workbooks focused on the dictionary definitions of the parts of speech. There had to be another way to do it.

I’m hoping that Grammaropolis is that other way. I hope it helps kids connect with the parts of speech on a human level. I hope they’ll be so entertained that they’ll forget they were supposed to hate grammar.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Help Us Find Our Helping Verb Contest


The Contest
- Draw what you think the Helping Verb should look like.
- Scan and submit your Helping Verb to

Your submission will be judged on the following:
- How well does it represent the grammatical role of the Helping Verb?
- How well does it fit with the style of the existing Grammaropolis characters?
- Especially, how well does it fit with the two other verbs - Action Verb and Linking Verb.

The Competition Process:
- Submissions will be accepted via e-mail
- Five finalists will be posted on the Grammaropolis Blog
- Readers will vote on the five finalists
- Winner will be announced after a 2-week voting period!

The Winner will:
- Receive an awesome gift pack, the contents of which are still being determined.
- Have his or her character drawn by Powerhouse Animation Studios.
- Receive a 20” x 30” poster of the winning character, signed by the Powerhouse animators.

The winning character make its debut in the Action Verb’s book in the Grammaropolis book series.


Coert Voorhees is the Author of Welcome to Grammaropolis (the “Book”), the first of eleven projected books in the Grammaropolis series (the “Series”). Grammaropolis LLC (the “Publisher”) is the publisher of the Book and Series.
“Help Us Find Our Helping Verb Contest” (the “Contest”) is sponsored by Grammaropolis LLC (the “Sponsor”). The details and official rules of the Contest are set out below (the “Contest Rules”).

To enter the Contest, an entrant must draw his or her own representation of what a Grammaropolis Helping Verb should look like (the “Character”) and submit said Character (the “Entry”) to the e-mail address “”. Only one entry per entrant, household, and email address. No other method of entry will be accepted. No purchase required to enter the Contest or to win. Odds of winning depend on the total number of eligible entries received. Contest entries will be accepted from 12:01am Central Standard Time on February 18, 2010 (the “Contest Opening Date” until a to-be-determined date and time (the “Contest Closing Date”). Incomplete, late, or duplicate entries will be disqualified.

All personal information collected on the Entry will be used by the Sponsor for the purposes of administering this Contest and as described herein. Normal Internet access charges imposed by the Entrant’s service will apply. It is the Entrant’s sole responsibility to notify Sponsor in writing in the event of a change in e-mail address changes.

The Contest is open to all individuals, 18 years of age or younger, who have internet access except for immediate family members of the Sponsor, employees of the Publisher or its parent, affiliates or subsidiaries, employees of the advertising, promotional and fulfillment agencies of the Publisher engaged to advertise and promote the Contest, or employees of other parties engaged in the development, production and distribution of the Contest materials, and any other persons who are immediate family members or living in the same household as any of the above. “Immediate family” means parents, siblings, children and spouse.

The winning entrant (as selected by the Sponsor in his sole discretion) shall be eligible to (1) have the Character he/she submitted in his/her Entry drawn by Powerhouse Animation Studios; (2) have the Character he/she submitted in his/her Entry appear in some form in the Action Verb Book of the Series, such form to be determined at the sole discretion of the Sponsor; and (3) receive a 20” x 30” poster of the winning character, signed by the Powerhouse animators Have his or her character drawn by Powerhouse Animation Studios; and (4) receive an additional gift pack, the contents of which will not exceed $200USD.

The Sponsor shall select five (5) Finalists to be posted on the website “http”//” (the “Website”). Readers of the Website will vote on the five Finalists for a two week period (the “Voting Period”). Sponsor shall notify the winner of the Grand Prize (the “Grand Prize Winner”) of the voting results by email no later than two weeks from the beginning of the Voting Period.
The Grand Prize will be awarded once the Grand Prize Winner has confirmed that he/she meets the eligibility requirements outlined in the Contest Rules, has signed the appropriate Declaration and Release and has returned it to the Sponsor by email or fax.
The Grand Prize Winner shall be required to sign a form of Declaration and Release (“Declaration and Release”) confirming compliance with the Contest Rules, acceptance of the Grand Prize as awarded, and discharging and releasing the Sponsor, the Publisher and its parent, affiliates and subsidiaries, and their respective assigns, representatives and agents, including advertising, promotion and fulfillment agencies, from and against any and all liability or damages, manner of action, causes of action, suits, debts, covenants, contracts, claims and demands, including legal fees and expenses, whatsoever including but not limited to claims based on negligence, breach of contract and fundamental breach and liability for injury or property damage which the winning entrant or his/her administrators, heirs, successors or assigns might have or could have, by reason of or rising out of participation in the Contest and/or in connection with the acceptance or use of the Grand Prize. The winner of the Grand Prize must also irrevocably grant, assign, convey, waive or otherwise transfer to the Sponsor all right, title and interest worldwide in the Character and all proprietary rights and material therein, including but not by way of limitation, all copyrights, including the right to claim copyright, trademarks, moral rights, and all contract and licensing rights, and all claims and causes of action with respect to any of the foregoing, whether now known or hereafter to become known.

The Grand Prize Winner further agrees that the Sponsor may assign or license all rights to the Character, including the right to claim copyright thereto, to any person without notice, accreditation or compensation to the Grand Prize Winner.
The signed Declaration and Release must be returned by fax or email to the Sponsor no later than 14 days after the winning entrant is sent email notification that he/she is the winner of the Grand Prize. Failure to complete and return the Declaration and Release by such date will result in the Grand Prize being forfeited by that entrant. Sponsor is not responsible for unsuccessful efforts to deliver the notification to Winner. Sponsor not responsible for undeliverable prizes due to change of address or change of email address.

In the event of a dispute over the identity of the selected entrant, the entrant will be deemed to be the Authorized
Account Holder of the email address used at login or registration. "Authorized account holder" is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an email address by an Internet service provider, online service provider, or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted email address.

All Contest Entries become the property of the Sponsor and no correspondence will be entered into, except with selected entrant(s). By entering the Contest, all entrants consent to the Official Rules, including without limitation, all
of the General Conditions. Each winner consents to the use of his/her name, city of residence and image on videotape and/or photograph in any publicity carried out by the Sponsor or the Publisher with respect to the Contest, without further notice or compensation.

By entering the Contest and voluntarily providing personal information, all entrants consent and agree to the Sponsor’s collection and use of the entrant’s information for the administration of this Contest and agree to Sponsor’s use of entrant information for the purpose of contacting entrant in relation to this Contest. Entrant’s information may be revoked at any time (without revoking entrant’s participation in the Contest or impairing entrant’s chances of winning) by writing to the Sponsor at Grammaropolis LLC, 1714 Banks St., Houston, TX 77098.

Entrants acknowledge compliance with, agree to be bound by these Contest Rules, including eligibility requirements, and release and hold harmless the Sponsor, the Publisher, advertising, promotional and fulfillment agencies and their respective parent, related and affiliated companies, subsidiaries, members, dealers, advertising, franchisees, promotional agencies and each of their respective directors, successors, sponsors, partners, licensees, officers, subsidiaries, agents, employees, artists, advisors, assignees, heirs, executors, legal personal representatives, and all others associated with the development and execution of the Contest, from and against any and all manner of action, causes of action, suits, debts, covenants, contracts, claims and demands, including legal and other professional fees and expenses, whatsoever, including but not limited to, claims based on negligence, breach of contract and fundamental breach and liability for physical injury, death, or property damage which the entrants or his/her administrators, heirs, legal personal representatives, successors or assigns might have or could have, by reason of or arising out of the entrant’s participation in the Contest and/or in connection with the acceptance and/or exercise by the entrant of the Grand Prize awarded.

The Sponsor is not responsible for incorrect or inaccurate entry information which may affect a person’s ability to participate in the Contest or be awarded a prize, including but not limited to human error, technical malfunctions, lost or delayed entries for any reason, mail failures, computer failures, loss of internet access, omission, or any combination thereof, and entries which fail to fully comply with the Contest Rules. No responsibility will be taken by the Sponsor for lost, delayed, mutilated or misdirected entries or Declaration and Release Forms.
The Sponsor reserves the right, in the Sponsor’s sole discretion, to cancel or suspend the Contest at any time, or to amend or modify the Contest Rules before the Contest Closing Date, without notice for any reason, including, should any cause beyond the reasonable control of the Sponsor corrupt the security or proper administration of the Contest. Any attempt to deliberately undermine the legitimate operation of the Contest is a violation of criminal and civil laws, and should such an attempt be made, the Sponsor reserves the right to seek remedies and damages to the fullest extent permitted by law, including criminal prosecution. Entries are subject to verification and will be declared invalid if they are forged, falsified, altered or tampered with in any way or not in compliance with the Contest Rules.
By participating, entrants agree that all disputes will be resolved in the appropriate courts in the State of Texas, USA, exclusively, and subject to the laws of the State of Texas. The Contest is subject to all applicable Federal, State and Municipal laws. Void where prohibited by law.
Entries become the exclusive property of the Sponsor and will not be returned.
All decisions of the Sponsor are final in all matters relating to the Contest.

Continue reading "Help Us Find Our Helping Verb Contest"