One of the students in my Fiction Writing Workshop told a classmate to take a red pen and cross out the multitude of adverbs he had strewn throughout his story. The rest of the class nodded their heads in agreement. But just before I could move us on to the next item on the agenda, the author asked the young woman who'd spoken up, "But why? Why can't I use adverbs?"  Continue reading...

To encourage summer reading, the school librarians went around to the English classes and talked up reading. For the first hour, they pushed around a cart filled with popular books, including current favorites Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars. They checked out a total of three books.  Continue reading...

In a previous column, "The Problem with Punctuation," I told you I'd report back my findings on teaching grammar and punctuation a little differently. Now I have some findings and thoughts I can share.  Continue reading...

Every day, teachers make a difference. In this time when teachers are seen as incompetent and lazy, and when we are being blamed for societal ills and failing students and schools, I wanted to provide some positive affirmation, something beyond that bumper sticker cliché of "If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher." After all, teaching goes beyond the classroom, beyond our instruction, and beyond the love of words.  Continue reading...

In English language learning, most course books introduce verb tenses in a highly regimented fashion. As a result, many teachers who want to use short narratives for their elementary classes feel stymied because the linguistic devices from which stories are made don't follow the strict order prescribed by the course books. "It will confuse the students" is the most common cry to be heard. But this is wrong: it will not confuse the students at all.  Continue reading...

As a teacher, writer and editor, I spend a significant portion of my life reminding others (and myself) that certain pairs of words are not interchangeable, although they might seem to be. Now isn't the same as know, and affect can't pinch-hit for effect. Lose vs. loose is a particular frustration as of late. However, in all of my many years of teaching and writing, no one has ever asked me whether they ought to use O or oh, and this makes me sad.  Continue reading...

Peggy Parish's Amelia Bedelia has been a beloved children's character since her debut in 1963. Through many adventures (39 at last count) Amelia has approached any given task with wide eyed innocence, all the while misinterpreting the key word in a task to humorous and often disastrous effect.  Continue reading...

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