Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but primarily by catchwords.
Robert Louis Stevenson
There’s this great show on ESPN.
Keep in mind, I am not an ESPN fan. It’s on in my house for what seems like 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I largely tune it out, and I don’t complain about it because I value my marriage. But the channel infuriates me — the commentators judge, criticize, pontificate, and generally make grand statements as if they are watching from the Heavens. The channel jumps on a story, works to create a scandal out of it somehow, and then talks about it. All. Day. Long.
But there’s one great show. When it comes on, I stop what I’m doing and sit down to watch.
It’s called, “Come On, Man.”
There are generally four or five commentators seated around a bright, shiny broadcast table. Each selects a sports clip from the week that shows something ridiculous, unfair, mean, illegal, or hilarious. The clip runs, and then the commentator summarizes why the situation showcased was . . . well, uncool. He finishes his segment with some variation of “Come on, man.”
The pronunciation of the phrase changes every time, depending on the sports clip. Sometimes it’s “Come ON, man.”
Or, “Come oooooooon, Man!”
“Come. On. Man!”
“COME on, MAN!”
It’s hysterical. Those three words, changed each time with the emphasis and accent on different syllables, can mean countless things, depending upon the scenario. The commentators always seem to get it right; they can summarize a situation perfectly by how they say three simple words.
What does that mean to us as literacy educators? The words showcase a simple fact: How we write and how we read others’ writing can change simply by the grammar and emphasis we use. That’s why teaching students to read fluently matters so much — our meaning can change simply by having an emphasis slightly off-kilter. That’s why teaching students to be mindful about punctuation and grammar matters so much — we need our readers to know exactly what we mean when we write. And we need them to know how to read it.
This week we’re featuring resources to get you thinking about conventions in new ways. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at http://jengoingbig.blogspot.com/.
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Here are some essays from the Choice Literacy archives to help you teach conventions.
Heather Rader finds almost everyone (no matter their age) brings trepidation to the task of convention instruction in Grammar Insecurity:
Franki Sibberson enhances her teaching of conventions with children’s books in Similes, Metaphors, Homophones and Synonyms: Children’s Books to Teach the Language of Words:
Our Quote Collection on Punctuation includes some thoughtful and funny quotations from famous writers and grammarians:
If you’re looking for more children’s books for minilessons, you might enjoy our Pinterest board of Children’s Books for Grammar and Mechanics Instruction:
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Max Brand developed Spelling Cycles as an alternative to weekly spelling tests. He explains how they work with an example from a third-grade class:
In this week’s video, Ruth Ayres presents a Minilesson on Capital Letters to a second-grade class:
Jeff Anderson continues his Explanatory Grammar Series with a feature on the power of right-branching sentences:
Franki Sibberson continues her new series on Curating a Nonfiction Classroom Library. This week’s installment focuses on Rethinking Nonfiction Author Baskets:
That’s all for this week!