After almost 20 years of doing this job, I’d like to think I sort of know my way around the junior high psyche. Plus I remember 7th  and 8th grade like they were yesterday, and some might still accuse me of being a seventh grader yet.

But every now and then…well, I got nothin’. Sometimes I have no idea what is going on in their heads. It’s actually one of the fun things about this kind of work.

Last week we were again slogging through prepositional phrases. I was going around checking their pink sheet homework. The pink sheets are about the only thing I use from the vast array of materials provided with our hefty literature anthologies. They are basic grammar and punctuation worksheets, and after we go over them in class, we use clickers for other exercises, and watch some grammar rock and such.

This week’s sheet on prep phrases had a section on placing them near the words they are modifying. You veterans know from the old misplaced modifiers and “dangling participles.” (“Don’t let your participle dangle” is right up there with “Don’t let your meat loaf.”) You know like, Johnny mailed a letter to his gramma at the post office.  What, Johnny’s gramma lives at the post office? And etc.

The worksheet’s sentences weren’t that funny or even difficult. But more than a few of  them couldn’t cope with the instructions:

“Rewrite each sentence, changing the position of one or more of the prepositional phrases so that each sentence is no longer confusing.”

“I was confused by the directions.”

Here’s the example given:

We see images in our dreams from our subconscious mind.
(fixed) In our dreams we see images from our subconscious mind.

OK. I guess there were still quite a few who didn’t know which part of the sentence was “misplaced” because that’s the way they write, with vaguely Shakespearean, very awkward diction. For example, many of them didn’t see much wrong with the first one:

Dreams to real experiences are related in our lives.

A lot of them are still sketchy on prepositions, and  some of them thought the prep phrase was “are related.”  So I got a whole buncha unexpected revisions. Obviously what we are looking for is something like:

Dreams are related to real experiences in our lives.

But there was one poor guy who, well, had more trouble than most. He thought he had to do something with “in our lives” but he wasn’t quite sure what, so he just put another one at the beginning:

In our lives dreams to real experiences are related in are lives.

Ok. I can sort of see where that one came from. But in #2,

Of their dreams some people remember none.

somehow became,

People who remember none is in their dreams.

And it was all downhill from there:

#3. Many people in color dream.
I color dreams they’re alot of people.

(Even he had no explanation for this one.)

#4. Fantasy is in most dreams combined with fact.
Dreams combined with fact is fantasy.

(Actually a pretty decent definition.)

#5. Activity produces dreams in the brain.
In the brain is dreams of activity produce.

(Activity Produce!? Sort of like Red Bull vegetables?)

I swear, I had tears in my eyes.