“In your face!” (More Commas.)

Posted on October 6, 2010Filed Under grammar, Seventh Grade Behavior | 3 Comments

Before we start: This is the third year of this blog. I’ve run out of ways to refer to the current group of students. This year’s bunch, the current crop, this year’s geniuses, the current crew, etc. I’m getting tired of coming up with new ones. I have to come up with a nickname, a shorthand way of referring to them. I’m leaning toward TCS: The Current Shmarties. (“Mmmmm. Smarties.”)

Ok. TCS are finally getting a bit entertaining. I had mentioned a while back that I was finding them a bit, shall we say, conventional. That’s starting to change. Maybe it’s the weather. Exactly a week ago, it was 107 degrees. Today it was 55 and  raining, and kids were warming their hands on the exhaust from my lcd projector.

We were back working on commas, renaming the rules on the pink sheet:

*Before the but
*Three in a row
*Double adjective
*I’m talking to you

They were still having trouble with the appositives. I think it’s the name. If I didn’t know that they like to put an appositive question on the state test every year, I’d be renaming that one too: My new best friend.

“Erica” had a rocky start to the year. She came in lazy and spacey, and that isn’t a good way to be around here. Now she’s just spacey, but she’s been working hard on that one too. She’s back up to a C, and I’ve been really proud of her. But she still sometimes drives me batty, and some periods I see the back of her head as much as her face. She’s also the butt of some mild joking in that class about mental abilities and general out-to-lunchness. She sometimes even initiates it.

One of them asked about the difference between an appositive and an interruption or an I’m talking to you (nouns of direct address), so I wandered over to Erica’s desk, and slapped it, which made her head snap back around.

“It’s like this: ‘Some people, Erica, don’t pay attention when I speak.’ That one’s an interruption, or an I’m talking to you, because if I took the word ‘Erica’ out of the sentence, it still means the same thing. I’m just interrupting to tell you who I’m talking to, or to give an example. ‘Please, dear Erica, pay attention.'”

At this, Erica is frowning about my “accusation” that she doesn’t pay attention.

“I do too pay attention!”

“On the other hand, if I say this, ‘Erica, my new best friend, has been working really hard lately,’ that’s an appositive, because that phrase that comes right after Erica, ‘my new best friend’ tells us who Erica is. ‘Jimmy, the cheesemaker’ or ‘Erica, my new best friend.’ The appositive gets commas on both ends if it’s in the middle of the sentence.”

Now she’s beaming from ear to ear, and sitting up all straight, and sort of doing that swaying thing you do when you’re “all up in someone’s grill.”

Suddenly she waves her finger at the kid next to her, pumps her fist,  and practically shouts,

“Yesss! His new best friend. IN YOUR FACE!”


3 Responses to ““In your face!” (More Commas.)”

  1. Christine on October 10th, 2010 7:31 am

    Hey Mr. Coward. A long time reader here, and I’ve also posted a few times. I still can’t believe you keep up on this great blog, posting materials for the kids, teaching both 7th and 8th graders and like, um, seem to still have a life. Sincere congrats. Anywho, I am looking for some advice. I plan on posting something on the listserver later today, but I thought you would be a good source to start since I’m typically on board with your ideas. I teach 8th grade language arts, and each quarter we have at least one major process writing piece. The other 3 quarters are pretty solid, but quarter one needs a revamp. According to the new common core WI has recently adopted, the one genre of writing we are pretty light on is informative/explanatory, which seems to be the old expository. I’m desperately searching my resource materials and online lesson plans for a 2 week-ish writing unit that will engage 13/14 year olds. All my “best practice” material indicates the old adage “write about what interests you” but I’m hesitant that if I open Pandora’s box and let them writing about topics they love (basketball, video games, and their dog mainly) the genre will be less informative and more personal narrative. Any thoughts or lessons you have done that might work well here?

    Sorry for the long post. Stressing out a bit and not getting a lot of feedback from those around me.


  2. Meg on October 10th, 2010 7:08 pm

    LOVE IT! I’m teaching commas to my Sevies right now and I am going to use your shortened comma rules. I think it will hammer it into their brains a little more. Thanks for all of your great ideas!

  3. mrC on October 11th, 2010 5:43 pm

    Christine, thanks for the kind words. I like to make this one a “how-to.” Our 8th grade standards call for: “a. Identify the sequence of activities needed to design a system, operate a tool, or explain the bylaws of an organization. b. Include all the factors and variables that need to be considered. c. Use formatting techniques (e.g., headings, differing fonts) to aid comprehension.” I tell them that, yes a skateboard would be a tool, but you have to be able to teach me how to use it. Step by step. Outlaw videogames, but other online “tools” and processes are ok (selling/buying something on E-Bay, creating a Spacebook profile, etc.) The key is making them break it down step by step. “Make it so even your gramma could do it.” Then if you have time, make them do presentations, and demo their instructions, or make volunteers try to follow them. Here’s a link to the handout I just last week gave my 8th grade class. Their rough drafts are due tomorrow. I haven’t done this one in awhile, so we’ll both see how it goes. I’m still working on a rubric and what to do with their rough drafts to make them actually get revised rather than retyped.

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