Day 24 – It’s All Grammar to Me

Here’s what we did in preparation for and on Thursday (11/10):
-We came to class with our list of preferred topics for our videos, as well as whether we were working with a partner or not.
-As this was our first class day post-election, we talked briefly about our duty as teachers in times like this.
-Dr. Benko then took our lists of preferred topics and sorted them, sitting on the floor to do so (and Brittany won tweet of the week for this!), and grouped people together with similar ideas for feedback.
-Before we got into these groups, we discussed some of the pieces of our videos, such as the definition of our concept — we also have to communicate why the thing matters, and Dr. Benko said not to use an Internet definition (looking at Anderson’s “In Plain English” examples will be good for this, but Dr. Benko really wants the definitions to be ours) — and mentor texts.
-We also laid out a time breakdown for our video and the practice we’re going to give to Julie for her students (the practice should also be our ideas, not the Internet’s):
Video time <15
Practice time 3-10
Debrief 5-7
-We spent the rest of class working on our videos, and I sent out a Drive folder for our work for Thursday. Dr. Benko also reminded us that for her, the most important thing about visual scaffolds is students can understand them and remember the concept; they do not have to be super high concept, but unfortunately, we’re not making these with the students. On visual scaffolds, there’s a section on this page that describes why visual scaffolds can be especially important for ENL students.

Thinking ahead:
-In the Google folder, you need the following for Thursday:
Your definition of your concept/topic – make sure you have what it is and why it’s important clearly laid out
Your mentor sentences/texts and how you’re going to use them (annotate these!)
Your visual scaffold
Your practice sheet/examples
-iCare will be coming next Thursday, so this is our main priority — there won’t be a lot of readings going forward.


Day 23 – All Hail the Mighty Butcher Paper

Here’s what did in preparation for and on Tuesday (11/8):
-We read ch. 4 of Anderson, as well as the section called “The Sentence.”
-Before we started talking about Anderson, Dr. Benko briefly went through her universal feedback on midterms (see the lesson plan for specifics!), and one of the main things she commented on was needing to cite more widely in reflections. Because of this feedback, Dr. Benko let people who wanted to revise their Northside reflections turn those in on Thursday (suggestions from Benko on connecting sources to our Northside work: tensions in Smagorinsky, understanding that the readings can contradict what you saw or what you saw can contradict the readings, etc.).
-We started class by briefly going over what we thought of these sections of Anderson before diving into the questions on the lesson plan – Kaleb liked seeing the errors and the description of the errors, although it took Beth and Liv awhile to read because of the more technical language. Dr. Benko admitted as well that sometimes it’s hard to read lesson plans about teaching, but it’s helpful for us to think about the thinking behind the error and how we can support it in a visual way, but it can also make the process seem kind of tedious.

-Getting into the meat of the chapter, we divided into groups to discuss the questions in the lesson plan.
-For ch. 4, we went over why visual scaffolds are so important (because mechanics are a visual skill), how these kinds of scaffolds relate to other literature we’ve read (think of the arrow of gradual release of responsibility from Benko’s article – eventually, students won’t need the teacher or the wall chart), and the difference between these scaffolds and pre-generated posters (students are actually adding to these scaffolds and have a sense of ownership over them, and they act as living organisms that breathe life into the classroom).
-For “The Sentence,” Anderson’s primary concepts (pseudo concepts, mentor sentences, visual scaffolds) are clearly laid out in this section, and his concepts about teaching grammar fit in with our readings so far through a continuous process of assessment, through giving feedback, and through mentor texts (i.e., mentor sentences for Anderson). For some sentences that might work as mentor sentences, here’s a Huffington Post article with first lines from lots of YA novels – that our students would actually read!
-Liv also wondered how these lessons could be differentiated, and Dr. Benko explained that students who aren’t struggling might only need brief refreshers, whereas students who are struggling would benefit from a full lesson/activity.
-We also discussed what kinds of grammatical concepts we might want to teach to our Northside students, and came up with the following list to add to Julie’s list of concepts (also listed):
Our list:
-commas – when, where, why, splices
     -agreement within sentence
     -tense shifts within paragraph
-descriptive writing
-audience + choice
     -also knowing when voice is okay
Julie’s list:
-using commas

-effective prewriting
-organizing ideas into paragraphs
-effective introductions and conclusions
-avoiding fragments
-avoiding run-ons
-“matching” verb tense
-code-switching – formal vs. informal voice
-focused writing/addressing the prompt/staying on topic
-effective hooks/getting started
-using correct support for a claim
-integrating quoted information into their own words

Thinking ahead:

-Don’t worry about the Hicks readings on the schedule!
-Come to class Thursday with whether or not you’re working in groups and with your topic preferences chosen.


Day 21/22 -A Nonrestri-What?

Here’s what did in preparation for and on Tuesday and Thursday (11/1 and 11/3):

-We needed to read Chs. 1-3 of Anderson if we were in our little old room in RB – if you were at Northside, you needed to have your questions ready to go to ask your student!

-Our Google Doc for the week was essentially the quiz that Benko didn’t give (at least the first table that we got through).

-Benko said that Anderson makes grammar rigorous and intellectual, but approachable and safe, so if grammar isn’t necessarily your thing, don’t be afraid!

-Perhaps one of the most important concepts from the non-quiz is the idea of pseudoconcepts, which we all pretty much defined (thanks to Anderson for being super specific about this, and if the person who owned your book before you highlighted it, great! To this, Erin had the following to say: “Anybody’s who’s read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has to buy their books used.”) as budding concepts based on initial impressions that are often misapplied. Schema theory can also be applied to the idea of pseudo-concepts!

-Benko didn’t ask this in the non-quiz, but think about this: how is Anderson’s idea of context similar to the idea of mentor texts?

This article from The Atlantic does a good job of talking about teaching grammar in context, and it ends with a great quote that Anderson would agree with: “If 30 years later, you or your child is still being taught grammar independent of actually writing, it is well past time to demand writing instruction that is grounded in research rather than nostalgia.” 


-Dr. Benko and I tagteamed to describe nonrestrictive and restrictive elements, as we were deciding which errors from the list we knew and didn’t know. This website helped me understand the difference, or you can think back to my picture of the man stealing the windchimes, if you were there for that! (“The man who stole our windchimes walked by our house everyday” vs. “The man, who stole our windchimes, walked by our house everyday.”)

-Benko also said that her favorite thing about Anderson is that students have reasons for making the errors that they’re making; we can can apply the idea of pseudo-concepts to other ideas, too, if we have concepts in mind that we misapply (e.g., misapplying mentor texts).

-We came back as a large group briefly on each day, and on Tuesday, Emily pulled from Anderson, talking about how looking at specific sentences works as context for grammar. Essentially, we should aim for authentic context when possible – avoid worksheets  and try to pull sentences from things our students are actually reading.

-And should we ever mark all errors? NO! Students can only hold on to so much, so we should look for patterns when thinking about what to address.

-We then looked at the sample essay from Dr. Benko’s nephew, specifically at how commas were used so we could identify pseudo-concepts. With this real example, it really became apparent to us that students KNOW things – pseudo-concepts are not a matter of deficits, but the mistakes start to make sense when we know what the student may have been thinking.

-Often grammar is taught as rules, but don’t forget the WHY? Why does it not make sense? Why is it confusing to the reader when the comma is used in the middle like in the sample essay?

-While we had time on Tuesday to discuss other details from Anderson, we didn’t on Thursday, so for Thursday people, we also discussed whether or not we need to burden students with technical terms. Can’t we just say interrupter instead of nonrestrictive element? Anderson would say we can use interrupter, especially because this book is geared towards middle grades, because it serves as a way to remember the function, but people like the magnficient Dr. Vercellotti might argue otherwise. With technical terms, we have to remember the term and the meaning, which can make grammar more difficult for students sometimes, so Emily agreed with Anderson and said that the technical terms can come later. Thursday people also smartly pointed out that, for us, “When you’re a good reader, you naturally pick things up,” but you don’t always have the grammar language to label things.

-Finally, on writer’s notebooks – Alyssa (on Tuesday) loved the idea of it as a playground, you can TRY THINGS; playfulness works as a place to practice without risk. On Thursday, we wondered whether we could have writer’s notebooks that have two parts – parts that are Gallagheronian and Andersonian.

Thinking ahead:
-Read ch. 4 of Anderson, as well as section 1 called “The Sentence” (all of it)!
-Northside reflections are due on Tuesday – CITE WIDELY!


Day 26 – Grammar Grammys

Hey everyone! Here is the post for 4/19.

Today was our Grammar Grammys- our video care and share of our video lessons.

Before I dive into what we did, here is the agenda for the rest of the semester. Things are winding down. There aren’t any more readings (although you will probably have to reread some things for your final), but you will need to be working on your final project.

  • Thursday 4/21 – draft of task, start of rubric
  • Tuesday 4/26 – finish rubric, draft of outline
  • Thursday 4/28 – finish outline, notes for reflection
  • Tuesday 5/3 – finals are due.

We also had a discussion at the beginning of class about our final Twitter reflection. Since we aren’t tweeting that much, we are looking at alternatives. Benko is looking for a reflective piece, a snapshot of learning, that isn’t too extensive (you are probably really busy with your final already). Here are the ideas we thought about.

  • Essay about being digitally present
  • Word cloud of tweets
  • Course evaluation
  • Creative interpretation of something learned
  • TIB podcast
  • Commitment to teaching based on what we learned
  • Blog post

Next was our Grammar Grammys. After MUCH deliberation, the results are in!


The award for “Awesome and Engaging Context” goes to AAAWWUBBIS.  By using a news story for the basis of their video, the students can see grammar in the real world!


The award for “Magnificent Tech”  goes to Non-restrictive Elements.  The combination of pronunciation, intonation, visual design, and cuts between video and screen made the video easy to follow.


The award for “Great Focus on Craft” goes to Tense Shift. They outlined the ways authors purposefully use tense shifts. This allows students to see how and why this grammar is important rather than feel like they have to memorize it.


The award for “Cool and Creative Interactive Elements” goes to Compound Sentences. Having students click through the options allows them to see grammar as a set of tools and choices rather than arbitrary rules.


The award for “Super Duper Visual Scaffold” goes to Commas in Intro Elements. That metaphor about appetizers and main course were used repeatedly, which Anderson argues is a good way to reinforce concepts for students.


The award for “Amazing Mentor Texts” goes to Vague Pronouns. Their use of YA novels showcases Anderson’s call for sentences that students will want to learn.

Great job guys! I truly enjoyed all your videos.

Looking ahead, you will need to keep working on your final projects.

If you stuck on what to do, I suggest checking out this blog:

It contains a bunch of writing prompts. Some are argumentative, some narrative, and some research based (hey, those are all the genres!). It might be worth scrolling through in order to find inspiration.




Day 24

Hey, ya’ll,

It’s Christian and Troi!

What is coming up?dont-panic-everything

  • iCare on Thursday, 4/14
  • Grammar videos are due Tuesday, 4/19
  • Only three more classes left after this grammar video is due

What happened today?

Today we broke off into two groups to present our grammar video concepts. To keep things short and sweet, we’re just going to lay out the feedback we heard Dr. Benko and Emilie give our prospective groups.


Helpful Texts:

Chapters 4 and 6 in Hicks and pretty much all of Anderson.


Constructive criticism in Dr. Benko’s group:

  • If your presentation takes longer than 12 minutes, start looking at what you can cut.
  • Define your topic clearly; Cate and Maverick are covering vague pronouns, so they defined vague and pronoun separately and then put them together to make a meaningful definition for vague pronouns.
  • Pay spec9bcd07b02975021484d101464f360a25e89efdf66747d692d5ded3c8a1748f34_1ial attention to the accuracy of all of your content; it needs to be one hundred percent accurate. We can’t teach these kids the wrong thing!
  • Make sure your visual scaffold actually scaffolds understanding of the concept; visual aids are not the same thing as a visual scaffold. Make sure you carefully explain your visual scaffold, then use it throughout your remaining examples.
  • If you are incorporating activities in your video (i.e. those opportunities to practice that Troi mentions below), make sure the directions are clear.
  • If you are using young adult fiction mentor texts, include a picture of the book!
  • Pictures, memes, gifs, short videos, and/or clip art–use them!

    I was totally guilty of this!
  • On a related note, make sure your slides aren’t text heavy. Any text on the slide should just be a visual aid to keep students focused on the topic. The rest can be audio.



Care ‘N Share/Constructive Criticism in Emilie’s group:

  • Make sure your video is fun and something that students will want to watch
  • Don’t get caught up on making it fun though, it still needs to be completely accurate. f91973590229d428a6efdfb3fe0773ce10560be4113ddcb93c5ced538bfe3258What is the point of us teaching a grammar concept if we don’t understand it ourselves? (Hint, there isn’t one)
  • Your visual scaffold needs to make sense, and it needs to be present throughout your video. Don’t mention it once then never bring it up again. Repetition is key for students to remember concepts, and your visual scaffold is no different!
  • Make sure students have opportunities to practice during the video, do not just talk at them
  • Use interesting mentor texts as examples

Troi’s wise words

Wise_CatIf we incorporate all of these things into one cohesive video, we will help students better their grammar skills. It is ESSENTIAL that ALL of your information is right, and that it is taught in a way that makes sense. Remember, talk at their level (but don’t dumb it down), if you are going to bring up a concept and aren’t sure if they know what it means, give a little definition and explanation. It’s better to be safe than sorry! Imagine you are making this for your future students for a tech day, also, don’t be afraid to go back and look at the models we watched in class, they are great examples of what we should be trying to achieve with our videos.


Additional Resources!

If you want to learn more about online teaching, (because tech days are becoming more and more popular) here are some actual teachers who use technology daily!

Also, Zaption is a great online tool to use to incorporate video into online lesson plans. You can upload a video from YouTube or you can upload one of your own, and you can place questions that stop the video and allow for students to practice. Cat shared it with us for an assignment we had for another class and I love it, it’s so easy to use as well!

TedEd is a website that is similar to Zaption. I personally found Zaption to work easier, but it’s totally personal preference. Both sites are excellent examples of what we as teachers can do to keep students engaged while watching videos, which is typically seen as “filler” work. If you all know of any more, feel free to tweet them! Using of course the #BSU350 hashtag!


Final Words

As Dr. Benko stumblr_mzsn1kDZD21tq4of6o1_250aid in class and Christian mentioned it here, we only have 3 more regular class periods after the video project is due until the final is due and our time in ENG 350 comes to a close. I know we are all in panic mode and it does no good to act like we are not. But please do not forget that you are human, and you need to eat and sleep. We’re all in this together, and we will pull through. Our future students are counting on us!

Day 21 – Visual Scaffolding and Identifying Grammar Errors

Hey squad! Here’s the post for 3/29.

Prior to class, you had to read chapter 4 and Section 1 of Part 1: The Sentence from Anderson’s text.

At the start of class, we talked about the blog. We are changing a few things. First, blogs posts will be for extra credit. Second, the post will be written with a partner. Instead of emailing us a draft, you should collaborate together. On that note, please sign up for the blog! The sign up link is on Blackboard under the materials/agenda for today.

The first activity we did was a small group discussion about the Anderson readings. These focused on the use of visual scaffolding (Wall-Charts) and on the structure of Anderson’s grammar lessons.

Visual Scaffold

We focused on the positives and negatives of wall charts. For negative, we worried about if students truly learn from the charts and if this was age appropriate. When Anderson states that students often look to walls to recreate the chart in their minds, we felt that some students would actually be hoping the teacher forgot to take the poster down. So, instead of referencing the chat, the students grow dependent on the visual and don’t truly learn. The other concern was that wall charts weren’t appropriate for older learners. Charts would be lots of work, but would have little value. The task would be annoying, ineffective, or boring. Some felt there were better strategies for older learners.

However, we also found some possible solutions and other positive aspects to wall charts. I think the benefits were really highlighted by Katie when she explained how to scaffold the wall chart. Visuals are great when students first enter the Zone of Proximal Development. They need to be taught the information and need the assistance of a teacher. To move through the zone, the scaffolding needs to be slowly removed. The next step would be for students to rely on charts without the teacher. Then they would need to internalized the concept and be able to apply it without the chart. If used right, students will reference the chart until they are able to understand the concept unassisted. This also emphasizes repeated practice. Students need to be coming back to these charts. If integrated into the daily class agenda, students would grown more independent. This would help older students.

The last things about wall charts that we touched on were ownership, authenticity, and mentor texts.

The Sentence

We talked about how Anderson breaks down his lessons and gives a lot of credit to his students. He always recognizes a student’s pseudo-concept, prior knowledge, and interests. These are seen in the mentor texts (they are authentic or student-selected) and activities (students are engaged, play games, add their own work). These ideas connected well with Smagorinsky’s structured process approach, Straub and Elbow’s feedback readings, and the “Not Every Sentence Can Be Great” article.

Student Examples

After our discussion, we put our understanding of Anderson’s chapter into practice. We looked an example of student work and:

  • identified a grammar error
  • defined the error
  • explained the student’s pseudo concept
  • wrote an example mentor sentence for the student

This is practice for when you write your reflection paper about the student papers in your groups. You will actually be doing these same steps! If it helps, you can find an example of the final paper here. Also, below is an example that the table I worked with did. It’s a little messy, but on the right you have a list of errors that we saw. At the top is the Pseudo-Concept (PC). Below that is a definition and mentor text that could be used.


Looking ahead…

  • due tomorrow (4/1) :twitter reflection, read essays and annotate

Group 1 (student B2) Seth, Troi, Ryan, Katie

Group 2 (student C2) Everyone reads

Group 3 (student A1) Haley, Hannah, Maverick, Cate

Group 4 (student B3)  Cammie, Jacob, Christian, Jill

  • due Tuesday: final reflection about student writing due

The essays are available in Box.

To help, I recommend the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center checklist. It defines the 12 mistakes we learned about and give an example of an incorrect and correct sentence. This would be good to print out and reference, especially if some of these concepts are still confusing.

I also think Gustavus Adolphos College proofreading guide. It is intended for students who are self-editing, but the same strategies can be used in this assignment.


Day 20 – Grammar Pseudo-Concepts

Hey team! This is the post for 3/24/2016.

*I’m trying a new thing where I add possible Twitter discussion questions. These are in blue. Feel free to post and answer them on Twitter!

Prior to class, you need to read chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined.

We started with a Grammar Pre-Assessment. We are all at different places with our knowledge of Grammar. Regardless of our understanding, we are expected to teach grammar. This assessment will be useful as it will help show what you need to work on. How did the pre-test make you guys feel? Was it easy or difficult? What does this tell you?

After that, we moved on to a discussion of the text. The discussion focuses on several main points.


  • Page 4 is the definition.
  • Pseudo-concepts provide a reason why students use grammar. Can you think of any pseudo-concepts you guys had in high school? 
  • This is like getting a paper with lots of grammar errors and, instead of marking it all over in red and failing it, you find a pattern and teach to the student.
  • Students are smarter than we think. They come with useful knowledge.


  • Page 11 is the definition.
  • Context gives meaning.
  • We need to use models, break things down, and reach multiple levels.
  • Context is connected to craft, audience, form, and meaning.
  • Worksheets don’t have context. Students don’t learn by just following directions/fixing sentences. These ‘errors’ are too simple. Students need sophisticated and authentic grammar.

Connors and Lunsford Errors

  • Page 7.
  • The text has varying terminology (restrictive elements vs. interrupters). Why is that?
  • Papers are a someone’s work. You can’t just tear it a part; that’d be devastating for a student. In our feedback about grammar, we need to focus on teachable moments or concrete patterns rather.
  • Bench shared Barb’s grammar grading strategy. Barb reads the first paragraph or so and identifies as many errors as possible. Then student’s look for how to fix these errors in that paragraph and the rest of the paper. This places more responsibility on the students. It’s also authentic; students need to know how to edit their own papers.

Mentor Sentences/Daily Doses

  • Pages 19-21.
  • Students should manipulate familiar sentences, interpret possible meanings, and learn new concepts/adapt previous concepts.
  • Anderson uses several strategies, such as Take Apart, Imitation, and Compare. Which one do you think is best? 
  • Mentor sentences in daily doses influence concept development by letting students figure out THE WHY, by moving beyond the rules, and connecting to prior knowledge.
  • Anderson was in the middle about technical langauge. What do students gain? What do they lose? It seems use is based on class/student.

Practice time! We read a college application essay and looked at patterns of error and possible pseudo-concepts. Here are a few examples of what we covered.

  • Commas after random words (“I pause when I talk, so I have to put a comma there…right?”)
  • Commas when talking about two things (“If it is more than one thing, then it is a list, and lists have commas.”)
  • Semicolons (“I need to separate these things, but I don’t really know how. It’s not a period, so I just used a semicolon!”)

We also looked at Benko’s response. This is a good model for feedback! She highlights step positives, lists the types of mistakes, and then teaches. She also includes links to outside resources and has mentor sentences.

Looking ahead, you guys need to read Anderson’s chapter 4 and Section 1 of Part II: The Sentence. This is grammar heavy. To help, here are some grammar links that can supplement your understanding.

The Punctuation Guide

Grammar Infographic

I also HIGHLY recommend the handouts from our Writing Center. These handouts are currently being updated (so not all of them are available on the WC website), but here are two examples: Commas (my personal favorite) and Articles (which isn’t something from Anderson’s text, but is really good for ESL).

Hope this helps!