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I told him to RIP UP the assignment! ***Parts of Speech . . . Made Simple!***

Boy frustrated with schoolwork

After much frustration and a few tears, I finally told my son to rip up his assignment...ok not quite but I did tell him to put a giant X through that page in his workbook! What were the questions that put him over the edge and drove me to pitch the assignment completely? “Write a compound sentence. Remember to use a comma and a coordinate conjunction.” The next question was, “Write a complex sentence with a dependent clause at the beginning of the sentence. Remember to use a comma before the independent clause.” Ok before all you English teachers and those with expert memories say, “What’s wrong with that?” let me talk to the rest of us average Joes.

Let’s be honest, who actually remembers what all these terms are and when do you actually need to know them? **cue GASP** I know teachers are never supposed to say that (especially in front of their students), but I just couldn’t help myself! I’m almost 40 years old, have a bachelor’s degree in both elementary and special education (cognitive impairments) and a master’s degree in special education (learning disabilities), I taught in an elementary school for six years and have been homeschooling for 7+ years, and I’ve been designing curriculum for 9 years and even I couldn’t remember what all those terms mean! If I was that frustrated, I can only imagine how my 9-year-old felt!

I just don’t understand why we have to make things so complicated with big words that no “normal” kid can understand or remember! After I had some time to “calm down” and think rationally about the situation I had a decision to make. Do I completely skip over these concepts and never teach them, or do I figure out a way to simplify them, so they actually make sense and are memorable? I’m sure all you English teachers will be relieved to hear that I chose the latter! I decided to start with the 8 parts of speech. I took the often complicated and confusing definitions and simplified them into short, simple (sometimes only 2-3 word) definitions with visual aids, examples, and mnemonic devices (AKA memory aids).

I knew I couldn’t change the crazy names for these terms like ‘conjunction’ and ‘interjection’ so I would have to make a way for students to be able to remember them. Here’s an example of what I came up with. The conjunctions poster’s definition reads, “connects junk…words” and has a picture of a trash can. The poster also includes the acronym “fanboys” to help students remember the 7 main conjunctions. To make it more memorable you can make up a funny story to go along with it like, ”These fanboys are huge fans of junk! They like to connect junk (play up the emphasis on “con” and “junk” to remember the word “conjunction”) and make new things out of it.”

I tried to do the same with the ”interjection” poster with the phrase, “I object!”. When you read this example to your students make sure to put emphasis on the “ject” part of “I object” and how it sounds like “interjection”. The more emotional (overdramatized) you can say, “I object!”, the better! This will help your students remember that “interjection” means to express emotion.

For the word “preposition” you could connect “prep” with time (at 3:00 we need to be prepped to leave) and “position” with location (what position is she in? crossed legged under the table) to help students remember that prepositions link words to show relationships that express time and location. Sometimes it might seem like a stretch to make these connections, but the goal is for students to be able to connect this new information to prior knowledge, so it is easier to retrieve it from their long-term memory when they need to use it in the future. The visuals are also a great way to help students connect these new ideas to prior knowledge.

Since I wanted to make these as simple as possible, I chose to use very few words in the definitions so students would have an easier time remembering them. That said, you will want to make sure that your students know that these eight parts of speech are all “words”. So, for example, on the noun poster I just wrote “names a person…” but when you explain it you should say, “A noun is a word that names a person…” I also included the word “words” in the speech bubble on the title poster to help you remember to emphasize that. You can introduce the eight parts of speech by saying something like, “We use different kinds of words to put sentences together when we talk or write. There are eight different kinds of words that we can use. We call them “parts of speech”. The key is to keep it simple...and you just went from frustration and tears to fun and laughter! (You can thank my son for that! ;)

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