Teachers strive to effectively provide their students with the knowledge they will need to be successful in their careers and lives in general, but what we really want is for our students to think we’re cool. At least I do. So, when I first started teaching college English—when being thought of as cool by my students meant infinitely more to me than it does now— I had a brilliant idea. We would start the first day off with a game of Mad Libs. Everyone loves Mad Libs, right? It’s grammar-related but fun. My students would think I was the coolest teacher EVER!
This is how it went:
Me (choosing a random name of the role sheet): Jessica, give me a pronoun.
Me: A pronoun. You know, like he, she, it…
Me: Good. Brian, an adverb.
Brian: What’s an adverb again?
You get the idea. PAINFUL.
That was when I learned that this job was going to be trickier than I had imagined. I realized that my students’ heads would probably explode if I relied on the textbook’s lessons:
• A relative clause is a subordinate clause that begins with who, which, that. The verb in the relative clause must agree with the antecedent of the who, which, or that.
• A compound construction consists of two nouns, two pronouns, or a noun and a pronoun joined by and. Make sure the pronouns in a compound construction are in the correct case.
I’m not blaming my students for not having a strong (okay, even a weak) grasp of grammar jargon. If their education was anything like mine, they hadn’t had a class that dealt with grammar since the 9th grade.
But, yesterday, I learned that the situation is even more dire than I had previously thought. I was helping a student with an essay, and I told him to hyphenate a word. He put quotation marks around it. I said, “No, a hyphen. You know, the tiny horizontal line.”
I have already heard someone refer to an apostrophe as a comma in the sky.
I guess the new name for a period is a dot. That must make the new name for the colon one dot on top of another.
What do you think the new name for the comma should be? How about the question mark?