Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Word Game in Which One Player Asks the Others Players for Words to Fill in Blanks

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.

Jessica: Silence.

Me: A pronoun. You know, like he, she, it

Jessica: He.

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?

19 comments:

Theresa Milstein said...

I've had fifth-graders confuse commas with apostrophes. I played Mad Libs with them all the time. By June, I was confident they knew pronouns and adverbs. But they used the summer to erase most of the progress, so if I played the game in sixth-grade I bet they would've forgotten it all.

I guess they repeat that through college.

Comma: a question mark without the tail and dot.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

An inverted comma, the new name for the apostrophe. And this line of thinking seemed a catastrophe. My heart will not hark, on the lovely question mark, and the rest is just plain silly. Period.

Shannon said...

Dude, I love mad libs. Except I always use the same 5 or 6 adverbs because I only know adverbs that end in -ly.

the late phoenix said...

that's a nostalgia hit! we would of course fill in the mad libs blanks only with swear and naughty words, and the proper names would be those we either loved or hated.

comma: squiggle

question mark: curvy cool dude

Diane J. said...

I loved Mad Libs!

Comma: Upper Comma
Question Mark: The half S with tail above the dot OR Half-assed above the dot.

Meg O. said...

Oh dear. Maybe the comma can be the upside down quotation mark.

p.s. I've missed you! I've had one heck of a time catching up on blogs but now I'm all caught up!

Duncan D. Horne said...

Well, I guess they are called different things to different people. I've never referred to the tiny dot that ends a sentence as a 'period'. It's called a full stop. To me, a period is a block of time in which a lesson may be taught, or something painful that a woman goes through monthly! :)

Duncan In Kuantan

Rachael said...

My little sister couldn't pronounce "apostrophe" for a long time, so she called them "flying commas." I had a student once call a semicolon (which she had used correctly!) "the dot-comma hybrid."

Dylan Fitzgerald said...

You could say that the question mark is like an emoticon for the feeling of, "Huh?"

notesfromnadir said...

An apostrophe is a comma in the sky? I think that's a great description.

Oooh, I like flying commas, too!

I hope the question mark remains as is because it's so descriptive. But I guess it'll change.

Holly Vance said...

So I guess when I tell my students that a colon is two periods stacked, my students probably thing I'm talking about a biological disorder. Maybe that's why they refuse to use them.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I wish someone would invent new punctuation called 'Comma in the Sky with Diamonds'.

Michelle of The Feather Den said...

Haha! Oh, the adventures of a teacher.

x Michelle | thefeatherden.net

Hart Johnson said...

Naked dot with its naughty bits showing. *nods* It is so sad, isn't it? You know, though, I think I learned most of those specifics in English by taking Spanish. A foreign language forces us to learn language terms we otherwise don't bother with. Gerunds. Subjunctive. Pluperfect. NEVER would have learned they existed without Spanish.

Crystal Pistol said...

A comma in the sky?? Yikes! I don't know that I could hold a straight face for that. Wow.

Stephen Tremp said...

I'm still struggling with Pluto no longer being named a planet. Now the comma? I need a vacation.

Meagan Spooner said...

Sigh... see, every time I start to think "Hey, maybe I should teach!" I'm reminded that I just don't have the patience! I think I'd be heartbroken within a week. :P

Glynis said...

I do not envy your task! !=long stick with a dot on the bottom.

Janet Johnson said...

My son calls the commas a period with a tail . . . so I guess that would be a dot with a tail. (He's 7 though, so I'm okay with that, still).

Madlibs are awesome! But definitely painful if you have to explain what everything is at every step.