Monday, August 27, 2012

Missed Periods...

I have a real treat for you today, my wonderful blogging friends. For the first time on this blog, the post is not written by me, but by my ultra talented friend and author, Jenny Baranick. Her new book, Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares, is for sale here at this Amazon link and also at Barnes and Noble. I love grammar, but you don't have to be a grammarphile to thoroughly enjoy this book. It is witty, funny, and so smooth you won't even realize you've been talking grammar until it's done. Don't forget to leave a comment- we love to hear from you!

     This is Jenny, and here's a link to her blog:   Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares




Shelly has been so kind as to let me guest post in order to promote my recently released book, Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares.  And since, like me, I am sure you come here to read her wonderful stories, I am going to try to tell a story, but I apologize in advance: it will not be as beautifully told as Shelly’s.

On my first day of class of teaching college English, I think I was the most nervous I had ever been in my life. I didn’t have my teaching credentials, just my master’s degree—meaning I had never even stood in front of a classroom before. I remember that taking roll was my best friend. I wished I could stand behind the podium and read off names for the full hour.

And then, halfway through, my new best friend betrayed me. It presented me with this name:

Keith Knippel

Five minutes into class and I was going to have to utter the word “nipple” in front of my students!  Awesome!

But I didn’t. Instead, I experienced an apple hitting Newton on the head moment of brilliance. I’ll never know whether Keith pronounces it this way or not, but without missing a beat, I called out Keith Knip Ell—accent on the E.

After that it all went smoothly, but unfortunately, all good things come to an end. However, even though I was still nervous, I had a plan for an ice breaker I was pretty proud of. Since it was a basic English class and grammar was a main part of the curriculum, I thought the students would think I was super cool if we played a beloved grammar-related game from our youth: Mad Libs.

I announced my plan, and it wasn’t met with quite as much excitement as I had anticipated, but it was the first day of class, so I figured they were probably still too shy to unleash their unbridled enthusiasm.

I sat on the desk, opened up the Mad Libs book to the first page, and picked a random name from the roll sheet.

Me: Maria, give me a verb.

Maria (after a moment): Is that the one that’s a person or a place?

Me: No, that’s a noun.  A verb is an action word like run or jump

Maria: Run

Me: Brian, give me a pronoun

Brian: Looking at me like I asked him to give me a non-defining relative clause.

My requests for adverbs and adjectives were met with similar bewilderment, and I considered running out of the room and going back to waiting tables.

It was that Mad Libs experience coupled with the shock that I experienced when I received back the first batch of grammatically terrifying essays that inspired me to take on grammar as my raison d’ etre. I just couldn’t sit by and live in a world in which the word “I” was no longer capitalized and proper spelling was left up to interpretation.

I immediately realized I’d have to devise a jargon-free, user-friendly way to dispense the information. My students’ glazed over expressions made me realize I’d have to take it one step further and give grammar an extreme make-over: I had to swap its eyeglasses for contacts, unpin its bun and let its hair down, and swap out its stodgy suit for leopard print and sequins.

Hence, I developed a way of teaching grammar that is simple, humorous, and a bit risqué. With Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares, I hope to share this approach with the general public—because there is something quite thrilling and liberating about feeling 100% confident about where you placed that comma.

34 comments:

  1. I would have loved to take English this way. I hated English class because the teachers always taught it with no humor at all. Technical and boring! Maybe that's why I always got better grades in foreign language classes than English.
    I'll be checking out your book. Thanks!

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  2. I must get this book. I love humor. Anyone who can teach and is funny....A+ from me.

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  3. This is an unexpected treat Shelly. Hello, Jenny! I hope I placed that comma correctly. Notice how I capitalized the "I" in each case? (Insert smiley face.)

    This anecdote saddens me but it doesn't surprise me. In recent years the standards for proper usage have been relaxing. I am reminded of the crusade spearheaded by veteran news correspondent Edwin Newman who wrote a book entitled Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English?

    Newman's work is described by Amazon as follows:

    << Newman focuses on the sorry state of the English language as a reflection of the sorry state of the society. He skewers stereotypes, clichés, errors, and jargon used by weather forecasters, presidents, vice-presidents, sportscasters, diplomats, senators, pollsters, convention nominators, corporation executives, newsmen, advertisers, Watergate defendants, social scientists, college presidents, foreign correspondents, youth. If words are devalued, he argues, so are ideas and so are human beings. >>

    The problem is that Edwin Newman and others like him have passed away. We need people like you, Jenny, to fill the void. Apathy and nonchalance are rampant. Schools in my region and across the nation have been receiving failing grades and ordered to turn their programs around. Many of today's students have poor reading comprehension and even worse written and oral communication skills. In modern society that bleak reality is tolerated and, in many cases, celebrated because incorrect is "cool." There is much work to be done to reverse this alarming trend. If you have found a method of teaching grammar that makes it more palatable to today's youth, then I applaud you and thank you.

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  4. As I would have been one of those with bewildered looks at your questions I think the book would be great for me too.

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  5. What a great story. Loving the clever book title. I love books that can make grammar less intimidating.

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  6. What grade or age would you say this is for? sandie

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    1. Sandie: I think it would probably be for college age and up, like 18 and up, but Jenny will probably have a better opinion than I.

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    2. Shelly's spot on. Definitely 18 and up. It's a little edgy.

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  7. I absolutely love the idea behind your book! I wish it had been around when my children were in high school and college. Grammar and punctuation are things that, many times, people find tedious or unnecessary, but when putting together a resume or writing that final paper, it's what separates the men from the boys.

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  8. Thank you for sharing. I was a terrible student in school. Especially with my grammar. Blessings.

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  9. College and they didn't know a noun from a verb. Scary.

    Shelly, nice to meet you and surprised to see you live in South Texas. I live in San Antonio, and we moved here from Portland, across the bay from Corpus Christi.

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    1. Carol: Well, hello, neighbor! I teach just a hop, skip and jump from Portland. LOVE San Antonio! Good to meet you~

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  10. I can still sing, conjunction junction what's your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses. Too bad I can't put it into practice. Nice post Jenny.

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  11. I would look at you stupid if you asked me for a pronoun.....I am not that great with things like that, but I flunked english when I was in high school

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    1. But you've turned into a delightful writer, Jo-Anne!

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  12. Shelly, great to see Jenny here. My book should be waiting for me when I return home from NY. Can't wait!

    Jenny, you're making me feel better. I thought it was bad when the fifth graders didn't know their verbs from their nouns...

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    1. Theresa: I've had so much fun reading it- you're going to love it!

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  13. I love it. I've seen bits of your book, Jenny, (Shelly, you can pass this along!) and you and me? We could talk.

    Pearl

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  14. The funny thing about grammar is that when we speak, we are not aware that we are using it! I had to relearn the rules of grammar as an esl tutor, which put me at a slight disadvantage in my role of teaching. As second language learners, my students were always discussing the terms of grammar. I had to run for the books!
    So, what a wonderful concept. I look forward to reading your book!

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  15. Well, this is just too cute, and witty, too.

    Oh dear, now did I place those commas correctly?

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  16. Grammar can be so dry, so anything that makes it humorous sounds good to me. :)

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  17. Dear Jenny, I look forward to perusing your book. For ten years I taught professional editing in night school at the University of Minnesota. That was back between 1985 and 1994. Even then our young learners were on the slippery slope to oblivion with regard to grammar. I'm glad you've taken on the cause! Good luck. Peace.

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  18. my husband is a grammar and spelling nut..opposites attract.
    and my daughter hires recent college grads and is shocked at the lack of correct spelling and grammar she sees..the world needs to read your book!

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  19. Dearest Shelly;
    Very interesting to read for me☆☆☆ Her book seems to be a bit hard for me as it is for the college level. Well, I always have trouble letting my junior-hi students to understand the difference between adjective and adverb. Haha, they don't even understand what they are.
    Thank you very much introducing her and her book!
    Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. My dear friend Miyako, you know more about English grammar than many native born Americans! You always astound me with your language abilities. Good to hear from you!

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  20. Thank you Shelly for the blog and thank you Jenny for writing a book on grammar or rather about grammar. I was lucky enough to go to an English medium school but a lot of people are not.
    I am sure Jenny, that you will get "Sawab- E - Jaria" ie everlasting blessings. The return for this deed of yours will be reaped by your seven generations (past and future).

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    1. Munir: It was my delight to have Jenny here. I love your blessing~

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  21. You know I love your writing, Jenny. ;-) I won a copy of your book through a contest on your blog, and will be digging in soon. I'm sure I'll smile throughout as I learn better grammar, and proper, comma, placement. , Drat!

    ~Janette

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  22. One more thing: thanks for hosting Jenny on your blog, Shelly!

    Smooches...

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    1. Jannette Dolores: The pleasure's been all mine!

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  23. Dear Jenny via Shelly, I purchased your book from Amazon, and it came yesterday. I'm eagerly looking forward to reading it. Thank you. Peace

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    1. Dee: I think you're going to love it!

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