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LinguaPhile, March 2002

A monthly e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.


March Literary Calendar

Any of these events might spawn further study.

Women's History Month
In 1987 Congress designated March as Women's History Month. This would be a good time to hone the skills involved in reading and writing biographies. These were discussed in last month's "LinguaPhile":

A few of the many sites that give a lot of information about Women's History Month and remarkable women in many fields are This site includes information about Poster / Essay / Web Page contests. Deadline is March 31.

Celebrate this week:
National Write-a-Letter-of-Appreciation Week
Return Borrowed Books Week
Children's Authors and Illustrators Week
Newspapers-in-Education Week (See activities below.)

1, 1904 birthday of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss). For little-known facts about Dr. Seuss, see the March 2001 "LinguaPhile":

6, 1475 birthday of Michelangelo, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet (d. 1564)

1806 birthday of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, English poet (d. 1861)

20, 1828 birthday of Henrik Ibsen, Norwegian dramatist (d. 1906)

1937 birthday of Lois Lowry, Newbery Award-winning author of children's books

25, 1925 birthday of Flannery O'Connor, U.S. novelist and short story writer (d. 1964)

26, 1874 birthday of Robert Frost, U.S. poet (d. 1963)

30, 1820 birthday of Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty (d. 1878)

1858 Hyman L. Lipman patented the first pencil with an eraser

LOOKING AHEAD: April is Poetry Month. To begin planning your celebration, see the April 2001 issue of "LinguaPhile," which focused on poetry:

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Quote of the Month: Reading and Writing

Read! Read! Read! And then read some more. When you find something that thrills you, take it apart paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, to see what made it so wonderful. Then use those tricks the next time you write.
--W. P. Kinsella, Canadian author (b. 1932)

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Expand Your Vocabulary: Susurrous

A susurrous breeze obscured other sounds outdoors.

Susurrous is a wonderful onomatopoeic adjective that means "having a whispering or rustling sound." Leaves, flowing water, and some fabrics are among the things that could be described as "susurrous." The noun forms are susurrus and susurration, and the verb is susurrate. A second adjective form, susurrant, seems inferior to susurrous since it lacks the final /s/.

Reviewers of Hands-On English have said that the vocabulary section alone is worth the book's modest purchase price. Learn more -- and place your order -- at

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Q and A: Writing Academic Degrees

Question: I have several questions about the correct way to write academic degrees. Should they be capitalized at any time other than when using abbreviations? Should the abbreviations be followed by periods? Which is the correct usage -- "bachelor degree in computer science" or "bachelor's degree in computer science"?

Answer: As a credential following a person's name, academic degrees are written with capital letters: Bachelor of Arts or B.A. (or even A.B.); Master of Arts, M.A., or A.M.; Bachelor of Science, B.S., or S.B. If you're simply referring to the degree, though, it would not be capitalized: bachelor's degree, master's degree.

The degrees are usually written with periods. I would think, though, that the use of periods would be governed by the style of the text as a whole. In some cases periods are simply omitted (after units of measure or in addresses, for example).

Another question that arises with some of these degrees (and with other abbreviations as well) is whether they should be preceded by a or an. Remember that the choice of article is governed by the first sound of the word that follows. There is no doubt about "B.A."; whether it is read as an abbreviation or as "Bachelor of Arts," it clearly begins with a consonant sound and should be preceded by a.

"M.A." is another matter. If you read "M.A." aloud as two letters, it should be preceded by an since the first sound of the abbreviation is /e/. If you read "M.A." as "Master of Arts," however, the first sound is /m/, and it should be preceded by a. If you are writing "M.A." with an article before it, you must take your best guess as to how it will be read (or hope that the reader will follow your lead).

Hands-On English will put a wealth of information at your fingertips so that you can quickly find what you need to know about grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and more. Get details -- and place your order -- at

We invite your questions for this feature:

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Upcoming Exhibits

Conferences are a great place to
• get a firsthand look at Hands-On English products
• introduce your colleagues to Hands-On English products
• give feedback on products you're using (including suggestions!)
• get your questions answered
• avoid shipping costs on Hands-On English purchases

If you will be attending one of these conferences, be sure to stop by the Portico Books booth to say hello to Fran. Take your friends along!

• March 8-9: Home Educators' Conference, Bloomingdale, IL
Fran will be presenting two workshops at this conference:
    • Giving Your Children a Solid Foundation in English (Saturday, 10:05-11:05)
    • Hands-On English (Saturday 11:30-12:30)

• April 5-6: Indiana Association of Home Educators Convention, Indianapolis

Plan to attend -- and bring (or send) your friends!

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Looking Ahead to the 2002-2003 School Year

Educators are already beginning to plan for the next school year. As you select English books for your students, be sure to consider Hands-On English. While this is a valuable resource for teachers, it is even more effective when it is directly in the hands of the students. Having the information at their fingertips helps students develop independence and confidence with English.

A copy of Hands-On English for each student makes the teacher's job easier as well. When students can quickly find and understand the information they need, teachers can more easily meet the diverse needs of students in their classes.

Substantial discounts are available on quantity purchases. Orders can be placed by phone, fax, snail mail or Internet.

If you have questions, or call (toll free) 1-888-641-5353. This number will also accept fax orders.

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Review: Voices and Values: A Reader for Writers by Janet M. Goldstein and Beth Johnson

In their new book, Voices and Values: A Reader for Writers, former teachers Janet M. Goldstein and Beth Johnson have achieved at least three objectives, any one of which would have been praiseworthy: They have compiled forty thought-provoking essays that will appeal to young people; they have designed activities to help students develop their reading, thinking, and writing skills; they have selected essays that, without preaching, celebrate human values such as kindness, gratitude, personal growth, fairness, responsibility, compassion, common sense, and moderation.

Voices and Values is based on the premise that reading and writing are interrelated skills. Central to the book is the principle of "point and support" that underlies most successful reading and writing. By examining how a point is made and supported in a reading selection, students not only improve their reading ability but also learn how to use the same technique in their own writing.

The essays are organized into five units: Overcoming Obstacles, Understanding Ourselves, Relating to Others, Educating Ourselves, and Examining Social Issues (such as the lottery, television, smoking, and drinking). An alternate table of contents groups the essays according to their method of development: narration, description, example, process, definition, division and classification, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, and argument and persuasion.

The exercises that accompany each reading selection virtually guarantee student success. First, a short "Preview" paragraph provides helpful background information and arouses interest in the essay. A list of "Words to Watch" (with their paragraph location and definition) prepares students for challenging vocabulary.

Following each essay are three suggestions for a ten-minute free-writing activity. The authors suggest that these "First Impressions" not be handed in to the instructor. This writing provides an opportunity for students to respond to the selection, perhaps clarifying their own thinking. In addition, this prepares students to participate in discussions about the essay and also to write a paragraph or essay on a topic related to the reading.

Each selection is also followed by multiple-choice Vocabulary and Reading Checks. Vocabulary words are always presented in context. Reading Checks include questions in four areas: Central Point and Main Idea, Key Supporting Details, Inferences, and The Writer's Craft.

The objective questions are followed by open-ended activities: four Discussion Questions, two Paragraph Assignments, and two Essay Assignments. Students are offered gentle guidance in the form of possible topic sentences, thesis statements, or supporting points. Often several possibilities are included so that students are, in fact, making a selection, not simply adopting a given.

Introductory chapters titled "Becoming a Better Reader" and "Becoming a Better Writer" orient students to the format of the book and provide a number of helpful strategies. The book also includes twenty additional writing assignments that provide opportunities for students to write essays based on pairs of reading selections.

Voices and Values would be an excellent text for reading and/or writing classes. The book's reading level ranges from grade 7 to grade 13. While Voices and Values was originally written for a college and secondary audience, many of the essays would be appropriate for mature younger students.

An Instructor's Edition is identical to the Student Edition except that it includes answers to activities in the introductory chapters and to the Vocabulary and Reading Checks. An Instructor's Manual, which does not include the essays or activities, includes all answers (even suggested answers to the discussion questions), teaching suggestions, and ten guided writing assignments.

Published by Townsend Press 2002. 479 pages. Townsend Press offers other excellent products to help students develop skill in reading, writing, and vocabulary. Available from Voices and Values: A Reader for Writers

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Activities for Newspapers-in-Education Week

1. A newspaper scavenger hunt can introduce students to the wealth of information a newspaper contains. Some of the items will also help them develop their scanning skills. Having students work in teams of 3 or 4, with one newspaper per team, works well. Have each team find the items on a list similar to the one below. Team members should record the page where they find each item. You might also want them to use a brightly colored marker to circle the item in the newspaper. (You will induce students to work in a more organized way if you require that they return the newspaper to you with its pages and sections in order.)

a. newspaper's index
b. temperature in Paris
c. movie that is playing at a particular theater
d. news story originating in Washington, DC
e. a letter from a reader
f. classified ad index
g. what is showing on a particular channel at 7:00 p.m.
h. an editorial
i. a crossword puzzle
j. ad from a store that sells clothing
k. a map
l. continuation of a story from the front page
m. an obituary
n. the word "save"
o. a sentence that states a fact (not an opinion)
p. an ad for a used Chevrolet for less than $5,000
q. story or article with a by-line
r. a local news story
s. the name "Bush"
t. an ad placed by someone who wants to hire a receptionist

2. Cut headlines off their stories. In an envelope put five to ten news stories; list their headlines on a separate sheet (to prevent this from becoming merely a puzzle-fitting activity). Have students match the story with the headline.

3. Cut a short news story into paragraphs. Have students put the paragraphs in order.

4. Have students rewrite a familiar story, such as "The Three Little Pigs" or "Cinderella," as a news story, being careful to put the 4 W's in the first paragraph. Most fairy tales could be written as a series of news stories with each one reporting the latest news as the story unfolds. The highlights of the new information should be reported in the opening paragraph with minor details -- as well as background information -- in subsequent paragraphs. Using newspaper articles as models for this activity will improve students' reading of that genre as well as their writing of it.

Hands-On English and The Activity Book help you break the writing process into manageable steps and find the information you need to edit effectively. To get more details -- and to order -- (Hands-On English) (Activity Book)

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Puzzler: Cryptoquote

Each letter in the following quotation stands for some other letter. Each A represents the same letter, each B represents the same letter, etc. However, there is no relationship between the letter represented by one letter and the letter represented by another letter. (For example, if A represents S, there is no reason to think that B will represent T.) To solve this type of puzzle, look for patterns -- within words and within the sentence. Warning: Cryptograms can be addictive! You can find other cryptoquotes in the September 2000 and the March 2001 "LinguaPhiles":






Answers next month.

Answers to February Puzzler

1. (First President not to be born a British subject) i. Van Buren
2. (First President to live in the White House) d. J. Adams
3. (President elected four times) l. F. D. Roosevelt
4. (President never elected to national office) b. Ford
5. (Only President to resign) c. Nixon
6. (President who served non-consecutive terms) j. Cleveland
7. (President who served only one month) k. W. H. Harrison
8. (President who later became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) a. Taft
9. (President who never married) g. Buchanan
10. (President who never had a day of formal schooling) h. A. Johnson
11. (President who had an alligator and silkworms as pets) e. J. Q. Adams
12. (Shortest and lightest President -- 5'4"; 100 pounds) f. Madison

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Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. We welcome your comments and suggestions:

The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated monthly, is now available in either a text or .doc format on the GrammarAndMore Web site:
This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL of the text version?
It's a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

© 2002 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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