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IN THIS ISSUE . . .
Stories in Grannie Annie, Vol. I were
written by students in grades four through eight based on their
interviews with their family storykeepers. The stories include
humor, adventure, hardship, and triumph. They deal with a wide
range of topics -- for example, a childhood prank involving
homemade root beer, the longest attack of hiccups on record (68
years), a tornado that blew Grandpa out of the potato cellar and
carried the family horse to a neighboring farm, and the attack
on Pearl Harbor from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old who was
shot at in the sugar cane fields.
The 81-page book includes 24 stories and 9 illustrations. You
can read the stories online or "sneak a peek" at the layout of
the book at
Grannie Annie, Vol. I brings history to life and is
likely to spark more stories. It would make a great gift for
teachers, families, your local retirement home, and your local
library. In addition, it would be a wonderful resource for young
people who may wish to submit their stories to The Grannie Annie
next year. The submission deadline is February 14, 2007.
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Which use of Hands-On English would best suit
• A resource for teachers at all levels
• A handbook for students fourth grade and older
• A language arts curriculum for students fourth grade and older
• A curriculum for homeschoolers fourth grade and older
• A home reference for the entire family
• A reference for the office
Near the bottom of Web pages for Hands-On English and the
Activity Book you'll find links to a complete table of
contents and a few sample pages for each book.
Many people have said that Hands-On English is the
clearest English book they've found, and it makes grammar visual
with symbols to represent parts of speech. When grammar is
concrete, it is much easier to understand.
Practice pages, a card game, and visual aids facilitate mastery
of the concepts presented in the handbook.
Substantial discounts are available on volume purchases. Buying
damaged copies or original-edition copies can reduce the price
You can order by phone, fax, snail mail, or on the Internet.
MasterCard and Visa are accepted, and purchase orders are
accepted from institutions.
If you have questions,
mailto:Fran@GrammarAndMore.com or call (toll free)
1-888-641-5353. This number will also accept fax orders.
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The more you read, the more you know.
The more you know, the smarter you grow.
The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice
When speaking your mind or making your choice.
--Author Unknown. Used on a National Library Week poster
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Many people seem to think that penultimate means
something like the "ultimate ultimate." However, that is not the
case. Penultimate actually means "next to last":
is the penultimate letter of the alphabet.
Hands-On English includes more than 200 morphemes, along
with their meanings and examples. Knowing the meanings of
morphemes can help you unlock hundreds of words the first time
you encounter them. 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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Question: What guidance can you give me in
evaluating children's writing?
Answer: Although this question came from a homeschooler, I hope
the answer will be helpful to classroom teachers as well. The
following discussion suggests several different ways to view
The Reader's Mindset
Approach a piece of child's writing the same way you as a reader
would approach any other piece of writing: First get the
message. Determine what the young writer is trying to
On a second reading you might approach the piece more
objectively. You are still reading to get the message, but try
to divest yourself of all prior knowledge of the writer and the
topic -- rely solely on the written words.
Try to provide authentic writing experiences -- opportunities
for young people to write for genuine readers rather than simply
for a teacher or a parent who views the writing as an exercise
or an assignment. Examples of authentic writing are letters,
information to be shared with a local newspaper or community
organization, and stories written for a specific audience (such
as younger children, family members, or The Grannie Annie).
Respond First to Content
Too often we tend to zero in on mechanical errors such as those
involving spelling or punctuation. Mechanical issues are
objective; most of them have a clear right and wrong; they can
be dealt with quickly and conclusively. Content issues, on the
other hand, are more subjective; they have nuances; they beget
additional issues and often seem to defy resolution.
Nevertheless, it is vital to address content issues first, to
respond to the writer's message. If you were reading a love
letter or a suicide note, would you suggest mechanical
corrections before you responded to content? Although young
writers will almost certainly have topics other than these, they
ought to be writing about things that are important to them.
Take time to state the message that you got from the piece of
writing: For example, "I can tell that your grandmother's
kitchen is a very special place to you."
A good next step is to be more specific about what made the
content effective: For example, "You've described the sights and
sounds -- and smells! -- so vividly that I felt I was there
From here, it's easy to identify other techniques that made the
content effective -- and perhaps mention one or two things that
could have made it even more effective. Don't mention everything
here. The writer won't remember it all and will instead be
discouraged by how far short of perfection the writing has
fallen. Select one or two things that the writer seems "ready"
to incorporate into his or her writing.
Four Broad Categories
Responsibility for a child's writing instruction is often
accompanied by an obligation to evaluate the child's
writing. Such evaluation can be a daunting task. An easy way to
begin is to place a piece of writing into one of the following
Incomprehensible: Due to serious problems with content
and/or mechanics, the message simply cannot be understood.
Understandable: Although the message may contain many
errors of various kinds, the basic point seems clear. This is a
good start for any writer.
Favorable: In addition to having a message that seems
clear, the writing gives a favorable impression. Content is
probably well organized and well supported; mechanical errors
are probably few. All writers should strive to reach this level.
Eloquent/Profound: Not only does the clear message create
a favorable impression, something about the content, word
choice, sentence structure, figurative language, etc. moves the
reader to "Wow!" Mechanical correctness alone cannot carry a
piece of writing to this level.
Distribution of student writing into these four categories is
likely to produce a bell curve. Most pieces of writing will fit
into one of the two middle groups; few will be in the top or
Questions to Help You Evaluate Content
The four categories above are quite broad. The following
specific questions will help parents or teachers guide students
toward the "Favorable" level. Approach the questions in the
mindset of the objective reader who has divested himself or
herself of privileged knowledge about the writer and topic.
Does the composition effectively capture interest?
Does the composition make sense?
Is the composition clear? Are any parts confusing?
Is the composition organized logically? Does it maintain
interest? Are ideas supported and developed? Are transition
words used to help readers see how ideas are related?
Can you identify a main idea that pervades the composition? (You
might check with the author to see if the idea you detected was
the same one the author was trying to communicate.)
Does everything in the composition contribute to this main idea?
Should anything be deleted because it is irrelevant? Does the
ending of the composition leave the reader with a final
impression that reinforces this main idea?
Does the composition use concrete images that bring the
composition to life? This can be effective for non-fiction as
well as fiction.
Does the composition use precise vocabulary? Is the student
correctly using words that stretch beyond his or her everyday
If there was a specific assignment (regarding length, topic,
etc.), does the composition fulfill all of the requirements?
Does the composition "flow" when read aloud? Do the sentences
have effective variety?
Does the piece have an appropriate title that generates
Questions to Help You Evaluate Mechanics
Are sentences complete? Does each sentence begin with a capital
letter and end with the appropriate punctuation mark?
Are paragraph breaks effective?
Do subjects and verbs agree in number (both singular or both
Are other verbs, pronouns, and modifiers used in the correct
Is capitalization used appropriately?
Are commas and other punctuation marks used correctly?
Does the paper have adequate margins?
Has appropriate credit been given for ideas that are not
Hands-On English will provide quick access to information
that will help you answer these questions and will help your
children achieve correctness in their writing.
Standardized Writing Assessments
Standardized writing assessments, such as the ERB (Educational
Records Bureau), the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), or state
writing assessments, often evaluate compositions on the
following six criteria:
The ERB and SAT evaluate compositions on a 6-point scale. The
ERB evaluates each criterion individually. The SAT, however,
uses holistic scoring, all of the criteria being considered in
one number. Regardless of whether the criteria are evaluated
individually or holistically, assessors are provided with
descriptions of student writing and anchor papers that exemplify
each score. Assessors might consider, for example, whether they
would put a paper in the upper half or the lower half (to
distinguish between a 3 and a 4) or whether they would put the
paper in the upper third or the middle third (to distinguish
between a 4 and a 5).
Standardized writing assessments rely on a rubric, which
describes the criteria on which the paper will be evaluated. A
rubric can be presented to the student when the assignment is
made, thus delineating expectations. When the writing is
completed, the rubric can guide the teacher in evaluation -- and
can even provide a tool for the student to evaluate his or her
own writing. A number of rubrics -- and sites for helping you
develop your own rubrics -- are available on the Internet. This
one has a variety of good examples:
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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Did you know that Fran has prepared
a free online writing class called "Make Your Voice Heard:
Express Your Ideas Effectively"? The class consists of seven
lessons that guide a person through the writing process -- from
planning to "publication" (presenting the piece of writing to
its intended audience). Each lesson includes explanation, a
quiz, answers, and an assignment. The class is appropriate for
people ranging from middle school students to adults. Some of
the techniques of the class could easily be adapted for younger
The class encourages writers to find a partner to give them
feedback on their writing. The partner could be a parent, a
peer, or someone else. The lessons give pointers for responding
to writing and for eliciting feedback from partners. The
"Questions to Help You Evaluate Content" in the article above
would be appropriate for such a writing conference or, for the
experienced writer, for "a writing conference with yourself."
To register, visit
http://eagleforumu.org/eagleforumu/ "Make Your Voice Heard"
is a "previous course" and is near the bottom of the page. Watch
for the dark blue Hands-On English cover at the left-hand
side of your screen.
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Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American
Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a
Difference by Joanne Oppenheim is the remarkable story of
one woman who "fought injustice through the power of words and
small, but constant, acts of kindness."
In 1942 Clara Breed was the first children's librarian at the
San Diego Public Library. She loved children, and she loved
books. Most of all, she loved connecting the two.
On April 1, 1942, Americans of Japanese ancestry, considered a
threat to the security of the United States, were given one week
to prepare for evacuation to an unknown site. They could take
with them only what they could carry. They had to store, sell,
or abandon the rest of their possessions.
As Miss Breed said good-bye to her young patrons at the railroad
station, she gave them stamped postcards addressed to herself so
that they could write her when they reached their new home. Thus
began correspondences that would see families through their
short-term "home" (horse stalls at the Santa Anita racetrack)
and their home for several years (the relocation camp in Poston,
Arizona). Over the years Miss Breed sent the children books,
Christmas and birthday gifts, treats, and requested items. Even
more important, she showed the children and their families that
she cared for them. She wrote articles about their treatment for
Library Journal and Horn Book Magazine, awakening
teachers and other librarians to their plight.
Dear Miss Breed contains excerpts from the 200+ letters
that Miss Breed received from the children between 1942 and
1945. Sadly, only one of the letters she had written could be
found. However, the content of her letters can often be inferred
from the children's letters.
Oppenheim introduces the children with photographs and brief
biographies. Then she begins an account that is basically
chronological. Through primary sources such as drawings,
cartoons, official notices, articles, and letters to the editor,
she reveals the attitudes of that time. Through their letters
the children present first-hand accounts of their experiences in
the detention camps. The families inspire us with the optimism
they demonstrate in the face of oppression. Excerpts from
Oppenheim’s interviews with the correspondents decades later and
excerpts from testimony during CWRIC (Commission on Wartime
Relocation and Internment of Civilians) hearings held in cities
across the United States in 1981 provide the perspective that is
possible only after time has elapsed.
Dear Miss Breed is masterfully told. The story is
especially important as we find ourselves in the midst of
another war when questions of detention and freedom are again an
Recommended for sixth grade and older, including adults.
Published by Scholastic, 2006, 288 pages.
Available from Amazon.com: Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference
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I recently had occasion to read some old letters. Some were
letters that my mother had received when her parents had died, more than sixty
years ago. I was grateful that dozens of people had taken the time to put their
thoughts and memories on paper. These notes provided precious glimpses of
grandparents who died before I was born.
The second batch of letters I had received from my fourth-grade classmates when
I was absent from school due to a minor illness. I was impressed with the
quality of the writing: Everyone -- even the students not known for their
academic strengths -- had something to say and presented ideas in an
organized fashion. Most letters were at least three-fourths of a page long.
Nearly every sentence was complete; few words were misspelled.
Similar situations today probably would not produce the same results. First of
all, rather than expressing our own thoughts, we would probably rely on a
ready-made greeting card to speak for us. If we did choose to express our
own ideas, would we state them as effectively? Would our mechanics be as
Do your part to revive the dying art of letter writing. Send a letter in place
of a greeting card, an e-mail message, or a phone call. The recipient of your
message will probably be delighted!
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This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 from Salina,
Kansas. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smoky Valley
Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, Kansas, and reprinted by the
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, Kansas -- 1895
Grammar (Time: one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza, and paragraph.
4. What are the principal parts of a verb?
5. Give principal parts of do, lie, lay, and run.
6. Define case; illustrate each case.
7. What is punctuation?
8. Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
9. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand
the practical use of the rules of grammar.
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Placement of words, letters, and symbols can be very
important. Simply say what you see here to "read" these common
phrases. For example,
would be "side by side."
2. day day [2 possibilities]
5. sec ond
7. job in job
9. VAD ERS
10. I + T < WHOLE
Answers will appear in the next issue.
Answers to March Puzzler:
Find the word that completes the compound begun by the first
word in each item and begins the compound completed by the last
word of the item. (Take a moment to absorb those directions.)
Some of the compounds are two words rather than one.
1. key _____ walk [board (keyboard, boardwalk)]
2. blue _____ cake [cheese]
3. card _____ knee [trick]
4. bull _____ tired [dog]
5. side _____ hop [car]
6. iron _____ tender [bar]
7. snow _____ power [man]
8. book _____ study [case]
9. wheel _____ person [chair]
10. tooth _____ pocket [pick]
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Thank you for reading.
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© 2006 Fran Santoro Hamilton