Thursday, January 31, 2013

Don't Forget to PEE!

Nardvark’s English teacher made him write a test, and then was cruel enough to give him an F on it because he forgot to PEE.

When Nardvark’s teacher was explaining to the class how to PEE, Nardvark had a nap because, as he put it, he was born peeing. Now the Nerdvark is telling him that English teachers are talking about something completely different when they tell you to PEE.

PEE paragraphs are used to explain your thesis, or your answer to the question the teacher or exam asked you. Here's the lowdown on PEEing:

P is for Point: a short sentence that introduces a piece of evidence that you will use to prove your answer. Specifically, since this is a literary essay, which literary tool is the author/poet/playwright using?

E is for example or evidence: it can be either a quotation (don’t forget to use quotation marks, and copy the quotation exactly as it appears in the passage) or it can be a summary or paraphrase of a particular part of the poem/story/play. That’s particularly useful if you are not allowed to bring your books into the exam (AS students!!)

E is for explain: here you explain how the evidence proves your point. Specifically, what effect does the literary tool have on the reader/audience?

Your literary essay of course needs an introduction, which includes the thesis or answer to the question and mentions the three points, and should be summed up by a conclusion. You also need to state your personal response somehow – either say how the poem/play/novel made you feel, or what it reminded you of, or whether you thought the literary tools were effective, or compare it to another poem/play/novel you like, or compare it to a situation in your own life, etc.

OK! So! This is the fun part: Nerdvark now makes fun of Nardvark in an effort to show him how to apply the PEE principles, or the principles of PEE if you will:

The poem
The Nardvark
by the Nerdvark
Nardvark has a ridiculous nose
It flops around like a rubber hose.
His ears are small and his eyes are beady,
He isn’t smart but he is greedy.
All he ever does is eat, and eat,
And eat and eat and eat and eat.
The cavernous mouth and gut - Beware!
And plus, he has terrible hair.

The question
Explore the ways in which the poet powerfully portrays a Nardvark in this poem.

The thesis
The Nerdvark powerfully portrays a Nardvark in the poem “The Nardvark” through the use of literary tools such as imagery, simile, and repetition.

Now, here’s a PEE paragraph for our first point, IMAGERY:
I’m going to do more than one example for this one. Imagery is always a doozie.

Point: The poet uses imagery to give the reader a mental picture of what the Nardvark looks like.
Example 1: For example, his nose is "ridiculous" and it "flops;" his ears are described as "small" and his eyes as "beady."
Explanation 1: These words give the reader an image of a creature with a nose that is so long that it can't even stay straight, and silly little eyes and ears.
Example 2: The poet also uses the adjective "terrible" to describe the creature’s hair.
Explanation 2: This does not give a precise mental image, but the connotation of the word "terrible" along with the words "cavernous" and "beware" in the previous line conjure an idea of a monster. The effect of the silly face coupled with the monstrous body gives readers a picture of a fat, absurd creature.

What other points were brought up in our thesis? Try writing two more PEE paragraphs for them. 

Remember, kids, don’t forget to PEE. Here's a lovely website with more about formatting essays for exams: (click the super-excited little man)

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy my blog, please check out my website: Check here next time for Nerdvark’s instructions to Nardvark on how to correctly use the word “myself.” (Or he might just strangle him, because, quite frankly, all the “myselfs” Nardvark has been inappropriately throwing around are giving Nerdvark a nasty toothache.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Random Literary Devices - Sound Effects

Nardvark is currently studying poetry (aren't we all!) and his teacher is trying to cram all this "sound effect" nonsense down his throat. Isn't sound effect something used in Hollywood? Nerdvark helpfully uses Nardvark as a living example to realistically explain how each of the following sound-effect poetic devices work (for more detailed explanation, click on the sound-effect literary device):

Alliteration: Words used close together that begin with the same sound. Nardvark eats noodles with nut-butter. Effect - usually produces a sound that echos the theme or meaning of the poem. In this case, the repeated N-sound could echo the sound of Nardvark munching.

Assonance: String of similar vowel sounds. Nardvark's nose is hopelessly boneless. Effect - usually affects pace or tone. In this example, all the long-O sounds make the sentence slow and dreary.

Consonance: String of similar consonant sounds. When Nardvark walks, his belly looks like Jell-O. Effect - also affects pace and tone. This example is quick and silly, which helps you imagine that bouncy jelly belly.

Sibilance: A really random one, but my students love it: it's basically consonance with the S-sound, which produces a hissing sound. When Nardvark attempts to skate, he slips and slides like an intoxicated porpoise. Effect - echoes the subject or tone of the poem, usually something that makes a hissing sound; in this case, someone skating (or trying to.)

Onomatopoeia: A word that sounds like the sound it describes. Nardvark fell with a plop. Effect - readers can hear the sound.

Euphony: Overall pleasant sound. Nerdvark danced through the garden like a petit ballerina, snuffling at the pink roses with the delicate tip of his slender trunk. Effect - the piece is pleasant to read.  Euphony is usually used in a piece that has a pleasant theme or message, but can be used in paradox to the theme or message for some reason.

Cacophony: Overall unpleasant sound.  Amid the zinging gun shots, Private Nardvark wrenched and wallowed uncautiously through the cantankerous  mud, dragging his misshapen buttocks over misaligned potholes and jagged barbs of wire, searching without success for his troop's trench. Effect - echoes the unpleasant theme or atmosphere of the piece, in this case a war diary of a soldier who is obviously not cut out for war and is about to die.  In fact, he's not cut out for anything except eating banana pizza and napping on his friend's sofa while his friend does all his homework.

Coming up next - "Don't Forget to PEE." Thanks for reading - hope it helps. If you like my blog, please check out my website:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Comma Splices Suck

Alcatraz prison: similar to punctuation prison, only harder to escape from.

Two independent clauses cannot be joined by a comma. Two independent clauses joined with a comma are called a “comma splice.” Comma splicing is illegal and if you do it, you will go to punctuation prison.

Independent clauses are basically any group of words that can survive on their own, as sentences:

Dogs stink.
Dogs chase cats.
A big hairy dog tried to catch my cat, Pixie.
He got a broken leg in the incident.
Don’t mess with my cat.
He bites.

Here is what the above looks like when joined incorrectly, using comma splices:

Dogs stink, dogs chase cats, a big hairy dog tried to catch my cat, Pixie, he got a broken leg in the incident, don’t mess with my cat, he bites.

Pretty much everybody does this sometimes, but it’s wrong.  Even teachers do this sometimes, by mistake.  A Maths teacher did this once on your report, but your English teacher found the error and corrected it. It’s a common mistake to make, but it’s a MISTAKE.  It’s incorrect.  Don’t believe me?  Read a book.  Read a newspaper.  Read a professionally produced website.  See any comma splices? 

So, you ask, how can we join two independent clauses if we can’t use a comma?  You know already.  There are lot of ways to put ideas into correctly-formed sentences.  You just have to pick the best way instead of just throwing commas around willy-nilly. 
  1. Use a joining word – and, but, so, because.  Be careful – some joining words are meant for joining paragraphs together, not sentences.  If you use a word like “however” or “moreover”, you will still be producing a comma splice.  Using a joining word to eliminate a comma splice produces a compound sentence. Don’t use too many joining words in one sentence or you’ll get into run-on sentences, which are great if you’re a five-year-old telling a story to your nanny, but not so good for secondary students trying to get good grades on written exams.
  2. Use a semi-colon instead of a comma.  Use semi-colons to join sentences that are very closely related.
  3.  Make one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause by modifying or embedding it into the other.  For example, you could use our sentences above: “Dogs stink. Dogs chase cats.” Dogs can be described as stinky using an embedded clause: “Dogs, which stink, chase cats.”  Using a modifier or embedded clause to replace a comma splice produces a complex sentence.
  4. Write the independent clauses as separate sentences.  Replace the comma in the comma splice with a full stop (period) and capital letter.  Using full stops and capitals to replace comma splices produces simple sentences.
Epic Sax Guy - practice makes what?

PRACTICE: Now that you know about the evils of comma splicing and how to avoid them, rewrite the passage above eliminating the comma splices using any and all of the methods suggested above.  Learn everything there is to know about commas with Owl:  Yay!

Thanks for reading. Read on, read on... at