Thursday, December 3, 2015

Homophones: Possessive Pronouns vs. Contractions

Are you studying English? Then you have come to the right place... the internet! But... have you ever noticed: the internet has some mistakes!

Welcome to Correcting the Internet. I'm Mrs. Teacher.

In my last video, I talked about simple past tense. Let's look at a good example of simple past tense sentences from my number-one original fan, Heather! She has used simple past tense verbs to talk about our sordid past. Well done, Heather!

Today's topic is homophones.  
No, not homo-phobes, HOMOPHONES.
The Greek prefix "homo" means "same" and "phono" means "sound." Homophones are words that sound the same, but have different meanings and etymologies.

Mixed-up homophones is pretty much the biggest problem on the internet today.

Let's look at its vs it's

The first is a possessive pronoun. It doesn't have an apostrophe.

Other possessive pronouns include her, his, their, our, your... you get it, right? Any apostrophes in those words? NOPE.

So when "its" is a possessive pronoun, as in 
"here's a monkey and its banana,"
 it is spelled without an apostrophe.

So what about "it's"? It's a contraction. See what I did there?

A contraction has an apostrophe to indicate that a letter or a few letters are missing. Other contractions include she's, he's, you're, they're, can't, and shouldn't.

It's is actually two words: it and is. When we talk we're lazy so we reduce "it is" to "it's" and we spell this with an apostrophe to show that the letter 'i' is missing.

'It's' can also be a contraction for the two words, "it has": It's been a busy day for your friendly neighbourhood apostrophe! 

You shouldn't mix up its and it's.

The internet's favourite homophone is probably your vs. you're. Now that we've talked about possessive pronouns and contractions, you should get the difference.

One of these words is a possessive pronoun, and the other is a contraction for the two words 'you' and 'are.'

If you're not sure which your to use in your sentence, you can try substituting the words 'you are.'

So this is correct: "You're a great teacher," because you could say "You are a great teacher."
But this: "Your a moron," isn't. You ought to say, "You are a moron," so what do we need to use in this sentence? A contraction!

So that brings us to today's sentence challenge:
Choose a pair of homophones.
Write me two sentences in the comments below, one for each homophone.
If you write two correct sentences, I'll share your awesomeness in an upcoming video!
But be careful... if you write something silly, I will make fun of you.

Need a laugh? Here are more mixed-up homophones I found around the web. Enjoy!
You've gone "two" far now, Jimmy!

I bet your dog has better grammar than you, Highland Park Junior High sign writer!
I guess it's safe to say that 1D fans aren't homophone-pheliacs.
Okay, I guess this could be intended as a pun. But it still pisses me off!

Where's your apostrophe, 1iam5mith -- up your CRACK?

Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Kick IB Language A: Literature Part 1: Written Assignment's Butt -- Step 4

So far, you have done the Interactive Oral (not as exciting as it sounded), the Reflective Statement (more exciting than it sounded), and the Supervised Writing

If you haven't done these, then you're getting ahead of yourself and need to go back. Click on any of the topics above to go back. Otherwise, you're ready for...

Step 4: Production of the Essay

Yup, this is it... the moment you've been waiting for, preparing for, most probably dreading: your first IB essay.

This essay is submitted to the IB board for marking, and it has to be done entirely by you. Your teacher can help you to a certain extent, but there are rules for how much your teacher can get involved:
  • The teacher will support you by discussing your topic and ideas, and by providing you feedback on your first draft. 
  • The teacher may not annotate or write directly on your draft or give you feedback on subsequent drafts.

Teachers tend to go by the rules. The rule here is, your teacher is not allowed
to do corrections on your Written Assignment. It's all you!
So if you think your teacher is being really mean when he or she returns your first draft to you with NOTHING WRITTEN ON IT, you're wrong. Your teacher is just protecting his/her butt by following the rules. 

Usually students get to this point in their school career by memorizing formulas for written assignments and plugging new thoughts/information in. While the IB markers do pay attention to your structure, there is no formula for the Works in Translation Written Assignment. However, if you want some guidelines, check out the Five-Paragraph Essay Structure here.

Keep in mind that the Written Assignment has a word count: 1200 - 1500 words. If you write fewer than 1200 words, your grade will suffer. If you write more than 1500, you'll have a problem because the marker will stop reading at word # 1500. So your amazing WOW finish will not be considered. 

A lot of students get so hung up on word count that they don't pay attention to the rest of the factors surrounding the grading of their work. 

Here's Nerdvark's tip for word count: first, follow the writing process. You have already done step one, PRE-WRITE, through the interactive oral, reflective statement, and supervised writing. 

You may have already done a PLAN for your essay. If not, do it next. The five-paragraph essay structure is a great outline. 

Third, DRAFT your essay without counting words. 

When you've finished your first draft, check the word count. 

Next, read and REVISE your essay. If you have too few words, look for places where you need to add details. If you wrote a five-paragraph essay and remembered to PEE, you should have enough words, though. If you have too many words, look for places where you have been too wordy (remember, KISS -- keep it simple, stupid) or where you have repeated the same idea. Yes, you need to link your ideas, but simply repeating them doesn't produce effective links. 

Still too many words? Go through and take away any extraneous words. Often descriptive adverbs or adjectives can be removed from an essay. Essays should be clear and concise, not flowery prose. You don't get extra marks for showing off an extensive vocabulary or using long, complex sentences.  

While you're doing this, check for errors and EDIT (correct, proofread) your essay. 

If you have trouble with any of these steps, then you can ask your teacher for suggestions when you hand in the first draft. If you just write a bunch of crap and give it to your teacher, guaranteed his or her feedback won't be very helpful. If you do your best to construct an awesome essay and ask your teacher for specific advice, your wish will be granted. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Simple Past Tense and Adverbs of Time

Simple past tense is formed by using the past tense of the verb. 
Be careful; don't use the past participle. 
Look at the verb forms in these sentences:

I drink coffee. Drink is the base form of the verb.
I drank coffee yesterday. Drank is the past tense form of the verb.
I have drunk too much coffee. Drunk is the past participle form of the verb. Past participles can also be used as adjectives, as we know from the phrase, "My drunk friend thinks you're cute."
You can't say, "Yesterday I drunk coffee," or "I drunk too much coffee," because that is wrong.

When do we use simple past? We use simple past to talk about actions that began and ended at a specific time in the past. To use simple past correctly, it's important to give the time the action happened by using an adverb of time. In these examples, the simple past tense verbs are red and the adverbs of time are blue.

Please click here to watch the video version of this lesson! You can leave a comment and I'll respond to you in an upcoming video.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Basic English Grammar: Simple Present Tense and Adverbs of Frequency

 It's super easy to form simple present tense. Include a noun and a verb, conjugate the verb correctly and there you have it! 

When do we use simple present tense? Well, baby books use it.

But grown-ups only use it to talk about the way something is, using the verb "to be," or something that happens all the time, or regularly.

I am a reality TV star. I get up at six o'clock every day to get my hair and make-up done. I work out at the gym with my own personal trainer. I do duck face and take selfies. I rarely eat

We don't use simple present to talk about something we're doing right now. For that, we generally use present continuing, also called present progressive tense.

I'll talk more about present progressive (or continuing) tense later.

We can add adverbs of frequency to our simple present tense sentences.

Here's a continuum showing some adverbs of frequency. Always means 100 percent of the time, and never of course means zero percent of the time. You can see how the other adverbs of frequency can be used to tell you how often I do something, or how frequently something takes place.

Always can mean every day, or whenever the opportunity arises. So when I say, "I always eat cookies," it doesn't mean I eat cookies 24/7, although that would be nice; it means whenever I get the chance, I eat cookies.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How to Kick IB Language A: Literature Part 1: Written Assignment's Butt -- Step 3

For Step 1 of the Written Assignment, click here. For Step 2, click here

Step 3 is called Developing the Topic - Supervised Writing

Your teacher will give you a few writing prompts at the beginning of the supervised writing session. These prompts are designed to help you think about and develop a topic for your written assignment.

Your school will keep your supervised writing on file, and the IB assessment board might ask to see it later, but it is not sent in or assessed. Use it to come up with an independent topic and title for your essay. 

As you can imagine, when examiners are marking two hundred essays, they won't be impressed if they see the same generic topics over and over again. Try to come up with something unique and personal. A question that you had about the work makes an excellent topic, since you have been working to answer that question since step one. As you write your Supervised Writing, you should use it to consider and explore a few topics.

Here is an example from the International Baccalaureate Organization teacher support materials:

Prompt: How does the writer convey a sense of time passing in the work? This is a general prompt that your teacher might give you. 

You can now customize it according to the work you read and your ideas generated in the Interactive Oral and Reflective Statement.

Let's say you read the work One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Apply the prompt above to this work.

You might come up with a title like: "The significance of time for Shukhov in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." This is a specific title derived from applying the prompt to the work studied. 
Nardvark doesn't realize it, but he's doing a great job of personalizing
the work he's studying. 

Now think about your questions raised and explored in the Interactive Oral and Reflective Statement. In this work, Solzhenitsyn seems to be using a short time span of one day to show the monotony of the seemingly endless days for the prisoner. Thus you might adjust your title to "The Significance of Time for Shukhov in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: How One Day can Symbolize 3,653 Days." 

Looks good! You now have a specific title and subtitle. Now you just have to go on to Step 4: Production of the Essay, which we'll look more closely at next time.

Thanks for reading! Check my ABOUT page to learn more about me, and click on my STUDY BREAK page if you're ready to spend a few minutes doing something more fun than work, work, work!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Correcting the Internet with Mrs. Teacher: Parts of Speech

Watch the corresponding video on YouTube
Parts of Speech
Today we're going to look at parts of speech. If you've ever been to school, this is a review for you. But I can't talk to you about the complexities of language until I remind you of the basics.
First we've got the noun. 
Click to go to Merriam-Webster's definition of "noun"
A noun is a word that is the name of something. It can be a...

So... teacher is a noun. That's me; I'm a person. And cat is a noun, obviously, a cat is an animal. Mexico is a noun. It's a proper noun, because it's the actual name of a place. Banana is a noun; it's a thing. Excitement is a noun, a quality of every English student, right? Existentialism is a noun. It's an idea which you'll find out more about when you read Camus. And finally, shopping is a noun. What did you do yesterday? I went shopping.

Did you know that nouns are usually the first parts of speech that babies use? 

So the next important part of speech is the verb.
Click to go to Merriam-Webster's definition of "verb."

You know a verb is an action word, like run or eat. Don't forget to be is also a verb; it expresses a state of being. And have is also a verb. There's no actual action, like run, but it expresses an occurrence.
 So now that we have nouns and verbs, we can make sentences. All you need for a sentence is two words: a noun and a verb.
Yes, this is a sentence.
This is a really short, but perfectly legit sentence:

Now we can pad it out with some other parts of speech.

You've got your adjectives, used to describe nouns:

You've got your adverbs, used to describe verbs :

And you've got your pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and articles. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How to Kick IB Language A: Literature Part 1: Written Assignment's Butt -- Step 2

School goes on, and if you're in IB Literature, you're probably working your way through the Written Assignment.  Go HERE for step 1.  By now you should be ready for:

Step 2: The Reflective Statement

This is an in-class assignment, so naturally, most students panic at the thought of it. But it's not that difficult, really. You have your notes from the Interactive Oral to guide you.  So do some deep-breathing exercises and have at 'er!
THE INTERACTIVE ORAL: More than just a chance
to laugh at your classmates' funny pronunciation!  

A couple points to remember:

1. Stick to the guiding question: “How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?” -- Let's analyze this. 
  • Look at the essential question: "How was your understanding... developed...?" So in your reflective statement, you have to describe the process by which your personal understanding was developed, or changed/improved. Understanding of what? "of cultural and contextual considerations of the work..."
  • Cultural: You're dealing with a work written in translation. Think about the place, time, society of the character and/or author's culture. For example, if you read Perfume by Patrick Süskind, you need to think about 18th century France. Will it help you to know about Germany in 1985? Considering that was Suskind's culture, perhaps. It might give you some insight to consider the political environment Suskind was writing in.  Which brings us to...
  • Contextual: Think about the background of the author and characters and the themes of the work. Perfume is about filth, smell, class division, and, obviously, perfume. What do you know about these things? What do your classmates know? 
  • The last part of the question is "...through the interactive oral." That's why you had to really listen to your classmates' ideas and take good notes. Now explain how your discussion enhanced your understanding.

2. This will be assessed by IB examiners. Use the writing process to develop it. Make full use of the time you are given. Remember the word count: 300 - 400 words. That's not very many words, really. One or two pages, depending on the size of your handwriting. You've written Facebook comments longer than that. Just think of it as writing around 25 Tweets. You can do that in your lunch break. The point is, you have plenty of time to think about and plan out exactly what you're going to write, and then to re-read what you wrote several times, revising and editing it to perfection. That's how you're going to get the awesome marks on your Reflective Statement.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How to Kick IB Language A: Literature Part 1: Written Assignment's Butt -- Step 1

Back to school, and if your IB English teacher is following the order of the four parts of the Literature course, you'll be starting your Part 1: Works in Translation (formerly called "World Literature.")

Interactive Oral in IB Language A: Literature

There are four steps to this part of the course. Today we'll look at Step 1: the Interactive Oral. Although that sounds like something you shouldn't be doing in school, it is actually a very valuable step for you in developing your Written Assignment and getting a seven.

Step 1: Interactive Oral
  • Prepare for the Interactive Oral:
    • Make notes while reading. Questions that come to mind while reading? Answers if you come across them? Compare different translations of the same work.
    • Compare the work to other sources of the material, e.g. film or graphic novel version, film, text, or video addressing cultural, philosophical, or political context, encyclopedic or biographical information about the author and his/her time and place.
    • The point of the Written Assignment is to show that you have considered "culture" and "context" while reading your Works in Translation. So do that.
  • Take notes during the Interactive Oral. You will need to refer to them while writing your Reflective Statement.
  • Ask classmates to elaborate on their comments and/or question your classmates’ ideas if necessary. This is an opportunity to share ideas with others, not merely to show off. Make sure you milk your classmates for as many thoughts/insights/ideas as they're worth. 
Join us next time for Step 2: The Reflective Statement. Until then, happy reading!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Back to School with Bad English

You had a fantastic summer and were totally not ready to go back to class. But let's hope you haven't forgotten what you are studying English for. It's so you can save the future world from mistakes like these.

Nardvark would like to celebrate the return to napping through class by sharing a few more messes of the English language. So without further ado, here's more Chinglish!

Exactly what is the taste fashion? I don't know, but it needs cool enjoying! Found on a bag of dried peas, Beijing, China

I actually don't see any grass, so please don't delightful after all. Beijing, China
These next three are signs on the front of a new building being erected in a suburb of Beijing. It makes me excited about shopping. 

"Meet you at Starbues!" "Um, nope."

There's penetrate again. I don't want my teeth penetrated by wire brush, thank you! Why did I even buy this toothbrush? Toothbrush package, Beijing, China
And there you have it. Some examples of the worst English I've seen this summer. Please, English students of the world, study hard! Our future depends on you!