Mini-Books

Many of our books cover multiple standards and are extremely comprehensive. For example, our Standards Based Grammar series covers dozens to skills and can be used as a daily grammar / language routine. However, there may be times when a teacher only needs material for a single standard. The mini-books below contain stand-alone units that are highly focused on specific topics.

Most of the mini-books below come from our Standards Based Grammar or Common Core Based Language series.

Comma Rules and Sentence Building (43 pages)

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Objective: The objective of these worksheets is to help students understand the comma rules so well that they are using the rules within the context of actual writing situations. Best for Grades 4 - 8.

 

An added benefit of these worksheets and journal activities is that the students will also be improving their writing skills as well. They will have thirteen new “tricks” they can use to make their writing better. Throughout these worksheets, students will be encouraged to use dialogue, add adjectives and interrupters, write complex sentences, and much more. The quality of their sentences can only improve by working through this program.

Pretest and Checklist

Begin with a pretest to help the students understand which rules they know and which rules they need to study. After completing the pretest, the students can use the checklist to keep track of the comma rules they’ve mastered and the rules that require more focus. The students can keep the checklist in a folder to reference as they complete the worksheets.

 

For the comma rules they already know, the students can complete the worksheets as a review. When they do the worksheets for the rules they don’t know, they will have a greater focus as they complete them.

 

Worksheets

As you teach the worksheets, it helps to write each rule on a poster with a sample sentence below. The students are able to use this as a reference as they complete the worksheets and as they write. Ultimately, the goal is to help the students learn the rules to the point where they are using the comma rules correctly within their writing. With this in mind, requiring the students to use the comma rules with their writing assignments is a great way to review the skills and improve the quality of their sentences.

 

Extensions and Journal Activities

Because the goal for these worksheets is to have the students apply the rules for commas within their writing, many of the worksheets require that the students practice the comma rules within an actual writing situation. The extensions will give them immediate practice while the journal activities will allow them to practice several comma rules simultaneously.

Post Test and Project

The Post Test will give you a first look at which students have a general understanding of the comma rules. However, if the students cannot apply the rules within the context of writing, they have not achieved the goal for these lessons.

 

The project is an opportunity to get more practice using the comma rules within the context of writing. With this project, the students will be writing a story using all the comma rules they’ve learned. They will also be reading stories written by their classmates while searching for comma rules used by them. Through this process your students will benefit from peer tutoring in ways they could not learn from the teacher.

 

Sample Journal Assignment:

Write a paragraph about a surprise. Each sentence must use a different comma rule. Skip lines. When finished, label each sentence by writing the comma rule below.  Click to see the Journal Sample completed by the student.

 

For a 19 Page sample of Comma Rules and Sentence Building: Click here.

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Capitalization Rules (43 pages)

Objective: The objective of these worksheets is to help students gain long-term retention of the capitalization rules and to use the rules within the context of actual writing situations. Best for Grades 3 - 6.

Part I – Basic Capitalization

This first section is a basic introduction to capitalization. It is meant for younger students who are just learning the concept. The focus is on all types of common and proper nouns including practice looking for geographical names, historical periods, and holidays / special events.

 

While the focus is on all types of common and proper nouns, the students will practice looking for geographical names, historical periods, holidays, and special events. These topics are concrete and can be easily contrasted between common and proper. For example, the students will be able to see the difference between the common noun, city, and the proper noun, Sacramento.

 

Part II - Capitalization

Even when all the capitalization rules are known, there are many times when it is unclear whether a word should be capitalized or not. The focus of this section is to memorize all the capitalization rules and practice identifying words that can be tricky. For example, students will often capitalize seasons: spring, fall, summer and winter. The trick at the beginning of this section will help students learn the words that should be capitalized as well as the words that should not be capitalized.

 

Pretest and Checklist

Begin with a pretest to help the students understand which rules they know and which rules they need to study. After completing the pretest, the students can use the checklist to keep track of the capitalization rules they’ve mastered and the rules that require more focus. The students can keep the checklist in a folder to reference as they complete the worksheets.

 

For the capitalization rules they already know, the students can complete the worksheets as a review. When they do the worksheets for the rules they don’t know, they will have a greater focus as they complete them.

The Trick

Students will learn to associate the nine capitalization rules with an image on a baseball stadium. A boy named Cappy Talleyes (sounds like Capitalize) will escort the student around the stadium showing the different rules. By the time the students finish drawing the picture, they will have a solid understanding of all the rules and a mental picture to reference while completing the worksheets and journal activities.

Next, the students will draw a picture where Cappy shows him around his school. In this picture, the students learn several common mistakes made with capitalization. Again, they will have a mental picture to warn them against common mistakes.

 

Worksheets

As you teach the worksheets, it helps to write each rule on a poster with a sample sentence below. The students are able to use this as a reference as they complete the worksheets and as they write. Ultimately, the goal is to help the students learn the rules to the point where they are using the capitalization rules correctly within their writing.

Extensions and Journal Activities

Because the goal for these worksheets is to have the students apply the rules for capitalization within their writing, many of the worksheets require that the students practice the capitalization rules within an actual writing situation. The extensions will give them immediate practice while the journal activities will allow them to practice several rules simultaneously.

Project and Post Test

The project is an opportunity to get more practice using the capitalization rules within the context of writing. With this project, the students will be writing a story using all the capitalization rules they’ve learned. They will also be reading stories written by their classmates while searching for capitalization rules used by them. Through this process your students will benefit from peer tutoring in ways they could not learn from the teacher. The post test will give you a first look at which students have a general understanding of the capitalization rules. However, if the students cannot apply the rules within the context of writing, they have not achieved the goal of these lessons.

 

Click to download a 15 page preview copy.

 

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Greek and Latin Root Words (45 pages)

Objective: The purpose of this book is to help students improve their vocabulary by learning more than fifty Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Best for Grades 5 - 8.

With this knowledge, students will learn to identify these root words and use context clues to identify the meaning of thousands of words that contain these roots. Students will be given a mix of direct instruction learning root words and practical application using the root words. This two-part approach will give the students the best opportunity to make learning and using root words a regular part of their lives.

Introduction:

Every year I tell my students a story about an experience I had while in college regarding learning the word “somnambulism.” A newspaper headline read “Dodgers Suffer from Somnambulism!” Not knowing what the word meant, I began to break the word into parts. I write the parts of the word on the board: “Somn” is found in “insomnia”. “In” means “not”. Since insomnia means “un able to sleep”, somn must mean “sleep.” Next, there is “amble” which I know means “to walk”. Finally, there is “ism” which can refer to “a condition of”. Put them together, and what do you get? Somn – Sleep / Amble – Walk. Oh, the Dodgers must have been sleepwalking through their game.

 

I was so proud of myself for figuring out the definition on my own. The process that I had just used is the process that my students are about to practice. By learning just a few dozen Greek and Latin affixes, students will be able to decipher thousands of words that they would normally need to look up in the dictionary. This can only help lead to a much broader vocabulary for students using this book.

Click to download a 22 page preview copy.

 

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Spelling Plural Nouns (20 pages)

Objective: The objective of these worksheets is to teach students the rules for spelling irregular plural nouns. Best for Grades 2 - 4.

Worksheets

The worksheets in this book help students learn the spelling of plural nouns that don’t follow the standard format of just adding an S. Some of the rules make sense as with words such as “wolves” where the pronunciation of the word tells the student that there is a change in the plural rule. However, what about words such as “tornadoes”? The reason for adding ES rather than just an S is not as obvious.

Next Steps

To keep the rules fresh in the students' minds, teachers can add a rule each week to the students’ spelling list. For example, the students can be told that they need to study Rule #1 in addition to their regular spelling words. The teacher can even add two or three words from the list to the students’ pretest. When it comes time for the test at the end of the week, the teacher can choose any three words from the list to make sure the students remember the rule. The next week, the teacher can repeat the procedure with Rule 2.

 
Parts of Speech: Primary Edition (116 pages)

Objective: The objective of these worksheets is to give students a basic understanding of the parts of speech. By completing this book, students will be well prepared to move on to more advanced topics related to the parts of speech. Best for grades 2 - 4.

Throughout the book students will be asked to practice using their knowledge of the parts of speech within the context of writing. In this way, students will see the practical purposes of learning these skills.

Memory Tricks

Keeping track of the definitions for the parts of speech can be very difficult. When you add the sub-topics within each part of speech, it can be even more challenging. This is why each section begins with a memory trick. The students may draw a study picture or chant a phrase that contains the definition and a sample word. For example, a clown will represent a noun. A clown at a circus in the center ring helps students remember that a noun is a person (clown), place (circus), or thing (ring). Notice that if you say the previous sentence in a certain way, it rhymes which again, is a trick to help the students learn the definition of a noun. Throughout the unit on nouns, the students expand on the noun/clown concept and add dimensions representing common-proper, singular-plural, and possessive nouns. There is a trick for each part of speech.

 
Parts of Speech: Secondary Edition (131 pages)

Objective: The objective of these worksheets is to help students move past the basic understanding of the parts of speech. With this book, students will move on to more advanced topics and learn the parts of speech on a deeper level. Best for grades 4 - 6.

Throughout the book students will be asked to practice using their knowledge of the parts of speech within the context of writing. In this way, students will see the practical purposes of learning these skills.

Memory Tricks

The first section begins with a review of the parts of speech. Just like the Primary Edition, the students learn tricks to help memorize each part of speech. The students may draw a study picture or chant a phrase that contains the definition and a sample word. For example, a clown will represent a noun. A clown at a circus in the center ring helps them remember that a noun is a person (clown), place (circus), or thing (ring). Notice that if you say the previous sentence in a certain way, it rhymes which again, is a trick to help the students learn the definition of a noun. Throughout the unit on nouns, the students expand on the noun/clown concept and add dimensions representing common-proper, singular-plural, and possessive nouns. There is a trick for each part of speech.

 
Sentence Writing: Primary Edition (94 pages)

Objective: The purpose of this book is to help young students learn to identify the parts of sentences, identify types of sentences, and be able to write strong sentences. Best for Grades 2 - 4.

Students will begin to accomplish this objective by learning to identify the parts of a sentence. Next, they will learn to recognize common mistakes made by emerging writers. Finally, they will practice writing strong sentences that follow several sentence structures. For even more practice writing stronger sentences, try Writing Tricks Plus, a book that shows students sixteen “tricks” for writing stronger sentences.

Introduction:

Whether you are writing a story, essay, report, or research paper, the quality of your writing begins with the sentence. The ability to write strong sentences as well as the ability to write a variety of sentence types is at the heart of all writing. The purpose of this book is to help young students learn to identify the parts of sentences, identify types of sentences, and be able to write strong sentences themselves. Here is how this book is organized:

The first section begins with an overview of the four basic types of sentences: Declarative, Interrogative, Exclamatory, and Imperative. This is a throwback to the old standards that have young students look at the ways in which sentences are used. Personally, I begin with the second unit since the overview is served while looking at the parts of a sentence. However, there is some value in front loading students with this information. Also, there is some value in modeling the four types of sentences. Thus, for the very young students, this is not a bad way to begin.

The second section shows students how to identify the parts of a sentence. The students will look at what makes up a sentence and learn to identify common mistakes made by emerging writers. By the time students finish this section, they should have a solid grasp of sentence writing.

The final section helps students learn to write stronger sentences. Here, students learn that it is possible to write longer sentences as long as all the parts of the sentence are used properly. The students begin by reviewing the simple sentence. Next, students are shown how to put two simple sentences together to make a compound sentence. Finally, the students learn to add a dependent clause to a sentence to make complex sentences. This is a great way to end the students’ study of sentence writing.

Extensions

Obviously, the goal of these worksheets is to have students write strong sentences. These worksheets will help give the students confidence to write good sentences and give them the ability to self-correct when they make mistakes. With this in mind many of the worksheets require that the students practice the skills taught within an actual writing situation. The extensions will give them immediate practice and help them see the practical application of what they’ve learned.

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Sentence Writing: Secondary Edition (105 pages)

Objective: The purpose of this book is to help students write strong sentences while helping them avoid common mistakes such as run-on and fragment sentences. Best for Grades 5 - 8.

Students will accomplish this objective by learning to identify the parts of a sentence. Next, they will learn to recognize common mistakes made by emerging writers. When they have a solid understanding of how sentences are formed, they will practice writing in a variety of sentence structures. These will focus on the four types of sentences: the simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence. For even more practice writing stronger sentences, try Writing Tricks Plus, a book that shows students sixteen “tricks” for writing stronger sentences.

 
Fixing Fragment and Run-on Sentences (39 pages)

Objective: The objective of these worksheets is to help students learn to write strong sentences and distinguish between fragment, run-on, and complete sentences. Best for Grades 3 - 6.

Students will begin to accomplish this objective by learning to identify the parts of a sentence. Next, they will learn to recognize how sentence fragments are different from complete sentences. Finally, they will learn to recognize run-on sentences and how to fix them.

Introduction:

It’s amazing how difficult identifying complete sentences can be for some students. When I taught third grade, many students could form complete sentences instinctively. Modeling of sentence writing from their previous teachers had been enough for them to learn the concept that sentences are simply complete thoughts. However, even by middle school, others seem to struggle with this concept. I currently have a group of middle school students that continuously have essays filled with run-on sentences. Fortunately, I’ve taught these worksheets so many times that it comes naturally to use examples from these worksheets to help these students identify subjects, verbs, and complete thoughts. Additionally, I use Standards Based Grammar with them as well which helps them identify simple, complex, compound, and compound-complex sentences. By the end of the year, most of these middle schoolers seem to finally get the concept of sentence writing.

 
Writing Friendly and Business Letters (24 pages)

Objective: The purpose of this book is to help students learn to format and write friendly letters and business letters. Best for Grades 2 - 5.

Students will begin to accomplish this objective by memorizing the five parts of a friendly letter. Next, they will learn to format and write friendly letters. Finally, they will compare the parts of a friendly letter to a business letter and practice writing business letters.

Introduction:

In the electronic age, writing friendly and business letters complete with headings and closings is becoming a lost art. Students learn the skill in primary grades and typically forget about it. Honestly, the only reason I teach letter writing skills is to give students a basic understanding that there is a formal way to write letters. When the time comes to actually write a real, honest-to-goodness letter on actual paper, a quick search on the Internet is all that is needed to refresh their memories for proper formatting.

 

That being said, a good, systematic method for teaching letter writing is still needed to help the students internalize the need for proper formatting. That’s the purpose of this eBook. Students will begin by memorizing the five parts of a friendly letter. This knowledge is something all well educated students should know.

 

Next, they will practice writing more than a dozen one-sentence letters to practice lining up the heading, closing and signature. Next, the students practice writing business letters. There are several ways to write them, but this book will just focus on the block letter. Having just practiced the friendly letter, the teacher should point out the differences between the two. Two headings and different formatting may not seem like a big difference, but some students still struggle with the change.

 
Basic Sentence Diagramming (25 pages)

Objective: The purpose of this book is to help students gain a deeper understanding of sentence structure by learning to diagram simple sentences. Through this process students will learn to clarify their thinking and sharpen their writing skills.

Introduction:

A great debate in education is whether or not sentence diagramming is worth teaching. I tend to fall on the side that there is value in teaching it, if for no other reason, to give students a chance to tell people when they’re older, “Yes, my teachers tortured me with sentence diagramming.” It seems to be a right of passage that people discuss in the same way we reminisce about having the chicken pox.

I like to teach diagramming for other reasons as well. Author Kitty Burns Florey wrote an article in the New York Times (June 18, 2012) titled 

“Taming Sentences” that explains why she finds value in sentence diagramming. This article lists several good reasons for teaching sentence diagramming:

  1. It helps us focus on the “structures and patterns” of language: Sentences are like puzzles. Deconstructing and reconstructing them helps students understand how each piece fits in the bigger picture. However, unlike a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces can be manipulated and moved. Expanding on Ms. Florey’s concept, I like to show students how there is a rhythm to writing. A well written paragraph should have a beat, almost like music. For example, there is a page in the book Hatchet that, each year we read it, the students seem to trip over many of the words. I couldn’t figure out why until I realized how choppy the sentences were; they had no rhythm. 
     

  2. Diagramming helps focus our thoughts on the “clarity of meaning”. Florey points out how “muddy thinking” leads to “muddy writing” which leads to confusion for the reader. By breaking down sentences, students can see connections between words, phrases, and clauses. Poor sentences can often lead to confusion, which may be bad in a story or essay, but can have more serious consequences for lawyers and doctors. A misplaced modifier or vague clause can cost money and lives. 
     

  3. Diagramming is great for visual and special learners. Florey describes artistic type people who often struggle to understand ideas until sentences are put in pictorial form. They find that diagramming sentences is much like reading a graph. It is a way to find the useful information quickly.

 

I will add one more benefit to diagramming. Even in 6th grade, many students don’t seem to recognize when they are writing run-on or fragment sentences. I will often put samples of student writing under the document camera and ask students to analyze the sentences. After I’ve taught basic diagramming, we can look for the subject, verb, direct objects, and modifiers. Often, with run-on sentences, we will discover a lot of “left-overs” after we diagram the sentence. For fragment sentences, there will be missing spaces where subjects should be. This is a great way to visually show students the errors in their sentences.

Sorry, No Answer Key

Other than the test at the end, there is no answer key. Most of the lessons in this book follow a very basic pattern. The lessons are pretty straightforward and show clear  examples. Looking at the samples for each lesson should be enough for the students and teacher to see the correct answers.

 

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