Conventions 101: A Functional Approach to Teaching (And Assessing!) Grammar and Punctuation
Chauna Ramsey, Columbia Gorge Community College
Pub Date: 2016
Publisher: Open Oregon Educational Resources
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Let me begin by saying that this book is an excellent resource for high school teachers (especially those teaching ninth or tenth graders). Clearly, read more
Let me begin by saying that this book is an excellent resource for high school teachers (especially those teaching ninth or tenth graders). Clearly, the audience is high school teachers. Since I'm looking for an open-access textbook to use for a college-level writing course, Conventions 101 would not suit my needs. The title, which is set up to mimic a college-course title, is thus a bit misleading since it implies that college students could use this text in an entry-level college course. I would not recommend this text for a college course unless it were for remediation. That said, the rest of this review will imagine an audience of ninth- or tenth-grade teachers—the intended audience, which the description of the book should make clearer. Language Arts teachers who focus on the early years of high school will find this book to be helpful for ensuring that students know the basic rules of Standard Written English. As a college instructor, I expect my students to arrive at college knowing the rules that are explained and tested in this book. Only one assessment included in the text has an answer key. I would suggest that an answer key for each assessment should be included as an appendix. There was no index, but the table of contents worked fine to guide teachers to the parts that they might be searching for. Perhaps I’m too much of a traditionalist, but I missed page numbers. The navigation used “next section,” but sometimes I was confused about whether I had missed something since there was no real indication of continuity other than section numbers. For instance, when Latin and Greek “roots” are quizzed, I was baffled because they had not been introduced up to this point. All in all, the text is a compilation of solid teacher lessons that can be used “right out of the box,” but lacked the cohesiveness of a traditional book.
On the whole, the rules that are explained are quite accurate, helpful, and clearly articulated. There are, however, some points that seem frivolous, awkward, or unexpected. For example, some of the assessment sentences are so silly and awkwardly phrased that they are unrealistic. Sometimes, this is the author’s humor poking through, which I appreciate. Still, I worry that unrealistic and awkward sentences don’t help students learn to be fluent readers and writers since such sentences model the opposite, thus tacitly endorsing awkwardness. Finally, some “rules” seemed arbitrary and frankly unhelpful. You’ll notice that the last sentence in the preceding review section begins with “all in all.” Conventions 101 forbids this. The former sentence uses the second person (you’ll), which is also forbidden by Conventions 101. These “rules” seem arbitrary.
It’s true that in our digital era, the language is in flux. Nowadays, digital communication technologies are speeding up the natural changes that any language undergoes. (Side note: The latter sentence begins with the word “nowadays,” which is another word arbitrarily forbidden by the text’s author). In ten years, for example, the apostrophe section will likely be obsolete. Confusion about the apostrophe is rampant—so much so that I would suggest that we are losing this mark of punctuation entirely. Nobody pauses to insert an apostrophe when texting or tweeting. Often, autocorrect will add an apostrophe, thus ensuring that writers will lose the ability to correctly deploy an apostrophe. What I’m seeing in college students’ writing verifies this point. These days, even very strong writers are confused about the apostrophe. Although the outdated term “overhead” is used near the beginning, most of the book uses the term ELMO, which I would change to DocCam.
The clarity of instruction is a strength. It is simple, straightforward, and helpful for basic skills. It is appropriate for those teaching high schoolers.
The text's content is consistent to the point of repetitiveness. Repetition is important for learning, though, so this is a forgivable matter. However, one section appears to be entirely duplicated, which seems like sloppiness. The most glaring inconsistency is the presence of one answer key. Answer keys for all assessments would be beneficial. I am also a bit confused by the sudden appearance of yellow highlights, and I never quite figured out how bold text was being used. It seemed to fluctuate wildly.
The lessons are divided appropriately into manageable chunks. Topics are reinforced throughout the text.
I would suggest some changes in organization. For example, apostrophes probably ought to come before colons, though I very much like the discussion of the colon. The book mentions the semicolon at least one, but never teaches the concept.
It was a nice touch to include the lessons in both PDF and Word formats. The “base” page of each section was annoyingly repetitive. As noted above, page numbers would be helpful (a few lessons had page numbers marked, but they always started at 1). The navigation was fine, but it took me a while to figure out how best to navigate the book.
Since this is a book about grammar (and spelling and vocabulary, it turns out), accuracy is essential. The text is generally free from misspellings, typos, and grammatical errors. There is a very occasional technical error, which could cause confusion for the astute student. For example, the abbreviation vs (for versus) is deployed without a period. This is obviously nitpicky, but there are a few more serious errors. Sentence 10 in the pre-assessment demands a semicolon, but a semicolon is not an option among the answers. I have never heard the initialism SOBA for learning which conjunctions function as coordinating conjunctions. Instead, I use FANBOYS, which is mentioned in the text, but never explained. Obviously, FANBOYS includes three more coordinating conjunctions (for, nor, and yet), so it’s not clear why SOBA is useful (though so, or, but, and and are the most common coordinating conjunctions).
There was a spot with Spanish translations, which is fine and clues readers in about the intended audience, but nowhere else does this matter come up (and its presence was unexplained). Otherwise, this book seems to assume a very traditional white, middle-class, college-bound student. There was nothing offensive, but it also didn't seem particularly aware of a variety of cultures. My only advice in this section would be to point out that these are the “rules” of Standard American Written English. Real writers often flout these rules, but not knowing these rules can damage a writer’s credibility.
This text is not what I’d call a book in the traditional sense. If you’re looking for a book, this text will not meet your needs. As I’ve tried to emphasize, the intended audience is secondary-school educators who are looking for prefabricated lesson plans on the basics that all ninth and tenth graders should be taught.
This book is very comprehensive and is effectively laid out in a table of Contents. Easy to follow and find specific subjects. read more
This book is very comprehensive and is effectively laid out in a table of Contents. Easy to follow and find specific subjects.
Very accurate--considering the author is an English professor-I found no obvious errors in the units or exercises.
Since grammar and usage rarely changes or goes out of style--this book will have a long shelf life. Any updates would be easy to do, but since this is a rather static area, the book as is can live on forever. It will always be relevant to students and faculty. I will be using the book to improve my own writing.
Written very well and easy to read. Written at a high school level so very easy to understand and follow.
Very consistent format-units that cover a topic with exercises in support. Effective format and style
Very well organized as mentioned above. Easy to navigate and one can skip around to focus on specific areas. All units can be followed in order or specific units can be used as needed.
Very well structured with regard to organization, structure and flow. Easy to follow and read. Will be a great resource for me.
The book is free of any of these problems in all formats I tried.
Very good grammar wise. Since it was written by an English teacher I expect nothing less!
This book applies to everyone and certainly can assist non-native speakers in improving English speaking and writing. Can be valuable to all races, genders and backgrounds. I find the writing to be culturally sensitive.
Excellent resource and I look forward to using in the future.
The title of the book leads the reader to expect more variety in the conventions covered. There are no units about adjective/adverb confusion, tense read more
The title of the book leads the reader to expect more variety in the conventions covered. There are no units about adjective/adverb confusion, tense shift, double negatives, or lack of parallelism; however, many of the common errors in student writing are addressed such as comma usage, pronoun case, sentence issues, wrong verb forms and subject-verb agreement. The majority of the 'conventions' addressed are pairs of similarly spelled words whose meanings are commonly conflated. There are probably an endless supply of such spelling errors which vary according to the population, so I'm guessing that the author's choices reflect those she has encountered most in her own teaching.
The title of the book says that it is a 'functional' approach, but some of the teaching reflects more of a prescriptivist, traditional approach than one informed by corpus linguistics. For example, there are claims that it is an 'error" 'to say or write “that” when referring to people instead of saying “who.”' Corpus linguistics proves scientifically that the publishing world finds "that" highly acceptable in formal publications. Also, she uses the notional definition of ‘sentence’, "a complete thought", whereas a more common functional definition of a sentence would be "A meaningful combination of words that starts with capitalization and ends with a full stop." The notional definition becomes confusing when trying to teach about how to use commas and coordinating conjunctions to join clauses, because the term ‘sentence’ is substituted for the correct term, ‘clause’.
The topics addressed in the book are timeless; however, a true functional approach would give more attention to how language does change over time and be a little less rigid about some of the forms that the 'real' world of publishing finds perfectly acceptable even though schools continue to call them wrong.
The book should not be used as a handbook for students, as much of the teaching points are in a sort of 'shorthand' that needs to be qualified in order to avoid confusion. A lot of the instruction is on an intuitive level that will need to be brought up to the level of consciousness for a student to grasp it. For example, the teaching about colon usage: “Only use it if the sentence doesn’t make sense without it.” How do student writers discern that their writing 'makes sense'? If the writer is a student who is writing the sentence, the sentence will always make sense to that writer (regardless of correct punctuation), since the ideas originate in that writer's brain. The outcome in learning conventions is to write in a way that makes sense to others, and that is what needs to be taught. Likewise, there is some oversimplification which could be corrected by using grammatical terms. For example, in order to ensure subject-verb agreement for compound subjects where "I" is the second subject, the author suggests writers 'ignore other people in the sentence next to the “I” or the “me,” then listen for the correct word: “Troy and I went to school together.” (Cross out Troy, and it’s obviously “I.”) If you crossed out Troy, you would have “and I went to school together.”' But this only works if the teacher explains which words to listen for--the subject and verb--and contrasts “I went” versus “me went”.
It was striking to me that though the pretext of the book is to address errors of convention in academic writing through a functional perspective, close to 100% of all the practice sentences have no connection to the major academic writing genres. In fact, all of the examples and practice sentences look like they came out of narrative prose. Narrative prose such as fiction and the personal narrative can be considered academic writing, but it is the persuasive and informative texts that are more commonly emphasized in the today's academic world. So it is unfair to students to provide them only with models from narrative prose, which have different conventions than other academic forms. For example, the whole business about using a 'complete sentence' and avoiding fragments should be thrown out the window in narrative texts, because their primary purpose is to convey emotion. Fragments are one of the primary ways a writer can use to accomplish this in a narrative text--for example, through one-work ejaculatory expressions ("Hooray!") or self-talk ("Oh no...not again."). To tell students that using fragments in all writing is limiting their knowledge of writing conventions. I would expect a functional approach to point out the differences between difference kinds of writing based on their function. Other than this, this book is very consistent in terms of its way of arranging the lessons and providing a great structure for presenting and practicing the material.
The way the text is divided works very well if the instructor wants to use the book as is and use all the materials provided, such as the pre-assessment and the quizzes, in the order in which they are presented. However, it is not conducive to mixing up the order, because each successive quiz contains questions from the previous units. However, the quizzes and handouts are available as editable Word documents, so they could still be used as a framework for creating one's own questions.
The book is divided into eighteen units that are meant to build on one another in terms of the practice provided and the quizzes. There is a manageable amount of information in each unit. Though the units are designed to build on another, it would also work to mix up the order if an instructor just wanted to use the teaching parts.
I read the online version, so I'm not sure if that is different than other versions' interfaces. It was easy to navigate, the links to the supplemental materials were obvious and well-labeled, and there wasn't unnecessary language littering the landscape to wade through. On the other hand, when I clicked on the Table of Contents button, I was hoping to be able to jump back and forth between chapters, but I wasn't able to do so. I could only get to the beginning again by clicking on the back button page by page.
Mostly excellent grammar usage. There are a couple of minor grammatical errors in the teaching examples: no hyphens in compound adjectives such as "grape flavored, licorice flavored, popcorn flavored" and renegade commas that divide subjects from their verbs: "Will you arrive early, or leave late? We’ll go out to eat, then go home."
This book contains nothing to make you splutter in your coffee in brow-furrowing consternation. It will not cause riots in your classroom or incite intercontinental warfare. It will not make grown people cry and sue each other.
I liked this book's simplicity and straightforward organization. I think that left as is, it may be more useful for teaching native speakers of English than for instructing ELLs, but it could be adapted to serve their needs as well. I will likely use it as a basis for teaching the points it contains and just adjust the concepts to suit myself. I also really appreciate the pre-assessment resource and the cheat sheet at the end, which provides an at-a-glance guide that seems like it would be very useful for students to have.
This is a text regarding the application of grammatical conventions. There is one cited reference, but the content does not really seem to need read more
This is a text regarding the application of grammatical conventions. There is one cited reference, but the content does not really seem to need citation. It is pretty much public domain information, not rich on theory. It also does not really need a glossary as terms are defined in text. It does cover the top errors in student use of grammatical convention in a very accessible way. There is enough to progressively cover the material for several different learning styles. It is the multiple assessment opportunities that really tie comprehensions together. Language Arts is so often subjective. This course is largely objective with subjectivity as a spice to enrich learning. Students and instructors alike can keep up with understanding with relatively quick and progressive feedback.
I didn't find any errors. The content was so concise, I would imagine it easy to spot; but I didn't find any. I certainly didn't find anything to be biased.
English conventions do not change quickly. The author is very much in touch with the different student learning styles. These may evolve, and would be easy enough to adapt in the classroom on the fly with what she included. What drew me to this text was the instruction in English conventions written for adults. There is a glaring absence of such textbooks. This finally provides conventions instruction without infantilizing the content. I think, in terms of textbook longevity, this one is timeless.
I have been told that academic writing should not include the voice of the author. I have often disagreed, and find my disagreement particularly true in textbooks designed for remedial audiences, like adult basic education programs. I find that humanizing the content makes it more accessible. I loved hearing the authors voice in the text. I think it echoed the feelings of Language Arts instructors everywhere and clarifies the lessons for the student from within the text. What I loved the most is how I can use this text to work with adults, because it is simple and concise; relatable, but not juvenile.
The framework was a little tough to follow. There were a few times that I had to stop and re-read a section because I thought I missed something. Titling was not always there and with inconsistent font size changes, it made it difficult to follow. There were a few sections where there was work to do, but no instruction as to what to do with it. There was some prefix and suffix practice that was without instruction and some Latin where I didn't know what to do. Everything that was clearly instructed was absolutely clear and easy to understand. (I did assume that the reference to Elmo regarded the little red Muppet.) To be more concise, I found the framework strong, there were just spots where the walls seemed unfinished.
This was wonderful. The individual lessons were absolutely bite sized. It was a big bite; mind you, but it was designed to allow the instructor to pare down lessons into what they need while providing extra for the motivated student. There is not to much, but nothing is lacking.
I never understood why Language arts texts present grammar before punctuation. They all seem to, and perhaps the absence of understanding that is my failing. This text orders the information as I have seen it ordered in other textbooks with similar content. It was easy to follow and didn't seem out of place. I would probably teach it in order, as written; only changing the amount of instruction based on student need.
This is my biggest issue. Because there were so many inconsistencies with font size, boldness, and underline applications; and missing titles and the only occasional application of color, I had to keep checking if the issues were with my lack of technological savvy, or the text as written. In one unit, there was a screen shot of a cell phone screen meant to illustrate the use of the Oxford comma, and I did not understand the reference because of the ellipses that cut off the sentence. The text is meant to include overheads and worksheets, but the were often shifted wo they were not paged correctly, with one title appearing at the bottom of a page and the content on another. I can't fix that in a .pdf, so it becomes difficult to use the textbook.
The author begins her introduction by explaining that the learned Language Arts instructor will find certain errors because the content was directed at introductory learners and those particulars that academicians love so much only render the basic understanding of the course content unattainable. I want to say an emphatic, "Its about damn time!" I find that to many textbooks mistake academic inclusion and overreach for high standards. I appreciate that this author explains why these errors might be allowable. It is vanity to think that the students reading a primer will solve the Grand Theory of Unification with their instruction. I can teach this to beginners and those looking for refresher alike without getting bogged down in trivia.
I am not easily offended. My students tend to be of the same ilk. I didn't find anything to be offensive. There were some references I didn't understand. Unit 13 had a reference to a 'lock in'. I have an idea what one is, but I have never done one. I even asked my adult children; who are relatively recent graduates, about one, and their first thought was a lock down for a bomb threat or an active shooter. I believe that the author's intent refers to a recreational event. I found most content to be relevant and respectfully cross-cultural.
I like this book. I intend to use this book. I will figure out how to work with the technical challenges within to use this book. It is a breath of fresh air for an adult basic educator to find a textbook that teaches English conventions without the content addressing preschoolers or people writing their dissertation. I am excited to use this because is seems more accessible than my entire current bookshelf of Language Arts material. I want to add that I am not a Language Arts instructor. I am a Sociologist teaching multiple subjects. Just reading this for review, I learned things new to me. I was excited at discovering this in the Library, and I am even more excited to try it in the classroom. I showed it to my Honor student daughter, and she said, "where the hell was this in my Freshman year?" I couldn't say it better.
The title is true to the content in that both grammar and punctuation is broken down in a very easy to find and teach way. However, I would say that read more
The title is true to the content in that both grammar and punctuation is broken down in a very easy to find and teach way. However, I would say that not all grammar is reviewed, such as verb tense. The goal of the text doesn't seem to be comprehensive, rather it may be best used as a supplement to a curriculum. The Table of Contents is easy to navigate and I love the option of PDF versus a Word document in each unit.
The content appears to be accurate. There is some advice on the worksheets that I may not fully agree with, but the fact that it is a Word document and that I have the ability to delete or add my own reasoning is extremely convenient.
The Case for the Oxford Comma in Unit 9 is brilliant! (A screenshot of a news alert on a locked phone.) The content is relevant to both native English speakers and non-native English speakers. This book is cleverly put together in a way that both my students and I will enjoy using it.
Very little jargon is used, which is helpful, but I think some students (especially ESL students) who are used to being taught the technical grammar rules might feel like something is missing. As a supplement, or a foundation for a concept, I feel this book is adequate, as long as the teacher scaffolds the information enough to satisfy the students.
The content is very clear and consistent. Each unit includes the same type of information, which is easy to find and use. However, the author's writing style isn't very consistent. A copy editor may go mad reading this because the author will switch back and forth between putting periods at the end of bullets, and using different font sizes and bolding for reasons I can't quite understand.
Each unit has a little introduction for the teacher which explains what is included in the unit (worksheets, practice, quiz) and how to use it. Reading these introductions isn't necessary. The book is written in a way where you can source and use content very quickly.
The organization of the text is pretty easy to follow. It begins with a focus on concepts and then follows up with practice. Each unit is reliably organized in this way.
Reading the text online was the easiest method for me as it includes the unit introductions and links to PDFs and Word documents. When I downloaded the text, I only got the unit introductions and couldn't figure out where to access the materials. This could be user error, but I feel a text like this should account for users like me. Regardless, I like the online version so much I will still give it a 4.
I didn't find any grammatical errors in the text. Her writing voice is distinct (for example, writing "BAD BAD BAD WORTHY OF FAILURE"), so I would change some of the directions and explanations to fit better fit my own style.
I found the text to be culturally sensitive and personable, especially for my ESL students.
This text covers many of the "confusables" that college students in developmental writing class need practice with, including homonyms and words read more
This text covers many of the "confusables" that college students in developmental writing class need practice with, including homonyms and words commonly misused. In addition, sentence boundary issues such as run-ons, fragments, and misuse of commas (comma splices) are covered. The text includes all of the topics I expect to cover in an developmental English course. As the writer shares in the Introduction, the book "zeros in on errors commonly found in students' writing"--which I find practical. I covers the basics, which is consistent with other textbooks for developmental writers. Another benefit is the quizzes in the book are comprehensive, so students have multiple opportunities to assess their learning of foundational topics; the cumulative practice approach will serve them well as they advance.
The book is mostly error-free. I found a few inconsistencies, e.g. Unit 3: Where, Were; Could Have, Could “Of”; Lose, Loose does not contain practice with lose/loose. Also, I wasn't sure how the roots/quizzes fit in with the other material.
The content covered in this book is relevant. I don't know how much I'd focus on spelling and the English roots in the courses I teach, but other than that the material in the book is up-to-date and would require minimum updates, if any. I might alter the content just a bit to fit my learners, but overall I could implement the material right away with minimum changes/updates.
The writing in the book is clear and concise.
One of the book's main strengths is its consistency. The material is very structured; I was able to identify the pattern/rhythm of the course material right away.
The material is divided into manageable sections, and the writer suggests following a three-class-session structure, with the first day being an introduction of concepts, the second day a review, and the cumulative quiz on the third day. This is the writer's consistent recommendation throughout the book.
All topics are presented in a clear fashion. I reviewed the online book, which was well organized.
The text has no interface issues. I was able to navigate the website without confusion. All documents displayed well. I like that the writer offers both Word and .pdf files of course materials.
I did not find grammatical errors in the textbook.
The author presents material in a culturally relevant manner. The students I teach have diverse backgrounds, and I would feel comfortable presenting this book to them.
This book delivers what its title suggests. It is a functional, practical approach to teaching basic grammar and punctuation that I know my students would appreciate. I like the writer's approach, philosophy--and sensitivity to learners. In the Introduction, the writer acknowledges that many of us who teach the conventions probably didn't have to learn them the way our students do. The cumulative approach also reflects the writer's keen awareness of our learners. Because the book "doesn't use phrases unfamiliar to students," I believe students will find the book comfortable and the material approachable and attainable. The students will be free to focus on simply the conventions, the basics, and not get tangled in the terminology of most grammar books. I plan on using this textbook with my ENGL 92 (second in the sequence) class this fall.
The book does not aim for comprehensiveness, nor should it. It is a troubleshooting guide for students who persist in certain errors. These are read more
The book does not aim for comprehensiveness, nor should it. It is a troubleshooting guide for students who persist in certain errors. These are generally well selected and appropriate: common spelling errors in words such as "grammar," "separate," and "privilege"; common usage errors such as "definite v. defiant," "accept v. except," and "everyday v. every day"; and common grammar errors such as "for Tom and me v. for Tom and I" and "that v. who." The coverage of such topics represents the most frequent writing (and speaking) errors that instructors encounter. It benefits students and instructors to have a great many of these problems compactly presented in this volume. Of course, one could add other topics: avoidance of intensifiers like "very" and "really"; usage of "different than" v. "different from"; verbs of being (v. action) and their complements. But one cannot do everything in one book!
The book is mostly accurate, but one could quibble with a few statements. For example, a semi-colon "can take the place of a period." Well, in a certain sense, yes, but not really. What happens when a student puts the semi-colon at the end of a paragraph? Perhaps this prohibition would be discussed in class, but if we must rely on that to happen, then the book loses its "go-to" character as a grammar guide. Another inaccuracy: the author uses "then" as a conjunction in at least two chapters (3 and 14), with commas and no coordinating conjunction. This is incorrect; "then" is an adverb and requires a coordinating conjunction and comma. One could point to a few other inaccuracies in the book: the word "to" in front of the infinitive form of the verb is not accurately called a "preposition"; it is an infinitive marker. For the most part, aside from a few statements, the book is accurate.
The topics are quite pertinent. The errors reflect the common faults of students today. One could always add sections/topics, but changing the facts of the topics won't be necessary. However, I would make one suggestion: The book clearly addresses a high school audience. Many of the writing prompts and even the exercise sentences reference high school students and experiences. If this book is to be marketed as a college textbook, even as a developmental English skills textbook, then the language needs to be altered. References to homecoming dances and plans for going to college "next year" should be revised to cover college students' lives.
The book is well written, accessible, and free of jargon. I understand preferring to avoid heavy grammatical and linguistic terminology; however, this can go too far. In the present volume, the author occasionally uses technical terminology like "infinitive" and "preposition," but she studiously avoids more advanced concepts like "clause" and "modal" and "adverb" even when she uses those forms in both the explanations and in the exercises. "Last night" is an introductory phrase, and so is "Although he was late" is as well. What is the difference between them? Astute students will want to know, and it isn't enough to say that both are introductory. One cannot avoid teaching clauses for long if a student is to learn the rudiments of good grammar and usage. To say that the SOBA words join two SENTENCES (rather than two CLAUSES) seems to invite more questions than it answers. Similarly, the exercises sometimes ask students to use an examined word (such as "choose" in the lesson on "choose" v. "chose") in gerund form but with no explanation (even though in the notes section, "choose" is identified as an infinitive and "chose" as past tense form). So there's an unevenness in the presentation. I would suggest that students will respect technical terminology if it helps them understand usage: "I want to choose my courses" (infinitive) v. "I chose my courses" (past tense) v. "Choosing courses is tough" (gerund). This doesn't mean loading the book down with a lot of dense jargon.
Apropos of my previous comment, the book does suffer somewhat in consistency. The use of grammatical terms is a bit inconsistent. If terms like "infinitive" and "items in a series" can be used effectively, then it will not hurt students to learn the difference between phrases, clauses, and sentences. In fact, it will help them. Similarly, the author states that the word "there" is an answer to the question "how many?" which is an odd way to teach what many might call an expletive construction or "sentence starter." It would be better if the book consistently introduced one or two (or more) technical terms in each chapter.
The pacing and length of each chapter ("convention") is good and appropriate, especially if the book is used as an adjunct to other texts in the course. The book's lessons are cumulative, however, so moving and rearranging units isn't possible. But this is as it should be. The lessons are incremental, and the exercises build on previous material so that the lessons are reinforced.
Organization and flow are good. The lessons build on one another such that the last several chapters on commas, colons, apostrophes, and other punctuation must be covered in the order given. The order is logical and clear.
This question doesn't apply to this book since it is presented as a series of worksheets. However, in some future iteration, it might be nice to see the slides AS slides (say, in PowerPoint form) rather than as blocks on a page. On another point, some of the exercises are duplicated (in chapters 5 and 9, for example).
No problems with the writing. The author's style is conversational and friendly. I suspect students will find this to their liking.
The book is neutral on this front. Its exercises address ordinary concerns of ordinary, reasonably educated people. I would say there's no great effort to represent a plurality of ethnicities or races, nor should there be. One small point, however: In chapter 2, the Spanish equivalents of "you" forms are given. Why? This should be omitted since no other language equivalencies are given in the book, not even any other Spanish forms.
The exercises are plentiful! They reinforce the lessons and give students ample opportunity to practice the forms. The sentence and paragraph exercises alone wouldn't be sufficient, however, and for this reason the author assigns many paragraphs and short essays. Reinforcing the lessons in longer forms like short essays is a great way for students to apply what they've learned.
Note that this review is only of the PDF version of the text, which was discovered to be less complete than the other versions. Chauna Ramsey’s read more
Note that this review is only of the PDF version of the text, which was discovered to be less complete than the other versions. Chauna Ramsey’s PDF-version of the book includes a very clear and comprehensive table of contents showing the progression of writing conventions in her course. Organized into 19 units of conventions, with the last unit consisting of the final exam, the text appropriately covers all areas of the subject matter which are taught in her course. Note that the PDF version does not include the actual exercises or links to the exercises.
In the PDF version of the text, the only error found in the text was the typo “choose” in the first line under the header in Unit 4 which says: “Unit 4 pdf: Whose, Who’s; Fewer, Less; Choose, Choose.” However, once the reader sees the header (“Unit 4: Whose, Who's; Fewer, Less; Choose, Chose”), it is clear that the second “choose” in the first line under the header is a typo and should be “chose.” No other errors were found, and the text was highly accurate and completely unbiased.
The author’s writing conventions in the PDF version consist of classic, relevant content which will remain so over time. The content is very clear and well organized, so readers should be able to quickly and easily make any needed updates and insert additions regarding extra writing conventions they may need to cover in their courses.
The author uses a very clear, concise writing style, which flows nicely throughout the PDF version of the book. The text is enjoyable to read, which makes it easy to forget one is reading. There was no inaccessible jargon or terminology.
Throughout the PDF version of the text, the author uses an extremely consistent framework as well as terminology.
Before proceeding to reading units in a random order or reorganizing units for a class, it is essential to read the introduction in the PDF version as well as Units 1 and 2, which are longer and more detailed. Doing so will give the reader enough background information related to the author’s steps. The reader will soon discover that it is easy to begin any unit as of Unit 3 and implement the steps. The text is extremely readable and consistent in each unit of the PDF version as well as fairly brief and concise, and the units can be easily reorganized and realigned without disruption.
The selection and progression of book topics in the PDF version are very logical and clear, and the steps from unit to unit remain consistent.
There were no interface issues or navigation problems in the book in the PDF version. The book does not include images or charts.
No grammatical errors were found in the PDF version.
No cultural insensitivity or bias was found, and there were no cultural references in the PDF version of the text. It would be interesting to see the exercises, which were not included in the PDF version, to see if culturally inclusive examples need to be added.
The PDF version of the book was written to guide writing teachers through the steps of introducing and assessing students’ writing convention knowledge. As of Unit 2, the steps include assessing the previous and current units as well as giving a pre-assessment of the next unit. The author emphasizes the importance of teaching conventions as there could be a multitude of reasons that students do not already know them. Note that the PDF version does not include the actual exercises, and at the completion of this review, I learned from prior reviewers that other versions had the actual exercises or links to the exercises. Apparently, such differences among formats are uncommon, and there may have been a technical glitch during the exporting of PDF content.
This text is aptly named Conventions 101, since it is an introductory approach to English usage. A more advanced text would include more linguistic read more
This text is aptly named Conventions 101, since it is an introductory approach to English usage. A more advanced text would include more linguistic and etymological explanation, possibly including regional and dialectal variations. As it stands, this book would be an excellent text for lower-level composition courses as a supplementary text. I believe that most courses would need to include a comprehensive composition handbook as well, since this book is focused exclusively on sentence structure without any reference to paragraphs, the organization of essays, logic, or research.
The book is excellent for what it intends to cover. The content is accurate and error-free. It is unbiased, covering Standard American English, yet taking into account the complexities of the language.
In the area of relevance, this text's specificity is a strong point because changes in formatting styles will not affect it. I foresee only minor changes being needed, in comma usage, for instance.
The worksheets in the text are clear and understandable. They give the students ample access to necessary information, written in an outline form ideal for studying. I can imagine students keeping these review sheets ("Cheat Sheets") for other couses.
This text is extremely consistent, with each week laid out in a three-day format, easily altered for other schedules. It also progresses from the simple to the complex in its treatment of English language conventions.
I am using this text not sequentially this term, and students are able to follow easily. Each section is self-contained, and I am able to combine chapters easily to cover the content that I need for my course.
Topics proceed from simple to complex, from word usage to sentence structure.
Students should be advised to use the online version of the text rather than the PDF. Without this advice, students would find the text impossible to navigate.
The text follows its own advice and contains no obvious errors.
The text seems to be free of bias in terms of races, ethnicity, and background. Examples used are consistently inclusive.
This text is geared for the instructor: Notice that the introduction is addressed to the teacher, not the student. To use this text effectively, a teacher would supply links to the students for the individual chapters, but probably not a link to the entire text. This is very definitely a worksheet and review sort of manual. I find it very helpful for what it intends to achieve.
The text offers very good coverage of some of the most frequent convention errors and most common points of grammar confusion in student writing. read more
The text offers very good coverage of some of the most frequent convention errors and most common points of grammar confusion in student writing. Some of the points of focus, such as phrases like "nowadays," which Ramsey identifies as not to be used in academic writing, are ones I have rarely if ever encountered in student writing, but the spirt of the instruction in conventions of writing is that it makes students more informed and aware of their choices. As Ramsey articulates in the introduction to the text, she sees it as a continual work in progress, and instructors would use, sample, and adapt Ramsey's units and materials with that in mind. While the text could certainly serve a self-motivated student directly, it is primarily an instructor resource. With that purpose in mind and as another reviewer noted, the chapter content itself might be expanded with more extensive notes from Ramsey regarding the particular opportunities, challenges, and approaches relative to teaching the particular unit. The engaging style of the text's introduction would be a welcome addition to the chapters themselves. But ultimately, as a text meant to support the aspects of "objective assessment" that English instructors often feel themselves lacking, students can see the flexibility of writing anchored in these foundational conventions.
The text is accurate, with clear explanations and examples within the instructional materials that provide enough information for students to learn the concepts but not so much rationale and jargon to bog them down in their study of conventions.
The text is open to evolving with collaboration of the instructor who chooses to adopt it. Such as the iPhone news notification example Ramsey uses to illustrate the need for the Oxford comma, the instructor could continue to infuse the framework of this text with current and relevant examples from different situations and media.
The book and supplemental materials are written in a clear, uncomplicated style and would be easily understood by instructors and students working together or by students working through the text as their own grammar primer.
Once the instructors (and students, if directly accessing the text on their own) have learned the format of the chapters by accessing the supplemental materials, they will find the same pattern for every chapter. The book is about the materials--to be accurate, they are EVERYTHING, not really "supplemental" at all--and doesn't offer significant chapter content otherwise, so a reader would look elsewhere for more extensive, less practical musings on conventions.
The text could be very easily accessed and used in pieces, with instructors selecting the individual units or even the particular materials, handouts, and worksheets or quizzes that fit their own course design.
The text logically progresses from small, common issues of word choice to punctuation and eventually sentence structure. The order is logical but reflects one particular approach to organizing the instruction of grammar, and instructors might adapt Ramsey's structure to fit their own trajectory of goals. Many instructors would be likely to rearrange the order of the units. However, the cumulative quizzes would need to be revised with any such rearranging.
With multiple formats available, the text is easily accessible with the linked materials. Using the ePub file through the iBooks program offered the most attractive interface for my MacBook. All instructors and students should find an accessible format with a little exploring.
The text, following its own rules, contains no noticeable errors.
The text is not culturally offensive or insensitive. The examples are varied and don't reflect or prioritize one group over another. Within Unit 2, Ramsey offers Spanish words to help students understand the difference between "your" and "you're," and instructors could further adapt her materials to reflect more intentional inclusivity.
This book has a relatively focused scope: common errors that high school and college students make regarding spelling of common words, punctuation, read more
This book has a relatively focused scope: common errors that high school and college students make regarding spelling of common words, punctuation, and grammar. Ramsey's goal does not seem to be comprehensive (there are many, many common mistakes not included in the book - "past/passed," "breath/breathe," etc.), but the lessons that are included seem to target some of the more crucial and widespread mistakes students make. This book would make a great supplement to other texts that provide instruction regarding the writing process.
The book is highly accurate in terms of quiz questions and explanation of rules. A few of the grammar rules seem a little prescriptive and oversimplified (this author tells her students to avoid the word "you" in academic writing because it is "too casual and vague," which is usually true, and very helpful for high school students, but college students might need a little more nuance).
The grammar rules that are included are foundational enough that they will probably be relevant for quite some time. The sample sentences in the worksheets and quizzes are generally not culturally bound, and would hold up well over time. A couple of rules (the difference between "all ready" and "already," and "all right" and "alright") may indeed be undergoing some change, at least in spoken language, but overall the content is extremely relevant, especially in the academic writing setting.
Ramsey does an excellent job using language that students can understand, and avoiding jargon such as grammatical terminology that would only confuse, rather than enlighten, students. However, some explanations seem a little simplistic - the explanation for "there" (as opposed to "their/they're) is that "there" is a response to "Where?" or "How many?" But there are many other uses of the word "there," as in this sentence, which Ramsey doesn't elaborate on.
The layout is fairly consistent - although I noticed in the second unit, Ramsey begins introducing Spanish terms to clarify the meaning of English words - specifically, the difference between "your" and "you're." This makes perfect sense for many education environments, but may cause confusion in others.
The text is clearly divided into short units, and each unit contains a worksheet in PDF and Word format and a quiz, also in PDF and Word. It would be easy to target a unit that covers errors a particular group of students is making. However, the quizzes are cumulative, so you may need to adapt a quiz to fit your needs, if you haven't covered all of the previous units.
Ramsey states in her intro that the units progress from least difficult to most difficult; this seems to be true. In addition, quizzes are cumulative, so each quiz incorporates information from previous units, in addition to info from the current unit.
The interface works well. The text itself is for teachers and instructors, and the PDFs and Word documents are for students (worksheets and quizzes). The materials are designed to be printed and completed by hand - there are questions that ask you to circle things, fill in the blanks, etc. This would be difficult to do with an online class, but works well if the instructor is prepared to print out worksheets and quizzes.
Ramsey is a careful and grammar-conscious writer.
Overall, the material is neutral when it comes to race, ethnicity, and background, although sample sentences and exercises seem a little careless in regards to gender. In the unit on distinguishing between "women/woman," sample sentences often deal with jewelry and shopping, etc. While these sample sentences are intended to be simple, to put the focus on grammar and punctuation, they occasionally feel a tad reductive. In addition, in the pretest, a multiple choice question containing 8 sentences (one of which was correctly punctuated) also includes the sentence: "I didn't take no test's." This could provide a great opportunity to talk with students about dialects, Black English, etc., but in the context of the pretest, it seemed a bit odd and out of place, compared to the other sentences in the multiple choice question.
Overall, the skills covered in Ramsey's book are essential, and I wholeheartedly agree with her introduction, in which she states, "Yes, your students’ previous teachers should have done that [taught them these rules]. Maybe they did; maybe they didn’t, but here we are." We can't ignore that these conventions of spelling and punctuation affect our students' ability to be understood, as well as their credibility. As Ramsey points out, we need to teach these skills one way or another, and her book provides a concise, pre-assembled strategy for doing so.
The text provides material for teachers and students to preassess, teach, practice, and assess the correct use of the conventions of standard Written read more
The text provides material for teachers and students to preassess, teach, practice, and assess the correct use of the conventions of standard Written English in student writing. There is a pre-test which teachers or students could use to gauge exactly what areas need work. Each “unit” which follows includes one or two conventions issues (like “their there they’re” or “you’re your” or “two to too”). There are two versions of the instructional material; each file contains information, examples, practice exercises, and quizzes. At the end is a post-test which could be used simply as a final “gauge” or a more comprehensive “final exam.” While not every conventions issue is addressed, the text includes many of the common ones found in student writing, particularly first-year comp students or those with less experience writing.
Explanations and examples in each unit are generally correct. And since grammar instruction is by necessity rather dry, there is no bias on the part of the author.
When people communicate in writing, there are always issues with conventions. When a reader encounters such issues, it is hard for him to ignore the issues and focus on the message. Indeed, this may bias a reader against the message. So addressing issues with conventions is definitely relevant and will always be so. The instructional material can be easily updated as a teacher requires for student strengths or learning needs.
The prose in the book is quite readable. The content and writing style are appropriate for the target audiences: teachers who want to give students extra instruction in the conventions of standard written English.
The text is very consistent from beginning to end. Information is easy to find, different names are not used for the same concept, and meaning is clear to readers of all levels.
The text is very modular, in that each unit is self-contained. A teacher could cover part or all a unit with a class or could assign it to individual students as needed. A teacher could even provide a link to this text in a resources page and refer students to it for their own use, even after a term is concluded.
The first chapter discusses how teachers could make use of the text. The next chapter is a pre-assessment activity, and the final unit contains a post-assessment. Individual units in between are in no particular order, which does not interfere with the usage of this text, since teachers can pick what is needed and not have to progress through increasingly more difficult material. That is not the purpose of this text, so its organization works well for all users.
The “Online” version (Pressbooks) is the best and easiest to use. Accessed via Web browser, it can be used by any user with an Internet-enabled device. The Table of Contents provides easy access to each unit. Once on a unit’s page, links to the instructional material in Word and PDF format are apparent at the top of each page. These links are also present in the eBook versions, although the interface is less elegant and requires a user to download the document. Once done, it is also readily used. The PDF version, while containing all the content, is very utilitarian in appearance and use. Links to the instructional material are not clearly delineated; a user would not know they were links without mousing over them. This is not intuitive to students at all, who should be directed to the “Online” version.
There are few to no discernible errors in the standard written English of this textbook.
The instructional material and examples are basic in nature and do not provide any offensiveness or insensitivity. Because it is quite customizable by a teacher, culturally relevant examples could be added if she wanted to.
Good resource for teachers of writing on many levels. I will definitely consider using it in my own classroom.
This text does exactly what it says it does in the introduction. It covers many errors in grammar and punctuation that are commonly made by our read more
This text does exactly what it says it does in the introduction. It covers many errors in grammar and punctuation that are commonly made by our students. The index lists the topics and each chapter included a brief description of how to teach the topic with helpful links to handouts, practice exercises, and quizzes. It does not cover every grammar or punctuation topic, nor should it. Instead, it focuses on those that students struggle with the most.
After thoroughly reading the explanations on each grammar and punctuation topic, I did not find any errors. The rules are at times brief, but they are correct. As explained in the introduction, Chauna Ramsey is not included formal rules or using complex grammatical jargon. Instead, the topics are explained in an easy to understand language. Unnecessary rules are not included.
The content is up-to-date, as grammar and punctuation rules rarely change. Every student in a Freshman Composition course and others need this information. They are common errors that I have seen throughout all of my students' writing over many years. If other topics need to be added, they would be easily incorporated. In addition, other materials that may be used in the future (worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, websites, etc.) could be added with ease. I believe this text could be used far into the future by English teachers.
The premise of this text is to not use any jargon or technical terminology. While the author admits that some grammatical terms must be used, like run-on or fragment, other unnecessary terms are not used. These terms and others like them are used consistently in all English courses, so students need to understand them. However, difficult grammatical terms, like dependent clause, are not included. Even without these, the author is able to clearly explain each rule and then have students practice that rule. If there was more detail or expansion in the chapter summaries, this would be helpful. Each introduction to each chapter is almost exactly the same.
Consistent terms are used throughout the book. He adds each previous chapters content to the quiz for the next chapter, so students are required to remember all that they have learned. Many times, after the test, rules are forgotten, but this method reinforces each grammatical or punctuation point. The book is well-organized, and each chapter lays out a similar framework for teaching the material, so it is extremely consistent.
The text would most likely be used by instructors to teach the material, not students. The handouts, worksheets, and assessments would be used by students though. These are found in the links in each chapter. If needed, an instructor could easily pick and choose which topics she would like to teach. Certain chapters may be skipped, if the students already understand the topic. As the author mentions, the practice exercises can also be skipped, if they are not needed.
As mentioned earlier, the organization is very clear. There is an introduction, which is humorous, realistic, and informative. Next, each chapter includes a brief explanation of the topic is taught and the links to the materials used to teach the topic. It is extremely clear, but additional information specific to each topic may be helpful as well.
There are no interface issues in this text. It is easy to navigate, and there are no other features to distract or confuse the reader. I did notice that if you open the text as a pdf, the links do not appear. Viewing it as an online book works the best.
Since this book is about grammar, clearly grammar was looked at closely by the author. While the introduction is fairly informal, there were no significant grammatical errors that hindered the reader's understanding anywhere in the book.
The purpose of this book is to teach grammar and punctuation. Because of this, no cultural material is mentioned. There are not culturally insensitive or offensive materials in this book.
This is material that I have used in my English classes for many years. It is extremely relevant. Some instructors may feel that they should not have to teacher grammatical or punctuation conventions, but it is necessary when our students will be judged on whether of not they know these in their future writing. All these materials put together in one place with exercises and quizzes is very helpful. I will use this book in the future.
Table of Contents
- First Things First: Conventions Pre-Test
- Unit 1: A Lot; There, They're, Their; To, Two, Too
- Unit 2: Your, You're; Its, It's; Woman,Women
- Unit 3: Where, Were; Could Have, Could "Of"; Lose, Loose
- Unit 4: Whose, Who's; Fewer, Less; Choose, Chose
- Unit 5: Accept, Except; Who vs That; Lose, Loose
- Unit 6: All Ready, Already; I vs Me; Affect, Effect
- Unit 7: Everyday, Every Day; Defiant, Definite
- Unit 8: Capitalizing Pronouns; All Right vs "Alright"
- Unit 9: Commas in a Series; Commas After Introductory Phrases
- Unit 10: Commas with "So," "Or," "But," "And"; Commas with Interrupting Elements
- Unit 11: Comma Review
- Unit 12: Fragments and Run-Ons
- Unit 13: Semicolons
- Unit 14: Punctuation and End Quotation Marks; Punctuating Titles
- Unit 15: Colons
- Unit 16: Apostrophe Pre-Assessment
- Unit 17: Apostrophes
- Unit 18: Subject-Verb Agreement
- Unit 19: Final Exam; "Rejected" Notice; Cheat Sheet
About the Book
This is a collection of cumulative units of study for conventional errors common in student writing. It’s flexible, functional, and zeroes in problems typically seen in writing of all types, from the eternal “there/they’re/their” struggle to correct colon use. Units are organized from most simple to most challenging.
About the Contributors
Chauna Ramsey grew up in Dundee, Oregon and now lives in Hood River, where she has taught for over twenty years at Hood River Valley High School.