Sunday, March 15, 2020

How to Choose Between Affect and Effect

One of the most often asked grammar questions is when to use affect and when to use effect.

Affect is used as a verb, and effect is most often used as a noun. Since only nouns can be modified by the articles a, an and the, I can show you a simple trick to help you choose the correct word.

If you are not sure how to choose between affect or effect, see if one of the articles a, an, or the will work in front of it. If so, effect is probably the correct choice. If you try to place an article in front of a verb, it will not be correct.

·      Your behavior had a negative effect on me.
·      Polio affected his legs.

It may help you to know: 
  • Effect usually means the result, consequence, or outcome.
  • Affect usually means to influence, to impact, or to sway.
Now you try it:
1.     She wore a tiara on her head and the (affect, effect) was ridiculous.
2.     Watching a feel-good movie did not (affect, effect) his bad mood.
3.     Your behavior is having an (affect, effect) on everyone in the class.

1.     effect  The article the appears before the noun effect.
2.     affect  The articles a, an, and the would not make sense before the verb affect.
3.     effect  The article an appears before the noun effect.

It is possible, although not as common, for the word effect also to be used as a verb. It is most often used in formal situations. If so, it will mean to bring forth or give rise to. If you are not sure if the word in question is a verb, try substituting one of these synonyms: created, caused, produced, bring on, or generate.

Example: The new law effected a change in the way criminals are prosecuted.
Note that you could substitute a synonym such as created, caused, produced, brought on, or generated.

Most of the time, your choice will be between the noun effect and the verb affected.

With practice, it should become easier for you to choose the correct word.

Click here for a practice lesson that includes a self-grading Boom Card Deck to practice using affect and effect. You can try it out here.

Thanks for reading,

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Say What You Mean and Avoid Redundancies

Good writers simply say what they mean and avoid excess verbiage.

Don’t say: “In my opinion, I think you are wrong.” Instead, just say: “I think you are wrong.” (Obviously, this is your opinion.)

Don't say: "At this point in time." Instead, just say, "now."

Don't say: "I thought to myself." Instead, just say, "I thought." (Obviously, your thoughts are directed to yourself. They are your thoughts, after all.)

Good writers avoid using redundant expressions.

Redundancy generally occurs when a word or phrase that already has specific meaning is further modified by words or phrases that mean the same thing. 

In your writing, you should always strive to find the most specific words to express your thoughts.

Then, when you find those words, you must also resist the temptation to embellish them. If you do the result often results in redundancy. 

The following examples are quite common. You may hear them most often on the news or read them online or in print. But, just because they are commonly used doesn't make them good writing.

Avoid redundant expressions to make your writing clear, concise, and clutter-free. Consider the following examples. The words in parentheses are not necessary.

blue (in color)
small/large (in size)
(first) discovered/introduced/began
combine/add/mix/link/weave (together)
Easter (Sunday)
a.m. (in the morning)
(free) gift
(added) bonus
drown/starve/strangle (to death)
(Jewish) synagogue
the winter/summer/spring/fall (months)
(fully) comprehensive
visible (to the eye)
(mental) telepathy
(old) relic
reason (why)
consensus (of opinion)
(previous/past) experience/history
(new) baby/invention/discovery
(remaining) vestige
spin (in circles)
thought(to himself)

These are just a few examples. There are many more. Be watchful and eliminate redundancies from your writing whenever possible.

Click here for an exercise you can use with your students to help them master this writing revision technique.

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

New Year’s Resolutions Again?

Yes, it’s that time of year. If I think about a new year as an opportunity to write some exciting and worthwhile pages in the book of my life, then I have a healthy attitude. It is never too late to try and make the year ahead of me even better than the one that came before. (Last year was a hard one, so this one should be better.)

If I choose attainable goals and avoid resolutions like winning the lottery, I will feel a sense of accomplishment each time I cross one off my list.

Here are just a few attainable goals that you might wish to consider:
  • Get more sleep whenever possible.
  • To avoid frantic mornings, prepare for the next day on the night before. 
  • The night before, prepare your lunch or decide where you will eat lunch.
  • Set out your keys, coat, shoes, briefcase or purse and a reminder note about your lunch.
  • Leave your desk at work organized and tidy. Write reminders on Post-it Notes.
  • Write a list of absolutely necessary To Do’s and cross them off as you complete them.
  • If you have way too many essays to grade, don’t take them all home at once. Complete them in increments depending on what you have going on in your private life at the time.
  • Plan, plan, plan. Have a plan, know your plan, work your plan.

Remember that you are human and not a robot. You can only do what you can do.  
Teachers have a really challenging job. Teachers are amazing. Teachers are changing the world one child at a time. 

I hope both your new year and your Valentine's Day are enjoyable.

Thanks for reading. 

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Cherish the Holiday Memories

Holiday Table with Food

When I was a child, we had a large, extended family and everyone came to a big party at my parents' house on Christmas Eve to celebrate. We always gathered around the piano and sang Christmas Carols, ate delicious snacks and desserts, and then bundled up to drive to a neighborhood known for its beautiful decorations. We walked along together viewing the pretty lights. 

On Christmas morning, the children opened their gifts, and after church, we had a huge Christmas dinner that various members of the family had prepared. We even had fun while washing the mountains of dishes left behind. It was a joyous, boisterous, magical time for all of us. 

I think it would be safe to say that family holiday traditions evolve as families grow. After marriage, spouses bring the traditions from each of their families and blend them into new and special ones to share with each other and their children.
Now, our extended family has scattered to many distant locations due to their jobs. We are still very close in matters of the heart, but it is impossible for all of us to get together like we did in the past. Now, our tradition includes using the same recipes that our mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, and cousins used to create scrumptious meals for our own smaller families. 

We refer to the dishes by name: Mema's dressing, Vi's pumpkin torte, Ken's pecan pie, Aunt Kay's green jello salad, and Aunt Mimi's yeast rolls. Even our children know whom to credit for the delicious food on our table. And when our grandchildren are old enough, the recipes will pass to them to recreate and share with their future families.

I think our children and their children will remember holiday celebrations with their senses. What did they see that was magical? What did they hear that made them smile and sing along or made them tear up when the church choir sang Gloria. What will they remember touching like soft blankets or crisp ribbons on packages?

Gifts delight children and adults as well, but many of us will remember the fragrance of yeast rolls baking in the oven or the taste of pecan pie with whipped cream or some other favorite family dessert long after the memory of a present received has faded. 

I think it is important for students to cherish the memories they have of holiday traditions with their families. Click here for a free activity they can do before or after the Holidays.

I hope that your holiday season is beautiful in every way and that your wish upon a star comes true.

Thanks for reading,

Here are some links you might like to click: 

Christmas Sentence Patterns Practice Grades 9-12 

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FREE Christmas Crossword Puzzle Grades 7-12Visit my store: Charlene Tess

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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Meaningful Activities to Do Before Winter Break

On the day or two before a winter holiday begins, students have often completely shut down their studious brains and fully engaged their frolicsome personalities. On such days, giving students free time is about as much fun for the teacher as having a root canal.

Some teachers need activities to keep students engaged during seemingly endless class periods, and others need good activities for students to work on after they finish semester exams or end of semester projects.

I always had a couple of holiday-themed exercises ready that would be fun for the students to do, but would also stimulate their higher order thinking skills. A little planning on my part made the hours leading up to the much-needed winter break a whole lot easier on everyone.

Please click here or on the photo below for two FREE exercises. I hope you and your students enjoy them!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thanks for reading,

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fall Into Figurative Language

"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. "
—Stanley Horowitz

My students enjoyed learning to recognize and write examples of figurative language. Yours will, too.

Although there are many different types of literary devices, the five that follow are used most frequently and are the most common: Simile, Metaphor, Alliteration, Personification, and Hyperbole. 

Alliteration - The repetition of consonants. There should be at least two repetitions in a row.  For example, Sally sells seashells down by the seashore.

Hyperbole - A figure of speech that uses deliberate exaggeration. For example, I’m so hungry I could eat a cow. 

Metaphor - A direct comparison between two things that are different but suggest some similarities. For example, The girl’s eyes were jewels glowing in the darkness.

Personification- A figure of speech that gives human qualities to animals or objects. For example, The daffodils nodded in the rain. 

Simile  - A comparison between unlike things using like, as, or as though. For example, The compliment was as sweet as sugar.  

Learning to recognize these 5 literary devices and to write original examples of them will give your students a richer understanding of literature, and their writing skills will achieve a new level of sophistication.

My 6-page exercise has 20 multiple choice questions and opportunities for students to write the five literary devices. The answers are provided for your convenience. 

I hope you have a colorful autumn filled with vivid images and joyful events.

Thanks for reading,

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Digital Task Cards Are an Exciting New Way to Learn

I love it when I discover a new way for students to learn that will help teachers 
and make their lives easier.

I haven't been this excited about creating new lessons in a long time. For years, I tried to present lessons that students could complete on the computer and have fun while learning. The problem was that there was no way for them to have immediate feedback, and the teacher had to grade what they had done.

Next came task cards, but still, the teacher had to get involved to provide feedback and grades.

And now, there are BOOM cards. Rachel Lynette, a veteran TpT member, and an expert on task cards teamed up with an innovative company to make digital BOOM cards. Now, students can practice concepts they have learned by "playing" BOOM cards. They get immediate feedback, and if they get the answer wrong they can try again. And, even better, they are self-grading. The teacher gets a report on all student activity.

It's amazing. Students ask for them. They LOVE playing BOOM cards.

Try it for yourself:

The exciting thing is that you can create your own BOOM Cards and tailor them to your students' needs. You can use them for practice and for quizzes. You can find out what you need to know here.

BOOM decks are not expensive and they save the teacher so much time. Most of the ones I created come with a mini-lesson. If you would like to see more examples of BOOM cards, click here.

Note: If you have an idea for BOOM cards that you would like for me to create for your students, send me an email at

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Free Video to Teach Prepositional Phrases

Free Video Step 1 Simple Steps to Sentence Sense

What's the big deal about finding prepositional phrases before you start looking for other elements in a sentence like a subject, verb, or complement? Well, let me tell you. Once your students can identify and remove prepositional phrases from a sentence, it will be shorter, and the words that remain will be easier to identify. Then, after they can easily recognize prepositional phrases, they will be better at using them correctly in sentences that they write.

If your students master Step One, they will be amazed at how much easier it is to recognize the parts of a sentence and to write effective sentences of their own.

Here's an example sentence in which I exaggerated the number of prepositional phrases to make my point:

After the party for the seniors in the gym, everyone will go to class for two hours and sign yearbooks.

Now, the magic begins. If you ask your students to find the subject and verb in this sentence, I have no doubt they could do so, but it might take them a while to wade through all the words.

If, however, you gave them a list of prepositions and told them that prepositional phrases begin with one of the words on the list, they could find them easily. You would also explain that at the end of a prepositional phrase there will be a noun or pronoun. An even easier method is to tell them to say the preposition and then ask what? or whom? to find the object of the preposition at the end of the phrase.

Okay, let's try it with the example sentence. Once they find the prepositional phrases, they should cross them out or put [brackets] around them.

No important elements in a sentence including the subject and the verb can be inside a prepositional phrase. So, if we eliminate the phrases, it's easier to find the verb, the subject, and the complement(s).

[After the party] [for the seniors] [in the gym], everyone will go [to class] [for two hours] and sign yearbooks.

Now, it's easy-peasy. The only words that remain are: 
everyone will go and sign yearbooks.

Subject: everyone
Verb: will go, sign (and is a conjunction joining the compound verbs)
Complement: yearbooks

There are other things to learn about prepositional phrases, such as whether they are used as adjective or adverbs, but all that will be revealed as the steps unfold in my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense program. I found my students understood the concept much better if we waited until Step 5 (Adjectives and Adverbs) to make that determination.

The purpose of Step 1 is to find the phrases and eliminate them to shorten the sentences for further analysis. I also included writing connection pages so that students could use prepositional phrases to achieve sentence variety.

I have created a FREE video which you will find on You can view it with your students and help them master this first step in sentence analysis. The video includes a download that has practice exercises.

I know it works, I used it for over three decades and have used it to homeschool my grandson. I hope it helps you and your students, too.

If you are interested in my eBooks that take you through all of the 8 Simple Steps to Sentence Sense and include notes, document projection masters, group and individual exercises, tests, and writing connection pages, you will find them in my store on TpT.  I have an elementary and ESL, a middle school, and a high school edition. CLICK HERE to take a look.

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