Monday, December 11, 2017

Teach Grammar the Easy Way

Photo of people fishing from a pier with the title Nothing Succeeds Like Success.

I hope by now,  if you are using one of my Simple Steps to Sentence Sense books to teach grammar and usage, you have discovered that students can be successful and make good grades and even enjoy learning. As the English Proverb states: "Nothing succeeds like success."

This post is an update on an older post, and many teachers tell me reading it was very helpful. I hope so. 

What a wonderful feeling it is to give students frequent chances to succeed and feel good about themselves! 

The way to achieve this is really simple. When you grade students’ group and individual papers, break each lesson into several components. (I always let them trade and grade except on tests.) 

For example, when you do Step 3: Finding the Subject, don’t just check for the subjects that students find in each sentence. That would only give students 20 answers at 5 points apiece and make it easy for them to get a low score.
Instead, count the prepositional phrase(s) in each sentence as one point, the verb phrase as one point, and the subject as one point. Voila! Now there are over 60 answers and students can miss several and still get a decent score. 

Of course, these tips work with any assignment you give your students whether or not it comes from one of my books. 

For each step, you can decide which parts of the sentence are the key parts. For example, when working on Step 4: Finding the Complements, the key is deciding if the verb is action or linking before looking for the complement. When grading each paper, be sure to count the verb and whether it is an action or a linking verb along with the complement as key elements in the score. 

Use the answer pages in the back of the book to count the number of elements you plan to score in each lesson and make your directions clear about which parts of the sentence students are to mark when scoring papers. This is another opportunity for the teacher to re-teach and emphasize that sentence analysis must be done in steps, and that the steps must be done in order. Skipping a step is a recipe for confusion and disaster. 

This method could get to be a bit too much of a hassle if the teacher had to do the math each time papers are graded and figure out the correct score for papers that have 63 answers, or 71 answers, etc. It could, but it won’t, if you download my Grading Scale Chart. You can print it on both sides of a sheet of paper, slip it into a plastic folder sleeve and take it with you anywhere. You can even give your students a copy if you so desire. 

I always just called out the answers out loud: minus 18 equals ? (or whatever). Then I asked the whole class to raise their hands as I called out the grades starting with 50 or below. When the student heard his/her grade, he/she was to put his/her hand down. At the end, the students with 99 or 100 still had their hands up and got a round of applause, but no one was embarrassed at having a low score. 

Simple Steps to Sentence Sense is an easy and enjoyable way to teach grammar. You can choose to print the exercises and tests and distribute them to your students, or your students can access them in Google Drive and Go Paperless! You will find the books HERE. You know you are successful when you hear students say, “This is fun.” Grammar? Fun? Well, all right! 

Click here for a series of free instructional videos that explain each step in detail.

Please tell your friends and colleagues about my book. (Hint: Simple Steps to Sentence Sense is also a useful tool for foreign language teachers to use, and it is really successful with special education and ESL students.) 
Thanks for reading,

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Teach it Your Way!

One of the most exciting things about education these days is that teachers have many choices. Just as our students have individual learning styles, so do teachers have unique teaching styles.

Some teachers prefer to use a projection device and others prefer the white board. Some teachers like to make copies and have students write their answers on the worksheets provided to them. Others make master copies and have the students write their answers on notebook paper.

Some teachers use textbooks and others leave the textbooks in the cabinet and create their own lessons and worksheets.

Now, because of the advances of technology, students can watch instructional videos, listen to audio recordings, or read and record their own answers.

And then there is the most innovative idea of all. Go Paperless. Create your own lessons in Google Drive and use in Google Classroom. Your students will work in the cloud and turn in their work to you via email or however you choose. No more paper shuffling. No more standing by the copy machine when preparing your lessons.

And even more exciting than that is the fact that experienced teachers h
ave created Google Drive Interactive Lessons, and you can buy them on Just sign in to TpT and search for the hashtag #TpTDigital, or search for Google Drive Digital Resources.

I have 29 Google Drive resources for sale on, and I am working on more. I am pleased to say that my best seller, Simple Steps to Sentence Sense for High School, is now available both in the original print version and as a Google Drive Digital Resource. Take your pick and teach it your way!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Use the Active Voice

active voice, verbs, Tess's Tips, Writing tip, passive voice

When writing simple sentences, learn to use verbs in the active voice as much as possible.

Although there are occasions when the passive voice is necessary, using it usually slows the sentence down. (Verbs in the passive voice use a form of "to be" as a helping verb (is, am, are, was, were, be, been, or being) in front of the past participle.

Examples: Kim was hit by Kerry. (This sentence is in the passive voice.) Kerry hit Kim. (This sentence is in the active voice.) 

To eliminate the passive voice: 
1) Remove the helping verb (is, am, are, was, were, be, been, or being.) 
2) Remove the preposition "by," if the sentence has one.
3) Flip/flop the ends of the sentence. (What you are really doing is switching the subject and the direct object.)

Here is an example of how to change a sentence in the passive voice to a sentence in the active voice.

The man was given an award by the service club.

1) Remove the form of "to be" used as a helping verb.The man was given an award by the service club.
2) Remove the preposition "by" (If it appears in the sentence.)The man was given an award by the service club.3) Flip/flop the ends of the sentence

Passive Voice - The man was given an award by the service club.” Active Voice - “The service club gave the man an award.”

Note: Be sure that you do not change the tense of the verb when you change it from passive voice to active voice.Both "was given" and "gave" are in the past tense.

Here's a product your students will enjoy. All About Verbs will help your students understand how to recognize and use verbs effectively. This product has 25 pages of instruction and 13 exercises.

Verbs, active voice, passive voice, verb tense, to be verbs


Charlene Tess, Simple Steps to Sentence Sense, Books by Charlene Tess

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 Ways to Strive for Sentence Conciseness

Sentence Conciseness Will Improve Your Writing

It is quality not quantity that counts in writing. Most good writing is not cluttered with superfluous words.

Here are three ways to improve your writing:

(1) Eliminate extra words and the unnecessary repetition of ideas. 
For example:
Wordy: The dog played with a small, little, round ball, which was made of rubber.
Better: The dog played with a little rubber ball.

(2) Reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words.
For example:
Wordy:  We decided that we would leave the meeting early.
Better: We decided to leave the meeting early.
Wordy: The illegal immigrants who had been captured were deported to Mexico.
Better: The captured illegal immigrants were deported to Mexico.

(3) Avoid trying to sound like Shakespeare. Write naturally. 
For example:
Wordy:  Illumination is required when the sun has sunk into the west and left the premises in darkness.
Better: Turn on the lights at dark.

What about you? Do you sometimes use more words that you really need? I know I do, so when I go back and proofread what I have written, I often find myself tapping the delete key.

Click here for a FREE exercise on reducing wordy sentences.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, February 20, 2017

Help With Confusing Words


This funny GIF is a reminder that it is easy to confuse certain common words.

To avoid upsetting Ross like Rachel did, take a look below:

You're means you are. (This word is a contraction.)
Your means something belongs to you. (This word is a possessive pronoun.)

We're means we are. (This word is a contraction.)
Were is the plural of was. (This word is a verb.)

Who's means who is. (This word is a contraction.)
Whose is the possessive form of who.

They're means they are. (This word is a contraction.)
There refers to a place.
Their is the possessive form of they.

Click here for a free lesson on a different set of confusing words.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Word Choice Creative Writing Tip #5

Get Your Word's Worth and Say Exactly What You Mean

Word Choice Creative Writing Tip #5

The distinction between these two words is minimal, but the word essential is more often used when a stronger meaning is required.

If a doctor tells you that quitting smoking is necessary for your good health, you would probably take notice. 

If that same doctor tells you that quitting smoking is essential to your good health, I would hope you would throw your tobacco products away and take heed.

Having ripe tomatoes is necessary for making flavorful soups, but having ripe tomatoes is essential for making tomato soup.

I hope this post helps you choose the word that will express exactly what you wish to say.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Word Choice Creative Writing Tip #4

Get Your Word's Worth and Say Exactly What You Mean

Word Choice Creative Writing Tip #4

  • Ingenious is from the Latin ingenium meaning inborn talent or natural quality.
  • Ingenuous is from the Latin ingenuus meaning simple, honest, childlike, or trusting.
One way to remember the distinction between these two words is to note that the word ingenious sounds like the word genius while the word ingenuous sounds like the word genuine.

The inventor created an ingenious device to cut raw onions.
The party room was filled with laughing, ingenuous children.

I hope this post helps you choose the word that will express exactly what you wish to say.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, February 6, 2017

Valentine's Day TpT Gift Card Contest

If you would like to enter a contest for a Valentine’s Day gift from Charlene Tess at Simple Steps to Sentence Sense and a $10 gift certificate you can use for anything in the TeachersPayTeachers store, follow these simple rules:

(Hurry! The contest ends at midnight on February 8th.)

Click here to enter your email address to receive my free newsletter and a free product.

Optional, for extra chances to win:

Click here to LIKE my page on Facebook and share the Valentine’s Day sale image you find there.
Follow me on Twitter at @CharleneTess1
Click here to follow me on Pinterest. 

Click here to follow me on Instagram.
I will have a drawing on the morning of February 10th and the winner will be announced on my Facebook Page. I will also email the winner.

Good Luck!