Category Archives: Grammar

How to #teach proper nouns vs common #EnglishEd #Education



Image shows a generic bathroom icon for a male bside a photograph of a teenage boy named Devin. This image comes from

Please visit for more tips and tricks for English and reading teachers.

I’ve been an English teacher for more than 20 years. Recently I’ve become a school librarian, but I have lots of great tips and tricks to share. Here’s a simple strategy for teaching proper nouns vs. common ones:

It’s a proper noun if it names the person (Rick Riordan), place (Pacific Ocean), thing (Play Dough) or idea (Civil War). In these cases, the noun must be capitalized. In these cases, you can imagine something very specific in your mind–a person with very realistic facial features, a specific location on a map, a label on a can, or a uniform worn by the soldiers in that specific war.

It’s a common noun if it doesn’t name the person (guy), place (ocean), thing (toy) or idea (war). In that case, you can’t imagine any faces, places on a map, company labels, or specific battles with soldiers in uniform.

So the rule is otherwise stated thus: if you can’t picture the individual item, it’s not a proper noun (don’t capitalize it). If all you’re getting in your mind is a vague image, like the bathroom sign for the men’s room (see image above), it’s not proper.

Another way to teach it is to remind the student that a proper noun is a proper NAME. But I like it best when we use the vocabulary they will see on the state standardized test: proper noun.

Can you point to the specific ocean found on a map or globe if I just say “ocean”? If not, it’s common. So being able to find a place on a map is another way to determine that it’s proper. You don’t have to visit the Pacific Ocean to picture it in your mind; it’s just a matter of being able to find the NAME on a map.

For more helpful tips and tricks for teaching parts of speech, please visit that area of the menu above, right here on English


#EnglishEd: How to Teach Apostrophes

Image shows an example of how to teach apostrophes, demonstrating that an apostrophe acts as a divider to show possession. is the URL pictured in the bottom right corner  of this pictograph. If you visit English Emporium, it offers an explanation for how to use the pictograph to make the apostrophe concept make sense to your students.

Please visit for great tips and tricks on how to teach concepts for English and reading.











This pictograph shows how to teach apostrophes in a way that students will understand and retain. Draw the pictograph on your whiteboard or show this pictograph on your projector. Explain that the apostrophe acts as a divider.

Let’s start with the red divider. The red divider shows that only one cow “owns” the spots we’re talking about.

The yellow divider shows that multiple cows “own” the spots.

Now that you’ve shown your students this pictograph, erase part of the “divider” line or project the following image:

Image shows an example of how to teach apostrophes, demonstrating that an apostrophe acts as a divider to show possession. is the URL pictured in the bottom right corner of this pictograph. If you visit English Emporium, it offers an explanation for how to use the pictograph to make the apostrophe concept make sense to your students.

Please visit for great tips and tricks on how to teach concepts for English and reading.

The arrow still points to the owner of the spots.

For more examples and helpful tips on teaching apostrophes, please visit my apostrophes page, right here on English Emporium.

Here’s My Letter-Writing Guide for #EnglishTeacher Types and #Elearning #Grammar

examples of letter formats for kids

Image: My Own Design
Artwork: iClipart

I actually have an entire page on this blog, dedicated to letter-writing tips and pointers. So if you’re an English teacher, and you’re looking for letter-writing guidelines to share with your students, check out this page.

For next week’s post, I’ll suggest some of the fun assignments you can do with your students, in the letter-writing category.

Sample E-mail for Daily Oral Language Assignments


Summer is upon us! Since about 90% of my readers are teachers, I may decide to take a break from English Emporium (or just post once a month during the summer). That way nobody’s in-boxes are overloaded when they return to school in the fall.

But before I go, I have one more handout I want to share with you. This is the Katy Perry e-mail assignment that I talked about in last week’s post.

Here’s how you use it: make photocopies of this e-mail for each of your students, and ask them to correct it using proofreading symbols and editorial comments (arrows, explanations written in the margin, et cetera). Then correct it just as you would any other Daily Oral Language assignment.

Here’s my Katy Perry e-mail Daily Oral Language assignment page:

Sample DOL handouts for e-mail and letter writing practice

Image: iClipart

Please note that the subject heading says “Chicken Soup Tastes Yummy”, which has nothing to do with the content of the e-mail. It will, of course, need to be changed. Another problem that isn’t immediately apparent is the fact that indenting paragraphs is next to impossible in an e-mail, so students will have to fix that too.

Have a fantastic summer, everyone. I’ll be back in the fall if not sooner! 🙂

How to Teach Students to Write an E-mail

email etiquette for kids

Image: iClipart

I teach students how to write an e-mail by using sample e-mails for our Daily Oral Language (or Daily Language Learning) assignments. I pass out a page on which I have a sample e-mail with errors, then I have my students use proofreading symbols to fix the mistakes.

Next week I’ll post a sample e-mail (an imaginary one) that’s from a hotel manager to Katy Perry. Kids love that one! The correct e-mail is found right here, on my e-mail tips page, so if you choose to use the sample e-mail in your classroom, you’ll have the answers.

Anyway, these are the nine tips to writing successful e-mails, as I have them posted on this website:

  1. When creating a subject heading (the RE box), follow the rules of title capitalization for business e-mails, but capitalize using sentence guidelines for personal e-mails. Putting a subject heading in ALL CAP is a red flag; people will think your message is spam (junk mail) and delete it without reading it. Never put your subject heading in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. It looks like you’re screaming!
  2. Make sure the topic listed in the subject heading matches the content of the e-mail.
  3. Never use TAB to indent the paragraphs of an e-mail. In some e-mail programs, this will move your cursor up to the heading options. So leave paragraphs flush against the margin, but skip one line between paragraphs.
  4. E-mail programs usually only allow single spacing. Double spacing is not an option.
  5. E-mails should avoid texting language. Take the time to type out the words.
  6. If you’re replying to an e-mail in which someone asked a question, remind them of the question before providing them with your answer. If you only supply them with an answer to their question, they may have forgotten the question by the time you reply.
  7. If you’re the first person to send an e-mail, it’s important to include a greeting and closing. Once the first e-mail has been sent, however, it’s okay to leave out the greeting and closing in your replies (although this is somewhat informal). It’s also okay to include a greeting and closing (especially if you wish to keep your correspondences more formal).
  8. The greeting of an e-mail is the part where you say, Dear so-and-so. Begin all formal e-mails with a greeting, and capitalize the first word of your greeting. The greeting of an e-mail should be followed by a comma.
  9. At the end of your e-mail, skip one line between the final paragraph and the closing. Capitalize the first word of the closing, and follow the closing statement with a comma. Then drop down one line (in other words, don’t double-space) to type your name. In formal e-mails, include your first and last name.

What is a run-on sentence and how might you correct it?

how do you know you have a run-on sentence ?

Image: iClipart

Today’s post is a quick-fix answer for the question, “What is a run-on sentence and how might you correct it?”

There are lots of complex ways to write sentences, but you really need to avoid run-on sentences so you don’t look foolish.

If you want to be able to write more complex sentences, I recommend you visit my commas page. In my mind, the longer the sentence, the more likely you are to have need of a comma. So become familiar with the many ways commas get used.

But let’s get back to the original question. Here’s my very simple definition of a run-on sentence:

Run-on Sentence = two complete sentences connected by a comma instead of a period (without using a conjunction like and or but).

1. How can you tell it’s a run-on sentence? If you have a run-on, then you have this fundamental sentence structure: subject + predicate + subject + predicate.
2. In most cases, the best thing to do about a run-on is delete the comma and replace it with a period.

  • Correct: Michael Phelps wore a purple swim cap. His goggles were foggy.
  • Incorrect: Michael Phelps wore a purple swim cap, his goggles were foggy.

3. It’s also okay to have this sentence structure: subject + predicate + conjunction + subject + predicate. However, you must put a comma before the conjunction in that case.

  • Example: Michael Phelps wore a purple swim cap, and his goggles were foggy.
  • Another example: Michael Phelps waited on the diving board, and his muscles twitched in anticipation of a quick dive.

If you need more help understanding subjects and predicates, I suggest you visit my “Sentence Structure” pages.

Is it “He and I” or “Me and him”?

She and I or me and her ?

Image: iClipart

This is a question about double subjects. When you have two subjects at the start of the sentence, do you say “He and I did this or that” or do you say “Me and him did this or that”?

The right pronoun makes sense if you use it alone. Sometimes you have to change the verb to match a singular subject though.

Here’s what I mean:

In the sentence, “He and Jonathan are going to a movie,” does it make more sense to say, “Him is going to a movie?” or  “He is going to a movie”?

Since Him obviously sounds weird without Jonathan, that means He is the correct pronoun for the sentence.

It’s as simple as that.

Let’s change Jonathan to I/me and see how the pronouns work alone in the sentence too, just for kicks.

Is it I went to a movie or Me went to a movie?

Yeah. Obviously Me doesn’t sound right there.

So if the original sentence said He and I went to a movie, you’ve got the right pronouns going on. It would never be He and me went to a movie because me doesn’t work alone in that sentence.