Holly Van Houten
Students will receive instruction from Holly Van Houten, who has decades of experience preparing young writers with the skills they need to succeed. In addition to teaching Literature and Writing at The HuckleBerry Center for Creative Learning, in Valencia, California since 2009, Holly taught in the USC Freshman Writing Department for 10 years, while completing her Ph.D. coursework in English and American Literature. Holly has also taught in the English departments at Pepperdine University, California State University, Northridge, and California State University, Long Beach. She has helped young scholars become confident writers for over 30 years and has successfully prepared students of all abilities for college-level writing.
Grammar Mastery for Middle School
Series: The Writer’s Path to Critical Thinking
Strong writing skills require critical thinking, creativity, and organization, but to convey ideas clearly, students need to master the mechanics of the sentence. Understanding how grammar works is fundamental for all writers. Recognizing different parts of speech and understanding how they work together are essential skills that help writers communicate effectively. Grammar is not just about avoiding mistakes. A solid foundation in grammar helps students become more effective writers who are able to understand what makes a sentence successful. Strong sentences will capture both the interest and understanding of the reader. Academic writing involves combining sentences into unified paragraphs that successfully convey meaning, so crafting words into coherent sentences is a fundamental part of that equation. This class will review the basics of grammar but will also focus on punctuation, an aspect of grammar that should never be underestimated. Correctly used, it can clarify meaning and help writers avoid unintentional ambiguity. Punctuation also acts as a signposting system for the reader, indicating where to pause, and what to stress. This class is designed to review the basics and demonstrate how grammar and punctuation convey intelligence, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail.
This year-long course will cover grammar concepts using a sequential approach. We will begin by stripping sentences to their basics, so that students learn to correctly identify subjects and verbs. From there we will review different types of nouns, verbs, direct objects, prepositions, infinitives, adjectives, adverbs, types of phrases (adjectival, adverbial, and verb phrases), types of sentences, and many other aspects of grammar usage and punctuation. Understanding and applying these rules of grammar will help students become confident writers who are able to clearly convey their ideas effectively.
Reading and working with examples of grammar and punctuation in context will be a vital part of this class. Worksheets alone get boring very quickly, so students will evaluate longer passages of practical and creative writing, along with excerpts from famous writers to build their skills. Reading is a fantastic way to cement grammar and syntax lessons. Voracious readers often understand grammar intuitively, but they may still have difficulty identifying parts of speech and recognizing why a sentence may be incorrect. This class is designed to “fill in the holes” in students’ understanding of language concepts and help prepare them for the kinds of language evaluation exams they will want to successfully master in the future.
Learning grammar is far easier when students are actively engaged, so this class will incorporate grammar games to help students synthesize and apply the rules they are learning. These collaborative and fun games will include “Comical Chronicles,” (a sentence building, charades-type game), Simple Sentence Smack Down (a game for learning simple, compound, and complex sentences), Tic-Tac-Know (a game for practicing semi-colons and conjunctive adverbs), Grammar Tennis (a game for learning irregular verbs), Grammar Dominoes (for working with prefixes and suffixes), Sentence Collages, and many more. Throughout the year, students will construct restaurant menus (to help them understand how to add descriptive clauses), write silly “mad lib” type stories, create Sentence Collages, and participate in many other hands-on activities to help them learn.
This one-hour class will take place each week through live, interactive, and engaging online sessions, and we will utilize a variety of tools to enhance our classroom discussions and encourage collaboration. The Zoom video platform will allow us to meet like a regular classroom as we learn and practice grammar and punctuation concepts. The class will also utilize Google Classroom for vocabulary and other assignments. This is also where parents can access weekly descriptions of our activities in each class and all homework assigned.