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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

An Interactive-Online Class

Instructor: Holly Van Houten


Ages: 10+

This class is a favorite with students because they get to learn grammar through fun, interactive games with peers. It’s a favorite with parents because it is designed to teach the grammar students use when writing academic papers. The focus is on understanding the structure of sentences, which not only helps students avoid errors but helps make their writing livelier and more complex.


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 and sentence structure 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. During the fall quarter, we will begin with a review of the various parts of speech, with an emphasis on how they function in a sentence. We will begin by stripping sentences to their basics, so that students learn to correctly identify subjects and verbs. From there we will explore, in detail, the different types of nouns, verbs, direct objects, prepositions, infinitives, adjectives, adverbs, types of phrases (adjectival, adverbial, and verb phrases), types of clauses, 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. In the Winter quarter, we will focus on sentence structure and how phrases and clauses add complexity to ideas. We will begin by reviewing the role of subjects and the verbs that modify them before learning about the various types of sentences – simple, compound, complex, and compound/complex. As we review these, we will also look at dependent clauses (adjective clauses, adverb clauses, and noun clauses. During the Spring Quarter, we will cover a large variety of issues, including parallel structure in sentences, subject/verb agreement, the active and passive voices, dangling and misplaced modifiers, fragments and run-ons, commas,

pronoun antecedents, pronoun agreement, and subject/object pronouns, apostrophes, dashes, ellipses, and hyphens. We will also focus on confusing homophones (to/too/two, there/their/they’re, your/you’re, and its/it’s) and confusing words (affect/effect, than/then, allusion/illusion, cite/sight/site, and others). By the time students have completed the year, they will have covered a wide variety of topics and learned how to edit for a variety of grammar, punctuation, and usage issues.


Reading and working with examples of grammar and punctuation in context will be a vital part of this class. 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 “Parts of Speech Bingo,” “Zoomie Mad Libs,” “Preposition Gotchas,” “Standup Verbs,” The “Clause/Phrase Race,” “Picture Descriptors,” Grammar “Jeopardy,” “Dependent Clause Detectives,” “Fragment Fixers,” “Sentence Stumpers,” “Voice-Switching,” “The Great Who[m]dunnit,” “Homophone Hunters,” and many more, along with fun songs that work as mnemonic devices. Throughout the year, students will do collaborative editing in Zoom breakout rooms and participate in many other hands-on activities and fun quizzes to help them learn.


This 50-minute 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 sharing Review Slides and other assignments. This is also where parents can access weekly descriptions of our activities in each class and all homework assigned.


Holly Van Houten

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