The Man on the White Horse has been spending a lot of time outside my classroom window lately (not in the road like he did here). He pretty much has the sentence fragment part of his job nailed. The kidlets GET that. Actions verbs? Not bad. Nouns? Meh… Adjectives? Dicey. It’s going well though. He’s doing a fair job of teaching the poodle-heads some grammar lessons.
Last week we had to review helping verbs. After years of being told that verbs were actions, helping verbs make for a mighty kick in the grammatical pants. We listed some of the more common (be, have, do, could, might). I promised them that they were really called verbs even though you can’t always “see the Man on the White Horse do them” (the guideline for determining if a verb is a verb). I further explained that each of these verbs needed another verb to help or it wasn’t a sentence. We practiced with the Man on the White Horse. Someone (usually me) would gallop up to a student and say a phrase with only a helping verb, then gallop off. The rule is, if you’re confused after the Man on the White Horse leaves, it probably wasn’t a complete sentence. Phrases like “John might.” and “the chicken does” left the listener confused. *
Then one of the poodle-heads decided the Man on the White Horse needed a sidekick. He created “Mighty Man”–the helping verb side kick (get it “might”y Man?. He would come in with the helping verb, but the Man on the White Horse would have to add the other verb to make it complete.They’d have to HELP each other to make a complete thought. Light bulbs flashed everywhere.Mighty Man and the Man on the White Horse, together, made helping verbs make sense. LOVE it!
At the same time, another student was certain I was mistaken about the need for two verbs. I assigned him the task of proving me wrong. He was to find a sentence that used only a helping verb and no action verb. He found a couple– “I might.” “It could.” We tested them out on the Man on the White Horse. If he galloped up and said those words, would we have all the information needed to understand the sentence? The kiddo decided no. That while they might be used as sentences, they were actually missing something. He figured that the something that was missing would be found in the sentences before or after. I smiled widely at this. So very very proud.
*Note–we have specified that the listener will not confused as to why a man on a white horse is galloping up to them in school, since this is just his job. Any OTHER confusion though, THAT’S the learning tool.