Adverb Problems

May 7, 2008 at 7:09 am 3 comments

As promised, my favorite headdesk situation from the past few days of observation:

I am observing an eighth grade language arts class, and they are working on adverbs. I am looking over the worksheet. It’s simple enough; on the first page, identify the adverb and what purpose it serves. The instructions, which I relate exactly as-is below, confound the issue somewhat:

Direction: Circle the adverb in each sentence and does the adverb tell how, when, or where.

The second and third pages ask the students to circle the adverb and underline the word being modified. Again, not a difficult task.

The first problem I notice, before the class even begins working on the handout, is the teacher’s definition of adverb. Without doing any examples on the board, she announces that an adverb is “a word that modifies a verb, and I don’t know how people confuse that, because come on, verb is in the middle of adverb.” That was the extent of the instruction. For non-grammar people, that’s slightly less than half of the working definition of an adverb; adverbs are also used to modify adjectives or other adverbs, and serve the purpose of answering how, when, where, and to what extent.

The students were left to complete the thirty questions on their own while the teacher went around and assisted. I thought I heard some questionable information coming from her, but couldn’t be sure. Then, near the end of the class, the teacher began to correct the worksheet as a class. About halfway through the second page, I realized that something was amiss and began taking notes on her answers. I’ve included a few examples below; the adverb is in boldface, and the modified word is underlined.

1. Marcella, deposit the money safely in the most powerful vault.

2. The recently found journal said Wallace was so lost that he just wandered aimlessly in circles.

3. Running quickly for the endzone, the widely recruited fullback tripped.

4. Lynne pushed the most talented students so they would finish the assignment quickly.

5. The author was quite annoyed when she determined that the publisher was very dishonest.

It was question #5 that broke the class. First, the teacher tried to say that annoyed was a verb; at least a few students disagreed and found it to be an adjective. When she brushed this off, a student asked about “very dishonest” – if “quite annoyed” was a modifier/modified pair, wasn’t “very dishonest” the same?

The teacher stammered a bit, then pulled out this reply: No, “annoyed” is the main verb of the sentence, and only the main verb can have an adverb.

I’ll give that a moment to sink in. In the meantime, let me go back and correctly mark those five questions:

1. Marcella, deposit the money safely in the most powerful vault.

2. The recently found journal said Wallace was so lost that he just wandered aimlessly in circles. (This one is messy; I’m not 100% sure about “just.”)

3. Running quickly for the endzone, the widely recruited fullback tripped.

4. Lynne pushed the most talented students so they would finish the assignment quickly.

5. The author was quite annoyed when she determined that the publisher was very dishonest.

Had I assigned these five questions, received that teacher’s key, and graded one point per identified word, that teacher would have received a 43%.

Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that the students knew better, they understood adverbs, and their teacher shot them down. Her misinformation was delivered in such a way to make the less confident students feel stupid for having spoken up with “wrong” answers, while the more savvy students doubtlessly realized she was clueless and lost a degree of their response for her – and, almost certainly, other teachers. For better or worse, teaching is a profession in which the sins of the junior high teachers are revisited upon the high school teachers….

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Entry filed under: FUN STUFF. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. everydayjae  |  May 7, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    AHH! I want to vomit after reading this. Just one grammar class (I was after all, a CREATIVE writing major) taught me more than that. How can I avoid this, and teachers like this???

    Reply
  • 2. eyeingtenure  |  May 7, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Now I’m confused.

    Reply
  • 3. Mrs. Bees  |  May 8, 2008 at 8:51 am

    IR Eyeingtenure: About…?

    Reply

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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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