Monday, January 17, 2011

Prepositions and ... dogs

Miss Cleary, my sixth grade teacher, made us memorize prepositions. She arranged a list of them and we sang them to the tune of "Farmer in the Dell".

About, around, amoung, 
above, after, against,
across, between, below, beside,
beneath, through, before.
Behind, to, in, by, up,
on, off, at, under, down,
for, into, without, over, towards,
except, during, until.

Miss Cleary insisted we learn our prepositions so that we could better diagram sentences.
ABOUT half the students in my class did not speak English fluently.
The rest of us were BETWEEN languages, meaning we spoke English influenced BY other languages.

Prepositions have a special place IN a diagrammed sentence. The preposition goes ON a slanted line UNDER the word it is preposing.
And one must never end a sentence WITH a preposition. Finishing a sentence WITH a prepositional phrase is acceptable.

We sang our tune everyday FOR six weeks. Annoying, especially TO a 12 year old.

Now I find myself describing our dogs IN prepositions.

 Sophie loves to wade THOUGH water.

 She also spends hours staring AT bees in the honeysuckle.

Toby toots WITHOUT opening his eyes completely. 

 Toby looks UP when you offer a treat.

 Shado runs WITH abandonment.

He loves to stretch his tummy AGAINST the grass.

Gus enjoys being rubbed UNDER his chin.
He flinches if you reach OVER his head.

 And Gus can run AROUND sharp corners!
And he runs UNTIL his legs tire.

I will never speak a preposition WITHOUT singing 'Farmer in the Dell', WITHOUT thinking of our dogs, WITHOUT knowing how to diagram the phrase IN a sentence. 

I hope you are better prepared now, too!


Kathy said...

Being a proofreader and trying to make sense of people's sentences, I truly believe that if schools had continued to teach sentence diagramming, we wouldn't have a bunch of illiterate lawyers today. (I read deposition transcripts, hence the reference to lawyers!)

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'm starting to feel very self conscious

Sandra said...

i did sing the song, learned a few things i did not know or remember and you know i loved all the dogs. they are beautiful and your photos are to. sorry but i have been known in blog land to end a sentence with a preposition

Banjo52 said...

Great dog pics. Again.

I'm with Kathy about diagramming. I suspect it worked for my generation (1960s high school) as well as anything could have. I hesitate here because I hear a lot of people, including myself, flubbing on a grammatical point right after criticizing American illiteracy. So much of the grammar problem strikes me as a surrender by American native speakers. "It's just too much trouble." Or, "it's the thought that counts" (thoughts which are indecipherable without decent grammar and diction). Or, "The kids get bored" to which your teacher might have offered one solution. It's probably that damned either-or thinking again: We can EITHER study grammar OR read a book. Why not both? Maybe one less book. (One fewer book? LOL).

Prepositions are difficult in early grammar. I've taught a fair number of students from other countries/languages, and it's my impression that they found prepositions as difficult as anything in English grammar. The differences b/t preps can be extremely subtle. Didn't you experience that when you taught Spanish? Or tried to LEARN another language??!!!

Banjo52 said...

P.S. You KNEW I'd go windbag on that topic, didn't you. You should have seen the unedited comment--18 pages!!!

Banjo52 said...

Forgive my space-hogging, but I came across this at
an hour or so after reading your blog on prepositions:

Prepositions and Place: Ann Pancake’s Strange as this Weather Has Been

“In college—my first extended time away from home—I found myself suddenly caught up in the phrase, “in the mountains.” When I’d try to tell people where I was from, I’d finally offer an explanation: back in the mountains. It was the preposition that struck me. I wasn’t from on a mountain. I didn’t exist upon them or around them, behind or in front. I lived in—inside—those mountains. This preposition drives Ann Pancake’s debut novel, Strange as this Weather Has Been (Shoemaker and Hoard, 2007). Immediately a reader is aware of the blurring line between place and identity, as the book opens with a young girl, Lace, simultaneously stricken with guilt and freedom as she runs down the road away from her house . . .”

Saija said...

i'm loving the puppy pics!!! :)

and i am sooo very bad with grammar ... i'll blame it on all the moves during those elementary school years (only grade 3 & 6 in the same class/school) ... and now my oatmeal brain doesn't want to hold the info ... great post tho'!

Rosadimaggio63 said...

Dolcissimo !!!

Brenda's Arizona said...

I had never heard of "Grammar Rock" or "School house rock" until a few years ago. Miss Cleary could have worked for the tune writers!

Banjo, you have schooled me. I am off to diagram your sentences... you are such a teacher! I love it!!