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I’ve been writing and blogging for a while now. Yet no matter how many times I’ve read the rules for using hyphens between adjectives, I never got the hang of it. Until last Thursday, that is. That was the day I explained hyphens to someone else.
“No matter what you’re studying, when you turn around and teach someone else, and the sooner the better, you deepen your understanding of the subject.” –Deb Peterson, learning and training consultant
Homeschooling moms are often just one step ahead of the kids as we learn new facts and concepts to teach them. Yet don’t you find that when you prepare a lesson and explain it them, the information becomes implanted in your own mind in deeper, more lasting ways?
Just think how much your kids could benefit from similar opportunities to teach someone else what they’ve been learning!
Older Students: Teach Younger Children
When homeschooling multiple ages, it often makes sense to ask your high schooler to tutor a younger sibling in one or two areas. If 16-year-old Greg is a math whiz, why wouldn’t you want him helping 8-year-old Krista? This teaching time can build brother-sister relationships if you as the parent are careful to foster a spirit of mutual kindness and respect.
But what if that math whiz still struggles with writing and grammar concepts (hyphens, for instance)? You can still ask him to teach a grammar concept to his little sister. It will probably benefit him more than it will Krista—but that’s okay! It’s a great way to cement a concept in his mind as he introduces something new to his younger sibling. While you might not assign this “teaching time” every day, you may find huge benefits in scheduling it once or twice a week.
Mom: Krista, as part of your grammar lesson, Greg’s going to explain something new about punctuation. I need you to be a good listener, okay?
Greg: I’m learning how to use this little punctuation line called a hyphen. You use it between two adjectives sometimes. Adjectives are words that describe things.
Krista: I know about adjectives!
Greg: Good. Just making sure. So, sometimes you have a sentence with two adjectives in front of a noun, like this: “I wore a warm winter coat.” Do you think we need a hyphen between “warm” and “winter”?
Krista: I don’t know.
Greg: No, because nothing changes when those adjectives work alone. You can either say “warm coat” or “winter coat.” They’re both right. But, if I changed it to “I wore a button-down shirt,” then you would need a hyphen. That’s because those words can’t work alone to describe my shirt. You wouldn’t say “button shirt” or “down shirt.” That doesn’t even make sense!
Krista: I still don’t get it.
Greg: Okay … the hyphen’s job is to make two words work together as one adjective. Pretend you have a blue striped dress. What are your two adjectives?
Krista: Blue and striped.
Greg: Right! Now, if you want to explain that the stripes—not the dress—are blue, you would use a hyphen and write “blue-striped dress.” The hyphen makes the “blue” and “striped” work together. They become one adjective that describes your dress.
Krista: Hyphens are confusing!
Greg: That’s okay. It just takes practice. How about if we practice with a few more examples? I’ll write down some phrases. I want you to read each phrase, but leave out one of the first two words. If the meaning of the whole phrase changes, we’ll know we need to add a hyphen. Try this one.
Krista: Chocolate covered marshmallow … chocolate marshmallow … wait! The marshmallow isn’t chocolate. It’s white!
Greg: Right! And “covered marshmallow” doesn’t make sense either! That means it needs a hyphen: chocolate-covered marshmallow.
Which of these examples need hyphens?
1. peanut butter cookies 2. three hour flight 3. windy autumn day 4. yellow cotton socks 5. funny looking clown 6. sunny Saturday morning 7. brown haired girl 8. forest green paint
(Answers: 1–yes; 2–yes; 3–no; 4–no; 5–yes; 6–no; 7–yes; 8–yes)
Younger Children: Meet Your Editing Buddy!
WriteShop Primary Book B introduces the idea of using “editing buddies” to encourage young children in the writing and editing process. Choose a small doll, stuffed animal, or action figure that only makes an appearance when it’s time for your first, second, or third-grade child to edit a writing project. Any kid can step into the role of teacher when an editing buddy is there to listen!
Girls are often all too happy to “play school” with their dolls. With a child-sized chalkboard, your daughter will spend hours teaching Saige or Princess Anna how to write reports, poems, or friendly letters. She can also sit side-by-side with her doll as they “work together” to edit a story.
Your boys, however, might resist the idea of playing teacher. You’ll have to think outside the box to make “teaching time” fun! Perhaps your son loves playing army. Ask him to wear camouflage when it’s time for a writing assignment, and surprise him with a G.I. Joe action figure standing at attention on the school table or writing center. Explain that G.I. Joe has been slacking with his writing lately, and the country needs your son to hammer this soldier into shape!
Mom: Can you tell G.I. Joe why I underlined these three words in your writing assignment?
Child (in a tough, military voice): Because those words are BORING!
Mom: What should G.I. Joe do about that?
Child (yelling like a drill commander): Change them to words that aren’t BORING!
Mom: I’ll let you work on that for a few minutes while I’m on KP duty.
Child: Yes, Ma’am!
Have you ever used editing buddies in your writing lessons? Have you asked your kids to learn by teaching? Share your experience in the comments below!
Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella also blogs at www.waterlilywriter.com.