The Anatomy of a Sentence

Let me begin by saying that I love Facebook. While I am part of a “closed group” for educators, I never post. I read and I “LIKE,” but I never post–until recently.

When I made my first post to the group’s page, I didn’t realize how people really felt about diagramming sentences.


Truthfully, I made that post because I liked the way I looked–that day. Since I was standing in front of the chalkboard, I added the caption: How many of you remember diagramming sentences? As you can see, that post got 1,871 likes and 327 comments (and counting?)

The comments ranged from people who loved it, did it, and teach it to those people who hate it, never did it, and don’t teach it. Personally, I love diagramming! It’s fun! Diagramming is a part of my classroom activities. Every day, we diagram sentences. I know, understand, and believe in the power of the diagram.

Education is always changing. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much. Sometimes the way things were done in the 70s can still be beneficial today. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Diagramming was one of those things.

Kitty Burns Florey asked, “Diagramming sentences: what, after all, is it good for?” “What does diagramming sentences teach us besides how to diagram sentences?”

It’s a bunch of lines–too many lines. Adjectives and adverbs on slanted lines, gerunds on stair steps. But that’s it! Every word in your sentence has a function, a job to do, and the diagram helps students understand that job and its importance to the sentence.

When you teach grammar to middle school students, you need every tool to help them succeed. The diagram is my tool.  The diagram helps me to teach grammar. By diagramming a sentence, my students can identify every word in a sentence–whether it’s a simple sentence, compound, complex, etc. If you are an English teacher and you don’t diagram, try it. You may like it. You may even see improvement in students’ grammar and writing.

Happy diagramming,




I’m a Nerd

The other day I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when a student came up and said this:

Student: Ms. McCraw, I’m a nerd.

Me: (blank stare) Okay, and I take it you’re okay with being a nerd.

Student: Yes ma’am, I’m cool. And you know what else?

Me: (blank stare) No.

Student: My friends are nerds, too.

Me: Do they know?

Student: Yes, ma’am. They know.

Me: (actually laughed out loud)

I can’t make this stuff up, y’all. I can.


Where’s My Demerit?

Meanwhile, in room 30…

Student: (comes up to my desk & whispers) Ms. McCraw, I did the wrong assignment.

Me: (whispering) What assignment did you do?

Student: Well, you know how we were supposed to write 5 sentences about our favorite place to visit then underline and identify the nouns?

Me: Yes, I know.

Students: I didn’t write about my favorite place to visit. I just wrote five random sentences.

Me: Well, did you underline and identify the nouns?

Student: Yes, ma’am.

The students proceed to read their sentences aloud identifying each noun as proper or common, concrete or abstract, and collective or compound.

Me: Very good class, put a 100 on your paper.

Student: (comes up to my desk & whispers) Ms. McCraw, what do I put on my paper?

Me: (whispering) What?

Student: Remember, I did the wrong assignment.

Me: Did you underline and identify the nouns in the sentences you wrote?

Student: Yes, ma’am.

Me: Then put a 100 on your paper.

At the end of the class, the student comes back to my desk.

Student: (whispering) Should I just wait here for my demerit?

Me: (no longer whispering) WHAT?

Student: Remember, I did the wrong assignment.

Me: (blank stare) Here. Take this demerit, fill it out, and bring it back to me signed by your parent.

I’m still waiting on that demerit.

Side note: If Ms. McCraw is passing out 100s, take one and move along.