Thinking about simple things

Simplified parse tree PN = proper noun N = nou...

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I wanted to teach my class of 7th graders the very simple and basic difference between a common and proper noun. They should already know this, so I considered the lesson largely to be review.

I drew a line down the middle of the board and asked the students to name nouns while I directed my assistants on what side of the line to write the nouns given by the class. Common nouns went on one side and proper nouns on the other–but I did not tell the class this. Then we began comparing.

It did not take long for the students to say the names “common” and “proper.” The two primary things that I heard were that proper nouns have a capital letter, and are more important than common nouns. Really?

I asked if the “Gators” (a sports team I suspect) are more important than “water.”

“Well, . . . uh, no . . . I don’t know . . . Oh no, Mr. Holler is playing his tricky mind games again.” (Why do my students think I am playing a tricky mind game when I ask them to think?)

I discovered several things during this class.

1. Students can enjoy thinking about grammar. Though, I already suspected this.

2. My students concluded that proper nouns are a unique thing within a larger class of common things. They used the example of the wo