Students start the day with a race to see who can list the most nouns, which I have up on the board as soon as the bell rings. To make sure everyone actually competes, I read the instructions aloud after the bell. Students find the competition exciting (at least once they remember what a noun is), and I see who actually remembers grammar terms. The good news is that all students only need a brief reminder.
A secondary benefit appears quickly--I can tell who was, as directed, working on the Do Now when the bell rang. Those students end with significantly more nouns. Hopefully the competition will inspire more students to pay better attention to their Do Now in the future.
Once time is called, numbers are announced, nouns are read aloud for "check in," and the prize is awarded, I segue into our next activity by explaining that we will be working with a special type of noun.
Ah, the sentence play--this delightful grammar study came from my coworker, Ms. Lee. Given a sample sentence from a published author, students study how the author used language to help make a point. I've adapted the activity somewhat to better accommodate a single grammatical focus.
Students are already familiar with the basic concept of sentence plays because they have all had Ms. Lee in previous years, so I start by explaining my grammar goals for the year. I will teach my students how to use more complex sentence structures to allow them to express the complex thoughts in their minds (and make them sound as intelligent as they should). This is well received--who doesn't want to sound smart?
I move into the notes and annotation of the sentence play, which can be viewed in the resources.
After, we write 2 examples together. I explain it is easiest to add an appositive to an existing subject, and then I ask for a subject for our sentence. Cue the ridiculous--bears, [student name], [student name] as a bear, farts. Yep. At least it's not the devil's toilet (you laugh, but it happened once). We settle on bears. I then ask for a noun to describe bears.
Not nouns. We review the difference between nouns and adjectives and try again. This time, we get "mammals," a workable word. We hem and haw about what to add to mammals--mammals of the mountains? Dangerous mammals of the woods? Eventually, we choose our additional information and complete the sentence. The second sentence comes quickly after, no longer plagued by adjectives.
At last, students are ready to write their own examples. I allow them to choose partners today, as the fun which comes with playing with language make this activity engaging for everyone. They work quickly, trying to best each other for comedy points, and laughter rings out around the room. I'm called from group to group to check work or hear the funny examples. Only a few students still confuse adjectives and nouns, and we work together to correct their examples.
After 10 minutes, we come back together ("Eyes and ears, please.") to share our examples and laugh together, a good closing to the day's lesson.
While this lesson is not aligned to a CCSS for 11-12 students, it does address the needs of my learners. My students need more practice with sentence structure, a fact my department and I are well aware of; our department grammar plan circles around building sentence complexity year after year in acknowledgement of the difficulty students face when acquiring new sentence structures. Without repeated practice, they are unlikely to fully learn these challenging skills.