mulder9781781796429-largeDear Reader,

During this challenging time of remote teaching and learning while sheltering at home, I want to introduce professors, teachers, students, and home-schooling parents to the Motivational Quotations and Sentence Surgeries included in Appendix 3 of the English Composition Teacher’s Guidebook by providing a selection of these, along with their grammatical analyses. I hope that you can use these for inspiration, to generate discussions or prompt writing, or to review sentence structure and styles.

At the beginning of the semester in my regular classes, I ask students to be on the lookout for inspiring quotations, quotations about learning or English or writing, and quotations that are robust, chock full of fun conjunctions for us to play with together.  I ask them to add each one to a collection in their writing notebooks, so we can practice sentence surgeries and revisions to begin our classes with some playtime.  In addition, I suggest that they keep track of their favorites because they may encounter a couple that are so motivational that they may want to tape them on their dashboard or computer monitor, or possibly attach them with a magnet to the fridge.  Typically, I project the quotation before students arrive to class, so they can copy and begin discussing it beforehand.  Many attempt their own surgeries, discussing them with classmates as they arrive, too, often anticipating my sequences of questions.

I begin my own online classes by posting a Motivational Quotation and asking students to identify verbs and subjects, conjunctions and clauses, then compare their results to the labeled Sentence Surgery.  As in the examples I have given you, I have students first identify the verbs, which are indicated by double-underline and then decide their type and label them as A (action) or B (being) the verbs. They then locate the subjects of the verbs and single-underline them.  Often I ask them to discuss the verbs and how many there are and to make predictions on that basis about how many and what kinds of clauses (independent and dependent) the quotation contains, and what type of sentence they predict this one is (compound, complex, or compound-complex) based on key markers like coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.  In addition, I like to rearrange clauses, switch conjunctions, and alter grammatical structure, and then I pose questions about how such adjustments affect sentence structure and the meaning of the quotation.  I like to conclude with declarations like, “Wow, that was fun!”  “Life just doesn’t get any better than that!” and “It’s always good to begin with some playtime before we get down to work!”

I encourage you to think about how you can use these motivational quotations – and the larger selection of them which makes up Appendix 3 in my book – in your own online and face-to-face classes.  I hope that you will find these resources both motivational and useful.

Tom Mulder (Author, English Composition Teacher’s Guidebook, Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2020)