Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences. This book itself is delightfully quirky and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Author Kitty Burns Florey says of diagramming: "It was a bit like art, a bit like mathematics. It was a picture of language. I was hooked."

Did you diagram sentences in school? I remember my only brush with the practice. Mr. Taylor. Eighth grade advanced English class. I felt exactly as did Kitty Burns Florey. It is a bit like playing solitaire. There is something calming and zen-like about getting all the cards in just the right places. I haven't played in ages, though. Maybe I should try diagramming sentences to clear my mind.

I had to laugh when the author mentioned that the dying art of diagramming sentences is being kept alive by a few home-schooling parents. My poor boys will be subjected to the art.

The teachers I've talked to who teach diagramming seem to have found a nice balance: the kids are free to express themselves, but they're being taught the skills they need--and diagramming is one aspect of that teaching--to express themselves not only freely but also in correct, intelligible English that's a pleasure rather than a chore to read.

Kitty Burns Florey has written a book that is truly a pleasure to read, even if diagramming sentences isn't your thing.

Now I need to re-read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. Maybe it will help my comma addiction.


Anonymous said...

What an odd book! The cover alone is awesome - but I'm very impartial to Boston Bull Terriers. Anything with a Boston on it has my attention, my favorite dog by far. Never judge a book by it's cover? Not me. I do. All the time.

Anonymous said...

My sister is a 6th grade teacher and just this afternoon we had a conversation about diagraming sentences! She and I both enjoyed this when we were in school and she is going to revive the practice in her class. She thinks it will help the kids get a better understanding (for those visual learners) of the parts of speech and how they relate to one another. I'm going to tell her about this should be right up her alley!

Lesli said...

I really enjoyed reading your post and your blog. I'm sorry to say I was never successful at diagramming. I admire those who can do it and those who take the time to teach this.

carole said...

I am actually scared of this as a teacher because I have such horrific memories of trying to remember what part of the sentence was what and thinking, "who cares anyhow?" :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review. It does sound like a good, and quirky, book!

I too diagrammed sentences in 8th grade and feel thankful for that--it helped me find a sense in language. Your description of your 8th grade experience fits perfectly.

Anonymous said...

I used to LOVE diagramming sentences. My experience was similar to yours, except it was Mr. Renninger in 8th grade...I was always up for the challenge.

What a fun post--you brought back some memories for me, Heidi! Thanks!

I'll have to check out this book.


Anonymous said...

I always enjoyed diagramming sentences. Too bad if it isn't being taught anymore. I think it helps think through what a sentence is saying. Grandma