Grammar Lessons with Lark

Lark told me, when we were goin’ through Grammy Happy’s old house, that I outta talk with her some bout grammar an’ lessons an’ writin’ an’ stuff.  She likes writin’, tho, so I didn’t figure I was exactly bad at writin’ or nothin’.  But even Cooper said once (or maybe twice) that sometimes I didn’t write too good.  I wrote good stuff, but its…um… presentation wasn’t alla what it could be.

They hadda point.  I figured talkin’ to Lark at least couldn’t hurt.  It’d only help.

But grammar–good grammar–is tough.  It’s got lotsa rules an’ limits an’ don’t-dos an’ stuff.  There’s danglin’ participles an’ subject-verb agreements (whadda ya do if they disagree??  how bad’s that argument gonna be?!) an’ gerunds an’ verbs an’ nouns an’ comma splices an’ stuff.  Loads an’ loads of stuff.

I’m gonna give it a shot, but I ain’t makin’ no promises.

Lark spends loads of time at her writin’ desk over inna big house, with stuff like a typewriter an’ a computer an’ sometimes a notebook.  I went lookin’ for her there.


There she was, tappin’ onna typewriter keys.  Actually, she was sorta starin’ off at the wall.  I hadda clear my throat an’ cough a li’l bit to get her attention.  Hitty Lily an’ Lily Too were there, sittin’ quiet in their chairs.  They said that she does that a lot–sorta starin’ off at nothin’ or a cobweb or a crack inna wall.

But she was right happy to see me.

“Are you here for lessons?” she asked.

Maybe…  is it gonna be hard?


She said no, grammar wasn’t hard.  She told me to think of it sorta like practicin’ with a sword to get better at fightin’ monsters.  It feels kinda funny an’ clunky at first, but when you keep at it, things get easier an’ easier.  Sword doesn’t feel so heavy an’ your muscles aren’t quite so sore.

I said I’d try, but–swords an’ pens?  Really?

Lark started off sayin’ she really liked my blog.  Said it had good images an’ action an’ voice an’ stuff.  But she thought I outta work on stuff like not usin’ double negatives an’ rememberin’ to add my “G”s onna end of gerunds (wait…whatsa gerund??) an’ not forgettin’ to add the “d” on “and,” cuz ‘an’ is a participle, not a conjunction.

I just started blinkin’ fast.  This wasn’t nothin’ like sword fightin’ or even like sword practice.

I was about to bolt when she hopped up outta her chair an’ pushed me down instead.  Then I was trapped, an’ there was nowhere to run.  My heart was thuddin’ in my chest like there was a monster creepin’ up behind me.


She said this was my new trainin’ ground, then she leaned over an’ typed a address inna computer.  A page popped up alla bout grammar an’ writin’.  She said we’d look at partsa speech first, like nouns an’ verbs an’ stuff.  We weren’t gonna do tons each day, cuz nobody learns good if they try’n cram too much in they head atta time (an’ she said teachers weren’t good if they tried teachin’ too much at once, neither).

Nouns are persons, places, things, or ideas.

Verbs do actions.

Adjectives describe nouns.

(she said that wasn’t alla parts, but we were only gonna do those three today)

She talked bout ’em, gave me examples, had me read some bits an’ paragraphs bout each kinda thing.  Then I gotta take a test bout ’em!  I don’t like tests too much, but this wasn’t too bad.  It helped that, when I got stumped, I’d look up at Lark an’ we’d talk some more bout what was what.  An’ it was nice.  She didn’t make me feel dumb or nothin’, even when I didn’t know the answer.


I think verbs are my favorite.  They make things happen.  They got spunk, an’ courage, an’ heart.  Lark says they’re important cuz they make writing active an’ give it energy.  Without good verbs, you got a limp mess.  What’d she call it? Passive.  Kinda like a mouse inna corner.  I like mice all right, but I don’t wanna be a corner mouse.  I wanna be a field mouse instead, or a house  mouse stealin’ crumbs.

But you can’t write with just verbs.  You gotta have nouns to make the verbs matter.  They’re the things makin’ the verbs act, or bein’ acted upon (cool word, right? “upon”).  Lark says lotsa sentences start with a noun doin’ an action.  Noun-Verb.  You don’t gotta sentence without them both. Fly jump climb eat run go miss doesn’t make sense.  Somethin’s gotta be doin’ alla that actin’.  An’ that’s where nouns come in!

That makes sense.  Most people put ’em together without thinkin’, like apples an’ cheese or rice an’ beans.  But it’s good to know what you’re doin’ an why, instead of just doin’ it.  (Lark started talkin’ bout how the nouns an’ the verbs gotta agree with each other too, but she did’t say much bout that right now, cuz she could see it was gonna give me a headache)

Adjectives are, like, words that describe nouns.  They make the picture all pretty an’ specific an’ stuff.  I hadda look round the room an’ write down adjectives.  White walls. Old typewriter. Green eyes. Wooden Hitty. Rumpled rug.  Soft voice.  (There’s adjectives for alla senses, like smellin’ an’ tastin’ an’ hearin’, not just seein’.)

Then Lark told me I was doin’ good, an’ maybe next time we’d try writin’ a poem or somethin’.  A poem!  I ain’t never written a poem.  She says it’ll be fun.  I guess we’ll see.  I still think fightin’ a monster’s way easier.  But this is pretty cool, too.  I’m glad Lark’s helpin’ me some.



[Cooper’s Eyes]: Mini IQ Test


I am borrowing Kestrel’s account again.  I have found this interesting little IQ test of three questions called a “Cognitive Reflection Test” (CRT).  It was created to test a person’s analytical problem solving and ability to resist their impulsive responses.   One source indicated that, during the initial creation of the CRT, only 17% of students studying at the top universities in the world (like Harvard and Yale) were able to answer all three questions correctly.  I will include the answers below for those who are curious.  Try not to peek!


1. The Bat and Ball Problem

A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

2. The Widget-Making Machine Problem

If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

3. The Size-Double Lily Pad Patch Problem

There is a patch of lily pads in a lake. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half the lake?













The Answers

1. The ball costs 5 cents. You probably guessed 10 cents, didn’t you? No judgment. A ball that costs 5 cents plus a bat that costs $1.05 will set you back $1.10. And $1.05 is exactly $1 more expensive than 5 cents. A Princeton studyfound that people who answered 10 cents were significantly less patient than those who got it correct.

2. It would take 100 machines 5 minutes to make 100 widgets. Your gut might tell you the answer is 100 minutes. From the question, we know that it takes 5 minutes for 1 machine to make 1 widget. Thus, it would take 5 minutes for 100 machines to make 100 widgets. (Check out a similar, if not more difficult problem, here.)

3. The lily pads would cover half the lake in 47 days. You might have guessed 24 days. It seems intuitive to halve the number of days because you’re halving the size of the lilypad patch. But if the area of the lake covered in lilypads doubles every day, it would only take one day for it to go from being half covered to fully covered. Take one day away from 48 days and you’re left with 47. (We have a similar problem here, too.)