Jasper Roberts - Blog

Using the Grammar Invitations in 8th Grade

I have talked a few times this year about how using Jeff Anderson's book, Mechanically Inclined, has literally transformed my grammar instruction. My seventh graders are seeing incredible changes in their writing, and teaching each concept independently has been a blessing, because I can truly differentiate and personalize instruction for my students who may be struggling.

After reading all of the grammatically correct papers from my seventh graders I was appalled, and a little surprised, to read my eighth graders narratives and realize that they had no idea how to use commas. There were either too many, so, that, their, stories read, like this. Or there were absolutely no commas and the action of the story would just continue from the first page to the last with absolutely no break and I would find myself out of the breath by the time I was done reading. Here's the kicker: I taught them last year!! We went over grammar, I remember spending a very long time covering everything from prepositional phrases to gerunds. I was convinced they had it. I was wrong. Where had I gone wrong? We took notes, we wrote sentences together, we identified phrases and clauses on the board, we corrected and fixed sentences that were wrong, and they took tests and quizzes.

So what's to stop my seventh graders next year from going through this grammar lobotomy? Well, the fact that my students still identify AAAWWUBBIS words and FANBOYS when we are reading, without me prompting them is a sign. We learned that first quarter, and just last week a student said, "But is a FANBOY, that's why there is a comma in that sentence!" Ahh, it warms my heart. :)

A colleague of mine who is also doing the grammar invitations with me has noticed the same thing with her eighth graders, so we decided to incorporate the comma lessons into our non-fiction unit this quarter. I was a little nervous that it wouldn't go as well as it did, but it is one of those strategies that just works.

I had to make a few changes, since my eighth graders only have one class of Language Arts instead of two, so I incorporated the selection they are reading with the model sentence we use for the grammar invitation. You can check out my grammar anchor charts here and here. I've been using them for three years with great results!

This week, I introduced AAAWWUBBIS words using a quote from an article about advertising in video games.

Here's how it went:

DAY 1:

  • Me: This week we are going to be learning about AAAWWUBBIS words (you have to say it weird, up talking on the 'WWU'), you will be reading a non-fiction article, and writing a short response.
  • Students respond with: "AAAWWUBBIS!" in a variety of voices and pitches
  • One student suggests we say Triple A, Double W, U, Double B I S, because it's easier. We time how long it takes to say. I win. :)
  • We discuss complex sentences, and how they can have an opener, an interrupter, or a closer.
  • I put up the model sentence on the board and ask them what they notice. We spend 5-10 minutes noticing every little thing in the sentence.
  • We pick apart why there is a comma, and identify the subject and verb in each half of the sentence. Someone inevitable asks what a verb is. Someone else asks what a noun is. I pretend to not be horrified, but I die a little inside. 
DAY 2:
  • We spent the next day with them finding examples of the AAAWWUBBIS words in their

    books. They did this in groups of 4-6. I had my seventh graders do it independently, and it took a week, so this worked out much better. I even let them send out a "scout" from their groups to steal one from another table. At the end of the period, students wrote sentences on their own for the words they hadn't found. Then they identified the AAAWWUBBIS word, the nouns, and the verbs for each sentence.

DAY 3:
  • Students were given their writing prompt, and read the article I had assigned. They highlighted the reasoning they found in the article, and then their writing prompt asked them to create a claim and give three reasons for or against advertisers purchasing ad space within video games. They only had to write one paragraph (8-10) sentences, and I asked them to be aware of using AAAWWUBBIS words in their writing.
  • On Monday, we will do an express-lane edit focusing solely on AAAWWUBBIS words. 

Oh, and it was pretty hilarious that a student had a shirt on with an AAAWWUBBIS word, but no comma. I had to fix it. 

Again, I am so thankful to Jeff Anderson for coming up with this strategy, and I so enjoy teaching grammar now. I'm excited to see what they came up with on Monday!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend! 

I cast our spring musical last week, and performed in a Disney Night of Broadway benefit concert last night, so I am a wee bit tired, but ready for a new week! :)


  1. Thankyou, I've missed your 'how it works in the classroom' posts. Let us know how the express edit lesson goes too.

  2. I also teach 8th grade grammar. What are AAAWWUBBIS words?

  3. Absolutely love your blog! Just started reading. Im an up and coming teacher for middle school. You make me excited to start!

  4. Just purchased your anchor charts and am excited about breathing new life to my grammar instruction. If you're up for it, I'd love to read more posts on how you incorporate this strategy into your class instruction. (Although this post was helpful!!)

  5. Just purchased your anchor charts and am excited about breathing new life to my grammar instruction. If you're up for it, I'd love to read more posts on how you incorporate this strategy into your class instruction. (Although this post was helpful!!)

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Thanks for stopping by! JW