Thursday, August 15, 2019

Advanced Sentence Diagramming: Diagramming Noun Clauses

The subject of this sentence is a noun clause.

What's a Noun Clause?

Just like a noun represents a person, place, thing, or idea, a noun clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb that makes a complete thought and represents a person, place, thing, or idea. A noun clause can be used in a sentence anywhere a noun can be used: as a subject, object, or complement.

You can usually tell a noun clause from a modifying clause by taking the clause out of the sentence. If the sentence still makes sense, you've probably removed a modifying clause, a clause that adds extra information to the sentence. If the sentence no longer makes sense, you've probably removed a noun clause, which adds essential information to the sentence.

Here are some examples of noun clauses. Note that when you remove them, the sentence no longer makes sense:

  • As a subject: That Stella is intelligent is obvious.
  • As an object: Give whoever comes for it the package.
  • As a predicate nominative: Your education is what you make of it.

Diagramming Noun Clauses

Let's practice diagramming "That Stella is intelligent is obvious." This sentence contains 2 linking verbs ("is" and "is"), 2 subject complements ("intelligent" and "obvious"), and "That" as a conjunction. However, in this sentence, the "that" does not change the meaning of the sentence.

There is one main thought in this sentence: "X is obvious." X stands for the subject of the sentence, "Stella is intelligent." Because the sentence has one main thought, we will draw one main base line and fill in the main verb and the main subject complement.

There is one main thought in this sentence. The main predicate has been completed.

Because the subject of the main clause is also a complete sentence, we must give it its own base line. We will add a base line on "legs" to the subject area on the base line for the main clause.

The subject of this sentence is a noun clause, and must have its own base line.

We diagram the linking verb and subject complement the same for both clauses. The linking verb follows the subject-verb divider, which passes through the base line. The subject complement is placed on the base line following the linking verb and a backslash that does not cross the base line.

We will connect "That" to "Stella" with a dashed line like other conjunctions. "That" can appear either above or below the clause.

"That" is non-essential and can appear either above or below its clause.

Just like diagramming compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences that require multiple base lines, the key to diagramming noun clauses is also the inclusion of multiple base lines. The difference is that a noun clause must be embedded into its main clause with a "mini" base line on "legs." When the noun clause is acting as a subject, the secondary base line will appear on legs within the subject area of the main clause; a clause acting as an object will appear in the object area; and a clause that acts as a predicate nominative will appear in the predicate nominative area.

Want to read more about diagramming sentences? Try 

Diagramming Determiners
Diagramming Possessive and Plural Nouns
Diagramming Multiple Independent Clauses

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess, please contact the author for permission to republish.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Healing Emotional Wounds: A Back-to-School Altar

A black bowl of salt water, 2 white candles, a clear quartz pendulum, a black cloth-covered journal, black stones from the shore of Lake Huron, a bowl of marbles in a bowl made by my father, aquamarine, jasper and hematite sphere, copper sphere, and septarian
A Shamanic Grief Altar

Authenticity, creativity, 
patience, and compassion.
Authenticity, creativity, 
patience, and compassion.

For the past 38 years I have loved the arrival of the first day of school. Whether as a student or as a professor, I've barely been able to contain my excitement about the potential of the new academic year, the new people I would meet, the friends I'd see at lunch, and the new knowledge that's inevitable in academia.

Not this year,  however. On the eve of the start of my 2019-2020 contract, I find myself a bit distracted, if anything, by other things. I want to paint my bedroom door and reorganize the shed. I want to wash my car and make Christmas presents and cuddle the cats. I want to watch cars go by in the rain and figure out which onomatopoeia words best represent the sound they make. I want to learn to play a shamanic drum. I want the freedom to withdraw from others at a moment's notice.

Is This Faculty Burn Out?

A Close-up of a rough aquamarine and jasper and hematite sphere nestled in black beach stones from Lake Huron
Rough Aquamarine and a Jasper and Hematite Sphere
After a series of serious obstacles and emotional upheavals over the past few years, I think I'm simply worn out. I feel translucent in the wake of personal tragedy, illness, and close calls, and I'm not quite convinced I have the energy to usher in close to 80 freshman and somehow convince them to write essays. Composition is not my favorite class to teach. It certainly isn't a student favorite, and they, too, are all very much distracted by other things. I also haven't, to be completely honest, forgiven my classes from last semester for calling and texting me while I sat and held my father's hand while he struggled to breathe in his last few days. They called to ask if I'd graded their exams while I was at the funeral home. They texted to complain about their group members as the hearse arrived. They emailed multiple times to see if I would accept work they hadn't completed in the first weeks of classes as I tried to sleep for the first time in days; for the first time in days not listening for the next breath. I answered all of them as soon as I could, but I can't seem to shake the feelings of resentment and martyrdom that came with it, no matter how many times I tell myself that they're still kids and don't know any better, or didn't know any better at the time.

 On top of it all, I've lost control of my verb tenses. My father didn't once love his cat and stop loving him, so I cannot say "He loved his cat." He left this world loving the cat in the progressive, continuous tense. I also cannot say "He loves his cat" with accuracy. As a grammarian, this lack of verb tense for deceased relatives is an absolute twist of the knife. What if my lack of control over verb tenses seeps into my classroom: Will the students notice? Will I be outed as a sentence diagramming charlatan? Perhaps I should use the conditional and subjunctive mood: "If my father were still here, he would love his cat."

Contemplating grammatical analysis is wonderfully distracting, but it is not for healing. My grief has taken a unique turn that requires unique healing.

The Shamanic Grief Altar

Off to School

A close-up of my father's marbles in a bowl he made in high school
Personal items are optional, in this case beautiful vintage marbles.
In "Off to School Altars," author C. B. Cabeen explains how their family used an altar to help a young daughter overcome her trepidation about returning to school. The author explains the playfulness required to make the altar-building process meaningful, especially with a young child, but also offers exceptional insights for people of all ages: "Altars give us a way to mark the changes in our lives, and they reveal our lives back to us as something sacred to honor and celebrate." The author goes on to say that "the process of choosing or creating emotionally charged objects, arranging them, and gazing on them opens up our abilities to see the broader picture and reach a synthesis–or at least start a conversation.  Disparate feelings can stand side by side on an altar without having to edge each other out."

On an altar, my own trepidation at returning to school can stand, as Cabeen says, side-by-side with my realization I need to be with others, regain a sense of community and control, and once again find joy in my life's work. As practical as the creation of a syllabus might be tomorrow, my first official day of the new school year, gathering and placing "emotionally charged objects" may help me commemorate the day in such a way as to bring healing and prepare my heart for the task at hand.

Healing from Grief

Authenticity, the product of mindfulness and a supportive community.
Creativity, because it contributes to the growth of our souls.
Patience with myself and others because we are all as fragile as soap bubbles.
Compassion above all else.

In addition to mourning the end of summer, I am grieving the loss of my father and all that entails for me and my family. Therefore, my altar is also based on the Shamanic grief altar. 

Linda L. Fitch teaches, in "Creating a Grief Altar: A Shamanic Practice for Grief and Loss," that the required items for a Shamanic grief altar are very few:

  • A black cloth (you can use a napkin, a scarf, a piece of fabric, etc.)
  • A black or dark blue bowl with water in it
  • Salt
  • One or two light colored candles

When the candles are lit, she continues, the altar is "open."

A close up of a copper sphere from Michigan nestled in black beach stones. A bowl of salt water and light candles sit on a cloth-covered journal
A copper sphere from Michigan's Upper Peninsula 
Although my altar sits on a woven Navajo mat, as you can see in the image, I've placed a black bowl of spiced salt water on top of a black, cloth-covered journal. The spiced salt was a gift for cleansing my home from a friend, and it seems appropriate to use the journal as my black altar-cloth for the start of the new school year, representational of a blank slate. I've included two white candles and a clear quartz pendulum, plus a small collection of jasper and a shell I picked up on the shores of Lake Huron. Not on the journal, where the basic items are located, but on the mat, I have included a bowl of marbles that belonged to my father, and they are in a bowl he made in high school. I've also created a spiral of black beach stones from home as the ground for a rough aquamarine, a jasper and hematite sphere, a copper sphere from the Upper Peninsula, and a rough septarian. Although I have a large collection of gemstones and minerals, these were the most appropriate for this altar's purpose: To help me heal and prepare my heart for the new academic year.

Want to read more about grief and healing? Try

Grief and Healing: Using the Nice Dishes
Arts and Crafts and Healing
The Intent to Change; The Purpose and Benefit of Personal Altars

Works Cited

Cabeen, C. B. “Off to School Altars.” Pagan Families, Patheos, 23 Oct. 2014,

Fitch, Linda L. ""Creating a Grief Altar: A Shamanic Practice for Grief and Loss."

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The College Journal: Supplies on a Student Budget

Purchasing supplies on a student budget can be as simple as buying a mechanical pencil and some felt tip pens
The College Journal is Available on Amazon through This Affiliate Link

The College Journal is a one-stop-shop for all the types of journal pages a college student might need during a semester. It's divided into three areas: Academic Calendar, Weekly Reviews, and Dailies. Each area is already set-up with easy-to-use templates. Prompts for the templates appear in the Introduction, and additional prompts and ideas appear online - on this very blog, as a matter of fact!

What Supplies Do I Need to Start a Journal?

So, what else do you need to get The College Journal started? Depending on your budget, you can start minimal, something as simple as a mechanical pencil, or you might jump right into being artsy and buy yourself some laser-cut stencils and water colors. Of course, there are lots of options in-between.

Something That Writes (and Maybe Erases)

I would recommend starting with something that writes and erases. Lots of people jump right in with an ink pen, but sometimes mistakes happen, and being able to erase the mistakes and start over can lower any stress or anxiety you have about what you write or draw. Try a refillable mechanical pencil, which prevents the need for a pencil sharpener. This Pentel mechanical pencil comes with extra lead and an eraser.

If you're not terribly stressed about what you write and can accept that mistakes happen, try a black or blue gel pen, or give Micron pens a try. If you're environmentally conscientious, try a fountain pen or a roller ball with replaceable cartridges. Try a few pens before you buy too many, however. You want to avoid pens that bleed through the pages.

Add Some Color

If you want to add a little color to your journal, I recommend felt tip pens or colored pencils. These can either be used to add emphasis to your pencil-written work, or you can write with them as a way to organize your thoughts. Paper Mate Flair pens do not bleed through paper, and I can attest to it since I've been grading papers with them for several years. Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils, just like mechanical pencils, do not require a pencil sharpener, so they're easier to take with you and use if you like colored pencils. 

Another way to add color is with washi tape, stickers, or rubber stamps. There are a variety available in big box stores, office supply chains, and online.

and speaking of on line . . .

Making Lines

Last, but not least, you want to be able to add lines to your journal, especially when you're completing your pie graphs.

You can add a bookmark that can also double as a straightedge: Something as simple as an index card might work for you. You can also purchase a set of metal bookmark stencils or even use a protractor, especially if you want to carefully divide your pie graphs as exactingly as possible.

Whatever the additional benefits of keeping a journal, one of the most important and often overlooked is as an avenue for self expression. Whether you want to show off your abilities in a minimalist fashion or by using bright and colorful images and fancy lettering, it's your journal to do with as you see fit. There are supplies to match every budget and every personality.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.