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English Language Arts
adjective -- n. a word that describes a noun or a pronoun. You need to be able to pick out adjectives in sentences, and you also need to use them for your own writing. Bad, good, smart, rich, and poor are all adjectives.
adverb -- n. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. What I just said for adjectives goes for adverbs. You can remember which words an adverb modifies because the parts of speech it modifies are part of its name: ad- (adjectives, adverbs) and -verb (verbs). Very, really, not, incredibly, amazingly and obviously are all adverbs.
alliteration -- n. the use of two or more words with the same initial sound in a sentence or phrase. Example: Slothy S. Slothster sank slowly into the sofa, sighing.
almanac -- n. an annual reference book that gives various facts and figures in tabular form. You can use an almanac to find average temperatures, elected officials, and all of the World Series winners.
analogy -- n. a comparison between two things, made in order to explain or clarify an idea. Example: Pop music fans and hard rock fans can't stand each other's music. Oil and water do not mix.
analyze -- v. to study carefully to figure out something. I must say, after analyzing all the latest Internet search engines, I still like Yahoo! the best. It is fast, gets me the best results, and is easiest to navigate.
antonym -- n. a wordthat means the opposite. Good is the antonym of bad. Over is the antonym of under. I have listed antonyms for lots of words throughout this book.
article -- n. a word that signals a noun. Example: A, an, and the are examples of articles.
assonance -- n. a partial rhyme where the vowels rhyme, but the consonants do not. Example: The ball was hit at Carl, but he was looking at the stars, so it hit him in the arm.
atlas -- n. a book of maps. You can use an atlas to find geographical information.
bibliography -- n. the list of sources used as research in a book or paper. Example: The bibliography for my research paper on baked beans included the book Hormel: Can of Plenty, by G.A.S. Flame, published in 1923 by Bacon Books.
character development -- n. the building of a character in a story, piece by piece. The pieces used to build a character include physical descriptions, behavior, relationships with other characters, and reactions to occurrences.
characteristic -- n. special quality. In English language arts, physical characteristics are often used to describe a character in story or the story's setting. Example: Some characteristics of Frankenstein include a high, square forehead and rivets coming out of the sides of his head.
clarify -- v. to make clearer. On tests, you will often be asked to clarify sentences and what characters in stories are talking about. Example: "Jim Carrey's comedic brilliance over the span of his film career is unsurpassed in the history of cinema" can be clarified as "Jim Carrey is funnier than anyone, ever."
clause -- n. a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate.
cliché -- n. a saying that is used too much. Example: It is a cliché to call cafeteria food dog food, because so many people have called it dog food before. In general, when writing a story, you want to avoid using clichés.
climax -- n. the big event that a story builds toward. Stories of suspense usually have the biggest, best climaxes because the whole point of a suspense story is to get you on the edge of your seat and then have a big bang at the end.
compare -- v. to find the similarities. (See contrast for more.)
complex -- adj. complicated, made up of a bunch of connected parts. On lots of tests you are asked to read complex passages and find the important information in them. It's like watching a murder mystery on TV and trying to figure out who did it. The mystery is complex, but if you pay attention and concentrate, you can figure out who the culprit is.
compound sentence -- n. a sentence made up of two complete sentences, usually joined with a conjunction or a conjunction and a comma. Example: I really like her, but I am afraid to talk to her.
compound word -- n. a word made of two or more other words. Carpetbagger (carpet + bagger) is a compound word. (See Social Studies for the definition of carpetbagger.)
conclusion -- n. judgment or decision. Many tests ask you what conclusion you can draw from a passage or what conclusion someone in a story came to. That just means you need to be able to sum up what you read. Example: After I read the Cleveland Indians' team stats, I came to the conclusion that they need a few more good pitchers. Only three pitchers on the team had winning records!
conflict -- n. a clash of ideas; a clash of characters. Most interesting stories center around conflict -- two people who can't stand each other, or two ideas that are really different. Example: I am writing a screenplay called Pretty Dumb about two actresses who can't stand each other. There is a lot of conflict between the two.
conjunction -- n. a word that joins words or groups of words in a sentence. There are only a handful of them. The most common are: and, or, for, but, yet.
consistent -- adj. in agreement; compatible. On English language arts tests, your answers should be consistent with the information in the reading passages.
context -- n. the setting a word or statement appears in. It's important to know context when you are trying to figure out what someone means. If someone yells "Stop!" the context of that yell tells you why she is yelling. Is her car being stolen? Or is someone about to drive off a cliff?. If you know the context, you'll understand what is meant.
contrast -- v. to find the differences. This word is most often used in test questions that ask you to "compare and contrast." That just means you should write about the similarities and the differences. Example: Compare and contrast supermodel/actress James King and actress/pin-up star Pamela Anderson.
credible -- adj. believable. In a trial, a credible witness is a witness the jury can believe. On a test, a credible answer is one that you think could be true. So if I said Pamela Anderson and James King are the best actresses in the world, that's not really a credible statement. If I said both are blonde and beautiful -- that's credible.
dialect -- n. the manner in which a particular part of a country speaks. Where you come from is usually where you get your dialect: there is a soft Southern dialect; the twangy Texas dialect; the hard-edged New England dialect. Authors use dialect in stories to given readers information about character and setting.
dialogue -- n. the spoken conversations written in a book or a play, usually in quotation marks. Here's some dialogue from Pretty Dumb, the screenplay I'm writing for supermodel James King and actress Pamela Anderson. "Hey Pam -- my blonde hair is a mess. Poor me. What brand of conditioner do you use?" asked James. "I use Fanteen Selectives with blonde highlights," Pamela replied. "But you can't borrow it."
dictionary -- n. a reference book containing all sorts of information about words, including their definitions, pronunciation, parts of speech, origins, roots, and usage.
edit -- v. to revise or change a piece of writing to make it better. A good way to edit your own writing is to read it like someone else wrote it. Pick someone who you don't like; that way you'll be extra tough on the writing. (I usually pretend Christina Aguilera wrote whatever I'm editing. I don't know why, she just rubs me the wrong way.)
euphemism -- n. the act of substituting an inoffensive word or phrase for an offensive one. For example, "passed away" is a euphemism for "died." "We are in a rebuilding year" is a euphemism in sports for "We are terrible this year, please be patient."
evaluate -- v. to consider. Tests ask you to evaluate information all of the time. That just means you need to read everything they give you and consider the information before making a decision on an answer. My dad often evaluates the food at the grocery store by looking at the ingredients to see how much fat is in it. He hates fat.
exposition -- n. a detailed description or explanation of a subject. If you are asked to write an expository essay, your teacher wants you to explain or describe a subject in detail. That's exposition.
figurative language -- n. the use of similes and metaphors. Instead of writing "Peyton Manning has a strong arm," a sports reporter using figurative language would write, "Peyton Manning's arm is like a cannon." (See the definitions for simile and metaphor for more on this.)
flashback -- n. a point in a story where the narrative goes back in time for a little while before continuing forward. Books and movies use flashbacks all the time, usually to give you more information about a character or the plot. Sometimes in movies and on TV, they signal a flashback by making the screen get all wiggly or fuzzy.
foreshadow -- v. to hint at what is to come later in a story. A writer may foreshadow that two young characters are going to get married later in the book by having each of them, separately, talk to people about how much they want to get married when they get older.
formal -- adj. done in a proper way. Think of a formal statement or letter as a statement or letter dressed in a tuxedo. It is stiff, rigid, proper, and perfect. A formal essay is well organized and follows all the rules of grammar and punctuation.
genre -- n. a type of writing. Romance, horror, mystery, and scifi are all fiction genres. My favorite genre is horror, especially R. L. Stine horror.
hyperbole -- n. an exaggeration used as a figure of speech. Example: The Green Bay Packers haven't won the Super Bowl in a million years.
identify -- v. to pick out. English language arts tests often ask you to identify the protagonist or to identify the verb or to identify the simile.
Idiom -- n. a word or phrase that means something it doesn't really mean. Confused? Here are a few idioms:
ants in your pants means you are fidgety
born with a silver spoon in your mouth means your parents are rich
stop bugging me means stop bothering me
Imagery -- n. mental pictures; the use of figurative language to create scenes and moods. Writers use imagery to make their stories more interesting. Here's an example from my screenplay, with the imagery underlined: Pamela Anderson rose from bed and stretched like a baby penguin breaking from its egg. She had a hard day ahead. She and James King were up for the same part in the new Jim Carrey movie. Whoever got the part would be the toast of the town. Whoever lost would feel lower than the dirt on the soles of a pair of six-inch stiletto heels. The movie's director, Fabio, held their fates in his hands.
index -- n. an alphabetized listing of names and places in a book, along with the pages they're mentioned on (usually found at the back of a book).
interjection -- n. an exclamation that stands alone. Examples: Holy cow! Mercy! Yo!
internal rhyme -- n. rhyme between a word within a line and at the end of the line, or between two words within two different lines. Example: A talking fly in my gravy said "Hi."
interview -- n. a conversation in which one person asks the questions and the other answers. One great way to learn about lots of different people is to read interviews in magazines. Interviews can be easier to read than novels and short stories. You can usually read one front-to-back in thirty minutes or less.
irony -- n. the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really mean. A good example is when you say "Gee, I can't wait to go to the dentist and get those cavities filled" in a sarcastic tone, when going to the dentist is obviously the last thing you want to do.
literal -- adj. the real, dictionary meaning; what a word or phrase or any kind of writing or speaking actually means. "Go jump in a lake" doesn't usually mean someone wants you to get wet. But the literal, meaning of the phrase is exactly that -- go take a leap into the nearest pond, buddy.
metaphor -- n. figurative use of words in which a word or phrase is used to mean something other than what it usually means. As you can probably tell by now, the English language arts are all about using words in creative ways, just like the fine arts are about using paint and clay in creative ways. For a creative writer, metaphors are as important as paint is for an artist. In my screenplay Pretty Dumb, I use metaphors all the time. Here are a couple: Fable was a filmmaking machine, churning out two to three movies a year. Pamela's career was in overdrive. Every part she wanted, she got. (See the definition for simile -- it's a lot like metaphor.)
modify -- v. to change in part. Adjectives and adverbs modify nouns and verbs. I have been modifying my screenplay continuously since I finished the first draft. In fact, the current version bears little resemblance to that first draft, it has undergone so many modifications.
mood -- n. in English language arts, it's the general feeling created by a writer. The mood of a story can be sad or happy or dark or light. The writer creates the mood of a story by using imagery, metaphors, and all of the other writing tools. By reading a story carefully, you should be able to get a sense of its mood.
motivation -- n. in English language arts, it is the reason a character does something. Tests often ask you to identify a character's motivation. Example: In my screenplay for Pretty Dumb, James King ends up talking about Pamela Anderson behind her back. What was James's motivation? To answer that, you would look for the part of the story that made James trash Pamela.
myth -- n. a story about gods and heroes. My favorite myth is about the snake-haired Medusa: If you look right at her, you turn into Stone Phillips. Or do you just turn to stone? I can't remember.
narrative -- n. a story. The narrative in Pretty Dumb follows two actresses as they angle for the starring role in a romantic comedy starring Jim Carrey.
noun -- n. a word that names a person, place, or thing.
objective -- adj. unaffected by emotions or other outside forces. It is impossible for me to be objective about my screenplay because I am so close to it. But some objective readers, like my sister, have told me they like it.
omniscient -- adj. all-knowing. An omniscient narrator is a narrator in a story who knows everything that is going on and shares that information with the reader.
onomatopoela -- n. the use of words that imitate the sound they signify. Buzz and splat are good examples of onomatopoeia.
opinion -- n. what someone thinks about something. Example: It is my opinion that Tom Hanks's reign as the world's most popular actor is over, and that Jim Carrey will replace him!
pace -- n. speed. The pace of a story often has a lot to do with whether it reads well or not. I am trying to make sure Pretty Dumb goes at a very fast pace to keep the jokes coming one after the other.
paragraph -- n. a distinct part of a larger written work that presents a distinct point related to the rest of the work. (Paragraphs usually are made up of several sentences, but a paragraph can be just one sentence.)
paraphrase -- v. to express something using different words. Tests often ask you to paraphrase a story or a character's views. That just means write down what happened in the story or what a character thinks in a few sentences. I have to be able to paraphrase my screenplay Pretty Dumb in just a few words when I go try to sell it to Hollywood. Here it goes: Three days, two blonde actresses, one juicy movie role.
personification -- n. the representation of a concept as a person. For example, I heard the golf commentator Johnny Miller say Tiger Woods is the personification of good sportsmanship.
persuade -- v. to convince. Writers often try to persuade readers that their point of view is correct. Tests often ask you to figure out what the writer is trying to persuade you to think. I am persuading you to learn the word persuade. Am I being persuasive?
phrase -- n. a group of related words that functions as a unit but lacks a subject, verb, or both.
plot -- n. the events of a story. My mom thinks the plot of Pretty Dumb is, well, pretty dumb. She'll eat her words when it's a major motion picture starring Jim Carrey!
point of view -- n. one way of looking at things. A character's point of view is that character's way of thinking. For example, in my screenplay Pretty Dumb, it is James King's point of view that Pamela Anderson is too old for the female lead in a Jim Carrey movie. Pamela Anderson's point of view is that James King is a silly supermodel who would make the Jim Carrey movie a disaster. Each tries to persuade the movie's director, Fabio, that her point of view is the correct one.
prefix -- n. a few letters placed in front of a word that change its meaning. Examples: dis- (disbelief, discharge); un- (unnatural, unavailable).
preposition -- n. a word that relates a noun or a pronoun to the other words in the sentence. Some popular prepositions are: by, at, to, with, in, for, from. What's that spell? BATWIFE (You swing the batt, you whiff.) Cherish it. Remember it.
propaganda -- n. the kind of writing that a government or group uses to get you to believe something. Propaganda is used all the time during wars, when one country tells its citizens that the other country is the worst country in the world. And the other country has propaganda that says the same thing about the first country. In propaganda, the facts aren't important -- it is convincing readers that is important.
quote -- n. exact words. Example: When I showed Pretty Dumb to a Hollywood agent he said, and I quote: "This screenplay will be bigger than Star Wars! Bigger than Chicken Run! Bigger than Big! You'll make millions !"
refrain -- n. recurring verse or phase. Example: I love the refrain of Chuck Duck's latest single, Swimming Fool: "Don't get me wet, I just might like it! Don't get me wet, I just might like it!" It's so catchy.
relevant -- adj. pertaining to the matter at hand. Tests often tell you to "consider the relevant information" before choosing your answer. You can remember what relevant means by thinking of the word "related." Relevant information is "related" to the answer.
rhyme scheme -- n. the structure of the rhyming in a poem. One popular rhyme scheme is ABAB, which means the first and third lines (A) rhyme, and the second and fourth lines (B) rhyme.
root -- n. a word or part of a word from which other words are formed. Example: root = snob. Words formed from snob: snobby, snobbery, snobbish.
run-on sentence -- n. a sentence that continues on longer than it should, usually by using too many conjunctions.
sensory -- adj. pertaining to the five senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste). Writers often use sensory details to really get the reader into the story. In an early scene in Pretty Dumb, Fable has terrible bad breath (halitosis!), but Pam and James ignore it because they want the part in his movie so badly.
setting -- n. the location and time in which a story takes place.
simile -- n. figurative language involving a comparison of unlike things using the words like or as. James is crazy like a fox. Pamela is smart as a whip. (By the way -- those examples are both also clichés.)
simple sentence -- n. a sentence containing one subject and one verb. Example: I eat.
suffix -- n. a few letters placed at the end of a word that change its meaning. Examples: -able (believable, usable); -ly (naturally, commonly).
summarize -- v. to create a short recap of the main points of a story. The ability to summarize what you read is important on English language arts tests. The best way to write a summary is to recap the story in the order things happened, so you don't forget anything.
symbolism -- n. the use of an object to stand for something that can't be seen. For example, there are a lot of memorials in Washington, DC, that symbolize the soldiers who lost their lives in our wars. Writers use symbolism when they need to say something without really saying it. An example of this is where writer symbolizes the passing of seasons by following a lea it falls from a tree and then decays on the ground, feeding roots of the tree it fell from.
synonym -- n. a word that means the same thing as another word. Daring and adventurous are synonyms. Timid and cowardly are synonyms. When you are writing, instead of using same word over and over, try to use synonyms to change think up a little bit. So if you use the word car in the first semen use automobile in the second and vehicle in the third.
tense -- n. in English language arts, it means the form of a verb to tells when the action takes place. Example: verb = chew; future tense = will chew; past tense = chewed; present tense = chew.
theme -- n. the subject for a story. In school, you are often asked write a story on a particular theme, like "What did you this summer?"
thesaurus -- n. a book of synonyms. When you are writing paper, a thesaurus can help you spice things up. So, instead insted using the word great over and over to describe yourself, you could use a thesaurus to find synonyms like groovy, stupendont and wonderful.
timeline -- n. a graphical representation of a chronology; bunch of dates in chronological order on a line. Timelines are all over tests. Sometimes you have to write a story from a timeline. Sometimes you have to read a timeline to see what happened what order.
tone -- n. manner of expression. Example, I wrote a love letter to the new girl Frieda using a very romantic tone. She never replied, and my heart was broken.
valid -- adj. sound. In my screenplay Pretty Dumb, Fabio the director has valid reasons to choose James King (she is a star or the rise) and Pamela Anderson (she is a better-known blonde actress). In the end, however, Fabio chooses to put Barbra Streisand in a blonde wig. The movie is a huge hit, Fabio and Barbra and Jim Carrey all win Oscars, and an angry James King and Pamela Anderson start plotting to ruin Fabio (the plot for Pretty Dumb II).
verb -- n. an action word. Examples: bite, spit, cherish.
English Language Arts
Lots of times when you're taking tests, you're asked to write down a date or name that you have memorized. These kinds of test questions basically test your memory. If you remember what you memorized, you'll be just fine.
But sometimes you have to do a little more than just remember. Sometimes you have to really think about a reading passage on a test, and figure out on your own what you think and how you should write it down. These kinds of questions ask you to analyze a problem, evaluate a situation, summarize a story, compare and contrast ideas, and clarify your answer.
When these words appear in test questions, some kids freeze because they know a lot is expected of them -- at least a lot more than just writing down a date on a history test or identifying a shape on a geometry test. A good way to stop yourself from freezing is to get used to analyzing, evaluating, summarizing, and clarifying in situations that aren't so scary.
English Language Arts
Good writers know how to use all sorts of tools to keep readers' eyes glued to the page (that's a metaphor, by the way). Some writers are so good at it, you just can't stop reading. I keep a flashlight under my bed for nights when my parents tell me to turn out my light and go to sleep, but I just can't stop reading. Good writers make writing look easy, so you don't notice all of the tools they are using.
But on tests, it's important to be able to pick out the tools writers use. Lots of reading questions on tests ask you to identify things like metaphors, symbolism, and analogies -- basically all of the words that I have listed at the top of this page. The only way to learn how to find all of these things is to practice finding them in the stories you read every day.
English Language Arts
Adverb and Adjectives
Imagine a world made up of only nouns and verbs. Actors would be...just actors. Not terrible actors, not handsome actors, not overpaid actors...just actors. Singers would be...just singers. Not gorgeous singers or overproduced singers or singers with voices that only a mother could love. Just...singers.
Luckily we have adverbs and adjectives, the words that make life special! The Texas Rangers' Alex Rodriguez is the best shortstop in the league with a sweet swing, nimble feet and soft hands. The Rangers are perennial challengers for the American League pennant, with incredible talent and limitless potential.
Yes, adjectives and adverbs, the simple modifiers of verbs, nouns and other adjectives and adverbs, give writing its spice. So it is very important to use them when you write. It makes your writing more interesting to read, which gets you better grades on your papers and writing tests. All good things, wouldn't you say?
Copyright © 2001 by Chris Kensler and Heather Kern