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LinguaPhile, March 2003

A monthly e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.



New Tax Deduction for Teachers

Effective on 2002 taxes, an educator (K-12) working in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year may deduct up to $250 per year for money spent on classroom materials. This deduction is taken on line 23 of form 1040.

Teachers, this makes Hands-On English materials even more economical!

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Resources for Helping Children Through these Difficult Times

Having grown up during the Cold War, I can remember how frightening impending war can be. These resources, first published in LinguaPhile in October 2001, might help you help your children through these unsettling times.


When Nothing Makes Sense: Disaster, Crisis, and Their Effects on Children by Gerald Deskin and Greg Steckler. This readable, practical guide helps adults and children prepare for and deal with various kinds of disasters mentally, emotionally, and physically. It includes games and exercises to aid in preparation, and it describes different ways that various feelings might be expressed. It also discusses the possible impact of media coverage.
Available from

Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. This is truly a book for all ages -- from preschoolers through adults. Its simple thesis is "There is a beginning and an ending for everything that is alive. In between is living. . . . How long [something] lives depends upon what it is and what happens while it is living." The thesis is applied to various species of plants and animals -- including people. Although this book does not discuss the idea of a spiritual life that continues beyond physical death, it is valuable for its explanation of physical death, a concept that demands attention.
Available from


How to Talk to Kids About Violence

Talking to Children About Terrorism (several articles, including
Q & A)

Talking with Children About Conflict and War (how to approach children in different age groups, including teenagers; preventing hate in the wake of terrorism),1120,20-6055,00.html

Talking with Kids About the News (tips, topics, print and electronic resources for presenting the news to kids)

Discussing Violent National and World Events with Children (includes Q & A); Responding to Violent Events by Building Community: Action Ideas for Students and Schools

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Upcoming Exhibit: Book Arts Fair: St. Louis

Taproots School of the Arts is sponsoring its second annual Book Arts Fair Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6. The Book Arts Fair will feature exhibits of professional and student work in the book and paper arts, including papermaking, letterpress, calligraphy, bookbinding, and artists' books -- as well as an artists' market. The fair will also feature music, poetry readings, storytelling, and hands-on art activities for children and adults. Food will be available for purchase.

This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce your children to the ancient arts of bookmaking that have now become mechanized. Be sure to stop by the Portico Books table to say hello to Fran and take a look at Hands-On English.

The fair, which will be held at the Taproots facility at 4021 Iowa Avenue, will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5.00.

For more information about Taproots and the Book Arts Fair (including a map to the site) see

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Quote of the Month: Storytelling

"I would ask you to remember this one thing," said Badger. "The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other's memory. This is how people care for themselves."
-- Barry Lopez in Crow and Weasel

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Expand Your Vocabulary: onychophagia

Dipping one's fingertips in a bad-tasting solution can help to break the habit of onychophagia.

Onychophagia [on uh ko FA juh] is "biting one's nails, especially habitually and as a result of emotional disturbance." The person who suffers from this affliction is an onychophagist [on uh KOF uh jist]. The word has a Greek origin, from onycho, meaning "nail or claw," and phagia, meaning "eating."

This would be an interesting word, by the way, to present to students phonetically, challenging them to find the correct spelling (the type of exercise presented on page 121 of The Activity Book).

Hands-On English includes nearly 200 morphemes, along with their meanings and examples. Knowing the meanings of morphemes can help you unlock hundreds of words the first time you encounter them. Reviewers of Hands-On English have said that the vocabulary section alone is worth the book's modest purchase price. Learn more -- and place your order -- at

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Q and A: Storytelling

This month Fran answers a series of questions related to storytelling.

Question: There is so much to cover in the language arts curriculum; is it really worthwhile to spend some of this precious time on storytelling? What do the kids gain from it?

Answer: When I taught in an upper elementary classroom, I devoted five to ten hours per year (of about 400 hours available) to storytelling. I considered it to be time well spent. The students actually spent much more time than this as they prepared their stories outside of class. Although students were exposed to a variety of literature and learned much about the structure of stories, the main benefit was the development of their oral language skills, their poise, and their self-confidence. Storytelling presentations provided the opportunity to incorporate gestures, movement, facial expression, vocal variety, and eye contact to a much greater extent than students had used previously. In addition, students were speaking to an audience for several minutes without notes. The storytelling experience improved their overall presentation skills as well as their interpersonal communication.

Question: If I decide to do storytelling, how would you suggest that I start?

Answer: I would suggest that students' first experience with storytelling be as listeners rather than as presenters. This might involve a presentation by a classroom teacher or a professional storyteller, or it might simply involve reflection upon stories presented informally in family situations. It would be good for students to be led through an analysis of some presentations, noticing elements that made them effective or ineffective.

Once students are ready to become presenters, I would suggest keeping the stories short and simple. Before students present stories, they might present something even shorter, such as jokes (with set-up, development, and punch line). As students prepare their storytelling performances, they might present just the beginning (a paragraph or two) to a classroom audience. This makes their first "performance" a less threatening situation that is likely to produce a positive outcome and bolster confidence for the larger presentation.

Exercises such as the following can also help students develop specific skills that they will use in their performances.
1. To develop eye contact: Three students in different parts of the room are secretly designated as audience members who will maintain excellent eye contact with the "presenter" (other members of the group may be more relaxed). The "presenter" then goes to the front of the room, simply says, "Hello. Here I am," and looks over the audience in order to identify those three people.
2. To express emotion: The "presenter" goes to the front of the audience and portrays a particular emotion while he or she counts (aloud) to 10. The presentation may involve only the voice and facial expression, or may also include gestures. The audience should try to determine the emotion depicted. This isolates skills. Since the presenter has to focus little attention on the words spoken, more attention can be given to the other elements.
3. To develop eye contact: A student stands in front of the audience, perhaps reciting something requiring minimal attention (such as the ABCs), perhaps saying nothing. The goal is to make eye contact with members of the audience, who raise a hand as eye contact is made, providing feedback to the presenter.
4. To develop vocal inflection and gesture: Portray a well-known story using only vocal inflection and gestures -- no words.

Question: What recommendations do you have for selecting a story to tell?

Answer: The first recommendation is to keep it short and simple, especially for beginning storytellers. Choose something with a logical plot and without rich language or rhyme that would require a word-for-word telling. Repeated elements can make the story easier to remember and to tell. A fable or a simple folktale would be a good possibility. It is also important that the teller like (and understand) the story and really want to share it with an audience.

Question: What recommendations do you have for preparing the storytelling presentation?

Answer: The first recommendation is a negative one: Don't memorize the story. Instead, study the structure of the story, including the main events of the plot. Begin by telling even this basic structure to someone else, perhaps a parent or a classmate. Most of the preparation of the story should be done aloud and should be done with another person. Add details and refine the telling with each rehearsal. Think of stories that you repeatedly tell about your own experiences. Consider how different the story is now compared to the first time you told it. It improved with each telling. You want your presentation to improve in the same way. While an audience is one of the most important components in your preparation, at some point you might want to use a mirror or videotape to check your facial expressions and movements. An audiotape can also provide important feedback.

Question: Where can I find an audience for my students?

Answer: The family is a good place to begin. (Even pets are better than no one.) Having students tell stories in their classrooms provides the opportunity for each of them to be part of an audience as well as a presenter; listening to (and perhaps critiquing) other performances can give students ideas for improving their own deliveries. When performances are fairly well polished, students might present to other classrooms (especially to younger students), to scout groups, to after-school groups, to club meetings, to groups at day care centers, retirement homes, libraries, etc. Several students together might create a short program for one of these groups in the community.

Hands-On English will put a wealth of information at your fingertips so that you can quickly find what you need to know about grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and more. Get details -- and place your order -- at

We invite your questions for this feature:

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Resources for Storytelling

These books are roughly arranged from the most basic to the most complex. Each includes a bibliography.

Pellowski, Anne. The Storytelling Handbook: A Young People's Collection of Unusual Tales and Helpful Hints on How to Tell Them. Pellowski suggests a number of settings in which young people might become involved in storytelling. She offers tips for selecting and preparing the story, recognizing that different methods of preparation might work best for different stories and/or different performers. Twenty-three stories are included.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1995, 122 pages.
Available from

Bruchac, Joseph. Tell Me A Tale: A Book About Storytelling. Bruchac's passion for storytelling reverberates through this guide aimed primarily at young people. Bruchac organizes his book around a "circle of learning" that he deems integral to life. The four components of his circle are listening, observing, remembering, and sharing. He includes activities to help people nurture each of these skills and includes fourteen stories, more than half of them from the Native American tradition. Bruchac, whose voice quietly exudes wisdom, emphasizes the importance of knowing stories from one's own family, heritage, locale, and life.

Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997, 117 pages.
Available from

Read, Margaret MacDonald. The Storyteller's Start-Up Book: Finding, Learning, Performing, and Using Folktales: Including Twelve Tellable Tales. MacDonald is a firm believer in the value of stories, not only on the performance level but also on the personal level -- in the home and in the workplace. Her book imparts confidence to the most timorous of beginners, and the tales she includes are likely to be new even to veterans.

August House, Inc., 1993, 215 pages.
Available from

Roney, R. Craig. The Story Performance Handbook. Roney's book is written primarily as a college textbook or as a guide for adults who want to begin storytelling. Although it is not aimed at a juvenile audience, it is likely to be helpful to teachers and parents who are nurturing storytelling in children -- particularly if they want to use reading aloud as a springboard to storytelling. Roney devotes nearly half of the book to reading aloud effectively. Most chapters include sections on story selection, preparation, and delivery. Practice activities and resources are also included. Only one chapter (about twenty pages) focuses directly on the storytelling craft.

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2001, 193 pages.
Available from

Lipman, Doug. Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for All Who Tell Stories in Work or Play. As the title suggests, this book is not aimed at storytelling novices. It has wonderful information, however, organized around the storytelling "triangle" (the story, the teller, and the listener) -- and all of the relationships between them. Lipman includes information on language, imagery, kinesthetics, voice, understanding the story, preparing the story, and much more.

August House, Inc., 1999, 219 pages.
Available from

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Puzzler: Word Riddle

Can you find the word described here? The first two letters mean a man, the first three letters mean a woman, the first four letters mean a great man, and all of the letters mean a great woman.

Answer next month.

Answer to February Puzzler (matching English words with language of origin):

 1. aardvark (a. Afrikaans)
 2. alphabet (f. Greek)
 3. camel (h. Hebrew)
 4. canyon (l. Spanish (from Latin))
 5. kindergarten (e. German)
 6. oasis (c. Egyptian)
 7. permission (j. Latin)
 8. shampoo (i. Hindi)
 9. ski (k. Norwegian)
10. souvenir (d. French (from Latin))
11. typhoon (b. Cantonese)
12. ukulele (g. Hawaiian)

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Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. We welcome your comments and suggestions:

The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated monthly, is now available in either a text or .doc format on the GrammarAndMore Web site:
This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL of the text version?
It's a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

© 2003 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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