Grammar School

  • Mar 03, 2016


“Avoid commas, that are unnecessary.”
                                                 —William Safire

If you get the joke, chances are you’ll see the value of No Nonsense Grammar, a series of downloadable videos and lesson plans available free of charge from PBS LearningMedia for Students.

The materials, which are aimed at elementary and middle-school students, are divided into five categories: Punctuation; Capitalization & Spelling; Verb Tense, Mood & Voice; Usage; and Sentence Structure. The videos are humorous and engaging (see screen grabs, below), and the accompanying materials—which include standards-based lesson plans, activities, and handouts—are well organized and easily digestible. All in all, it’s yet another fine educational offering from the good folks at PBS.

Check out the collection for yourself. Visit No Nonsese Grammar today.

And to learn about other great free educational resources, be sure to bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio


Collective Noun

Your next stop, The Twilight Zone!

  • Nov 21, 2014


When The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, a favorable review in the New York Times pointed out that the series’ pilot episode, Where Is Everybody?, easily distinguished itself from the field of then popular half-hour dramas, concluding that “Mr. Serling should not have much trouble in making his mark.”

He was talking about writer Rod Serling (pictured, right), and nearly 55 years later it’s clear the reviewer was on to something.

With its well-crafted stories and timeless themes, The Twilight Zone (or TZ as it’s known by fans) was an instant hit with critics and remains one of only a handful of early television series winning new fans today, embraced by the digital generation on the Syfy channel and widening Serling’s mark on our popular conscience.

And that’s where you teachers come in. How would you like to put some of this magic to work in your classroom, say, in an English or Creative Writing course?

Each week, as part of an ongoing educational initiative, the Syfy channel airs one commercial-free episode of The Twilight Zone that you are invited to record and retain for educational purposes. How you use it is up to you, but as a writer I would say there’s no better example of tight, imaginative storytelling with a major emphasis on plot, character and irony.

Why not build a library of TZ episodes that you can come back to again and again?

As Mr. Serling might have said, your educational possibilities are limited only to “the dimension of imagination.”

The Twilight Zone airs commercial-free for classroom use every Sunday night/Monday morning at 5:30 AM ET on Syfy (DIRECTV channel 244). It is recommended for middle and high school students, and episodes may be recorded and kept in perpetuity for classroom use.

Upcoming episodes include:

Long Distance Call (Nov. 23) A boy (Bill Mumy) believes that a toy telephone allows him to communicate with his late grandmother.

A Hundred Years Over the Rim (Nov. 30) A pioneer (Cliff Robertson) in search of medicine for his dying son unwittingly travels far into the future.

The Rip Van Winkle Caper (Dec. 7) Four thieves steal a shipment of gold and escape the law by placing themselves in suspended animation with the idea of waking-up 100 years later as free, rich men. Simon Oakland (Psycho) stars.

The Silence (Dec. 14) One man’s verbosity and another man’s intolerance for it lead to a bizarre wager, which will ultimately reveal much about both. With Liam Sullivan and Franchot Tone.

Shadow Play (Dec. 21) A condemned man (Dennis Weaver) claims he’s in the midst of a recurring bad dream, and people are starting to believe him.

The Mind and The Matter (Dec. 28) A confirmed misanthrope (Shelley Berman) who wishes everybody was more like him receives a shocking reality check.

To keep abreast of future episodes, bookmark this site and follow us on Twitter.

—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio