Welcome to The Literacy Cookbook

Recipes for Effective Literacy Instruction


Many of us grew up completing grammar exercises in textbooks or correcting sentences as part of the daily class routine.  Now that we’re teaching, we find that those approaches don’t really work with our students.  They might earn 100% on a quiz about dependent clauses, but they struggle to use them in their own writing.

I've put everything I've learned about grammar instruction into my latest book, Using Grammar to Improve Writing: Recipes for Action, which you can purchase HERE It includes guidance on how to teach EVERY K-12 Language standard!!!  For all of the FREE files associated with that book, check out the TLC "Using Grammar to Improve Writing" page.

Below are some additional thoughts and resources.

If you're trying to track students' grammar progress, see K-12 Selected Language CCS Tracker .

In the Download Zone, you'll find a Sample Grammar Mini-Lesson that is generic enough to adapt to almost any grammar point you want to teach.  Again, my book has guidance on how to teach EVERY K-12 Language standard!  In addition, I continue to develop new grammar lessons and materials as I work with teachers in the field, so please keep checking the Download Zone for more tools (see more than 9 new lessons below)!

COMMON CORE STANDARDS FOR LANGUAGE: FREE GRAMMAR DIAGNOSTIC TOOL!  See my TLC Blog HERE, which explains how to use this Tool with your students.  Note: This Tool includes links to some excellent Websites, including but not limited to the following:





Also, to give students GRAMMAR PRACTICE, check out:

Quill.org: "a nonprofit organization, has adapted research-based writing instruction into a free, open source digital platform. All of our content is free to use for students and teachers, although we do have a premium model we sell to schools.Our activities help students develop their sentence construction and grammar skills and are designed as supplemental writing exercises that students complete over short, 10 to 15 minute sessions at the beginning or end of a class period. Quill offers prompts and exercises and delivers instant feedback to help students write, revise, and revise again until they are able to produce succinct, powerful sentences."

IXL offers "practice that feels like play: dynamic adaptive learning in K-12 math and language arts."  The language arts sections mostly target grammar skills.  (Thanks to Lisa Lauria and Amber Merrigan at Camden's Promise CS for this lead!)

FreeRice.com is a nonprofit that has two stated goals:

  • Provide education to everyone for free.
  • Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

The Website covers an array of subjects and enables users to learn vocabulary, grammar, and even other languages (and more!) with adaptive assessments (i.e., when you get a question correct, the next one is harder; when you get one wrong, the next one is easier).  It features a cool graphic interface that shows you how much rice your correct answers are generating for the World Food Programme.


As students attend to grammar and usage, they should consider how word choice conveys tone, mood, and perspective.  One quick way to illustrate this point is to show students Dog Diary vs. Cat Diary with its hilarious competing voices.  For more information on word choice, check out the BUILDING ROBUST VOCABULARY page.



According to Dictionary.com, one definition of "syntax" is "the study of the rules for the formation of grammatical sentences in a language."  To unpack the syntax of a sentence (and, indeed, to be able to PARAPHRASE a sentence), one must understand the functionality of different parts of speech.  Constance Hale, a self-described "sentence connoisseur," delivers a cogent explanation of how to think of sentences as miniature narratives in this piece in the NY Times. If you are trying to convince students of the IMPORTANCE of well-written sentences, this piece by Jhumpa Lahiri (also in the NY Times) is also useful and beautifully written.  Also, this piece by Gary Provost ("This sentence has five words..." found in various places on the Web, a free download) clarifies the embodies the beauty of varied sentence structure.


A NIFTY PUNCTUATION CHART: This chart lists the 15 key punctuation marks in order of difficulty and provides key rules for how they should be used.  Here is the original link.  (Many thanks to Susan Chenelle for this lead!)


As students attempt to write sentences that FLOW smoothly and coherently, they need to pay attention to their use of transitions.  If you are are frustrated with textbooks that define "transitions" merely as "time and order words," resulting in robotic student writing that relies heavily on "first, second, and third," here are links to some Web pages that provide a more nuanced explanation of what transitions are and how they work:





Here is a review of NoRedInk from the Puzzl_ED Blog (our friends at Match Next), which explains how it works.


If you don't know what Schoolhouse Rock is, please click on this link; you will quickly find yourself SINGING about conjunctions and adverbs and much, much more!  This Website has both the lyrics and You Tube videos.  In short, it's a great tool for teachers or parents who want to teach grammar (among other things) with fun song lyrics.  And if you grew up in the 70's like me, you will feel young again.  Enjoy!

I will continue to add to this page.  If you have any suggestions/questions, please Email me at sarahtantillo@literacycookbook.com


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