Sunday, September 18, 2016

Can a Good Writer Be Bad at Diagramming Sentences?

I still remember standing at the chalkboard in Mrs. Kopald's fourth grade class diagramming a sentence. I had no idea what I was writing or why. I drew a straight line and all these branches and just wrote stuff on them. I didn't know what I was really doing and still don't know a past participle from a gerund or direct object. 

I felt similarly about iambic pentameter  in high school which looked like this:
 ×  / ×   /   ×  /      /  ×    ×   / (×)
To be or not to be, | that is the question
These were the types of activities that turned me off from writing for so many years. Can I really write if I don't know parts of speech or rules of grammar? Can I really rap (yeah, I did that in high school) if I don't know iambic pentameter.  

It's kinda like when that teacher tells you that you need to understand quadratic equations to be a good athlete in sports like baseball, or basketball, or for me, volleyball, but then you find out, really you don't.  
Quadratic Equation

After detoxing from school, I have discovered, I can write even though I can't diagram a sentence. I can rap even though I am unable to do iambic pentameter, and I can play volleyball even though I can't (and don't want to) do quadratic equations.  

Still, I found it pretty cool when I came across this sentence tree generator.
save image
Among other things, what is cool about it is that it changes as you change your sentence. Is that Oxford comma to be or not to be? Well stick it in this tool and watch what happens.  It's also pretty neat to watch all your words become labeled by parts of speech.  

I'm not sure what or how this is useful, but I am sure there are language arts teachers out there (like this one) who can tell me.