HOW THE LANGUAGE THEATER GRAMMAR TEXTBOOK WAS BORN
It’s MAGICAL, looking back on it, how The Language Theater came to
The study of language is one my greatest loves. I have studied Greek,
Ancient Greek, Latin, French, English and Sanskrit. The seed of TLT was
planted in my teens. I was studying French with a tutor. She was kind
and made learning fun. One day she drew some stick figures of the
Parts of Speech and spoke a quote from the 18 th century philosopher
Denis Diderot: “Language is a theater, the words are the actors.” I
heard the quote in mind as I looked at the stick figures and just “got it”.
On the spot, I saw and experienced how the Parts of Speech worked
and played together, what the relationships were, how they interacted
and helped each other. I was entranced! It was so exciting, language
just “clicked!” It is a play, a language play! It filled my heart with so
much joy. I understood how it all worked. How language works!
It has helped me in every aspect of my life as it has shaped how I
communicate when I listen, speak or write.
Much later, after many years of teaching and changes in how Grammar
is taught, I realized many of my students didn’t know Grammar. How
could I help them? I remembered Diderot’s quote and the stick figures.
With this concept, perhaps I could make Grammar, the Subject many
think ‘so boring’, come alive, like it did for me! Students might
understand, experience the same joy I had and come to love language.
As Language is a play, I imagined a ‘fun Grammar book’ using the
theater as a motif for the theater of language: The Language Theater!
So, in that fun atmosphere, I conceived an illustrated Grammar book
with the Parts of Speech characters teaching as they ‘acted out’ their
roles using minimal text. The result: each picture is a lesson, you just
look at each picture, read the rule above and the short textual
explanation below it and ask questions. Doesn’t a drawing of VERB
been hit by a snowball with the rule above that says “I can be passive
when the action is done to me” and the sentence below that says, “I
was hit by a snowball”, convey what a Passive Verb is pretty clearly?
There are many good Grammar books out there. I wanted The
Language Theater to be four things: ACCESSIBLE, SIMPLE, FUN and
UNIQUE. Many teachers, parents and students agree. Many find TLT
fun just to look at and leaf through. They say: “I had forgotten that” or
“Oh, I never knew that.”
Finally, I know from years of teaching that children love pictures.
Pictures help solidify and enhance learning. That is why, at each
chapter’s end, there are exercises and a drawing activity to help bring
that learning home, to internalize it. The use of color-coding augments
this learning process even more: The Part of Speech character NOUN is
green, VERB is red, etc. and from page one to book’s end, whenever
NOUN is named, the text is green, VERB’s is red, etc.
When the text was written and ready for pictures, a genius of an
illustrator was next on the list! Someone super-talented, smart, fun,
kind, generous, with a big heart. A tall order that!
Yet, we were so lucky! Our search was short and very sweet: Bill Skrief.
My husband, Glenn, (also the editor of the TLT Textbooks) had worked
with Bill and knew he was super talented, creative and a wonderful
human being. Glenn knew that we would work well together. How true
it was. Bill had all the qualities I dreamed of! The icing on the cake was
that Bill had three young children at the time. He wanted the best for
them and knew Grammar was a part of that. He agreed immediately.
We started meeting at a café next to where Glenn was working. We
met there once a week for months. We instantly hit it off and the bonus
was, Bill wasn’t only a genius illustrator, he loved Grammar! So, the
Parts of Speech characters you see are the result of my ideas and
concepts sifted through Bill’s talents and interpretation in our work
sessions. The process was wonderful. To this day he is our friend and
partner. TLT has the best and most beautiful PARTS OF SPEECH Actors
So, that is how the Textbook came to be.
The Language Theater PLAY BOOK (Workbook) came next. It was a
labor of love for the three of us. Glenn handled most of creative
collaboration with Bill on the illustrations. He also had a lot of fun doing
the Workbook’s exercise naming’. For instance, the exercise of finding
the Articles in a paragraph from “Jason and the Argonauts “ was named
“Jason and the Articles”. “Inject the Interjection” , “Pardon My
Participle” and “Get the Hook” followed. He and Bill also had a good
time with little visual details like adding a “TLT” decal on a suitcase on
page 16 of the Workbook. The Silly Scripts Section of the PLAY BOOK
(Workbook) was a party as they created absurd pictures for students to
write a few sentences based on two or more images that would never
be in a conventional Grammar book like ‘a bear eating pizza at a
restaurant with a robot’. It’s about having some silly time after some
serious Grammar practice!
Finally, in keeping with our Theatrical Motif, Glenn and Bill created
digitally downloadable “Encores” in the form of a Memory Game,
Posters, Flash Cards, Bookmarks and Action Figures for teachers and
students to work and play with, and put up in classrooms or bedrooms.
I mean, the Parts of Speech are with you always, whenever you think,
listen, speak or write. Talk about Superheroes!
To conclude, as Shakespeare wrote, “Therein lies the tale”. I hope you
enjoyed reading about how The Language Theater Textbooks came
about as much as we enjoyed creating them.
The Language Theater