Cortney Kinyon is not a normal English teacher. She even said so herself.

“My classroom isn’t the quintessential sit-down-and-read-a-book kind of classroom,” she said. “I try to do different activities.”

And the 13-year veteran teacher of Central Heights High School has started a new activity this year — breaking down sentence structure by having her students write on their desks.

Kaitlyn Emert, CHS senior, said Kinyon gives “pods” of around four to five students a sentence, they write it out on the desk, and then are given different colored Expo markers to identify parts of speech. Nouns are blue, verbs are green, conjunctions are purple, transitions are pink and so on.

“It’s like a big, rainbow mess, but it helps to understand everything,” Emert said. “We actually asked her if we could do more of them because we were struggling at the beginning of the school year.”

The activity was altered from a suggestion Kinyon learned about previously at a grammar conference. Students get to collaborate, and it’s a better visual basis, she said.

“Doing it out of a book is always really boring, and they never follow it,” Kinyon added.

Normally, students would work with the sentence on a Smartboard, so they’re “always answering and always talking,” Kinyon said.

“But one of the standards they have to do is speaking and listening, so high school kids have to be able to talk about academic work,” Kinyon said.

“Once you give them academic work, they’re like, ‘I can’t talk, I can’t talk.’ But with writing on the desks, I put them into their little groups, and they just started helping each other.”

Abby Brown, sophomore, is a science-loving volleyball player, who said English hasn’t always been her absolute favorite.

“A lot of the other English classes I’ve had before, we just kind of read and did vocab and stuff, but with Ms. Kinyon, we do some different stuff, so it’s more exciting,” Brown said.

The collaboration with other students is beneficial, she added.

“It makes you feel a little bit rebellious because you get to write on the desks,” Brown said. “...There are different options that you can do with sentences, and I don’t know if I would have picked up on that if my other partners hadn’t noticed that. It’s cool to see everybody else’s perspectives.”

Even when working with sentences on her own, Emert said color-coding makes it easier.

“She has definitely helped me with English,” Emert said. “I’ve improved a lot. I can actually write at a college level, and be fine with it now.”