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How to teach the hidden x-words

Page history last edited by Bonny Hart 6 years, 2 months ago

FrontPage > The Do Mice

How to Teach the Hidden X-words using the Mice.

This lightly edited transcript from Linda Kunz shows us how a pro does it. –Bonny

The mice are available as pdfs on this site. See The Do Mice

Robert Allen from Teachers College developed The Mice. I took them from clip art off the internet. Here’s the first mouse. [shows the does mouse] Do you see this mouse? d – o- e- s. This is the does mouse. I’ll show you how it works.


typically what does the mouse like to eat? Cheese. Everybody in the world says that. I don’t know if it’s true. This is my cheese. The cheese is the base form of a verb. It’s just going to sit there while we make four different sentences.

[does] [love]

So I need people. I’ll get a guy whose name is Bob  I’ll get a girl whose name is Mary. Pretty typical.

[does] [Bob] [love] [Mary]

And I just need a little punctuation and capitalization to make a yes-no question. What punctuation? Sure. A question mark.

[does] [Bob] [love] [Mary] [?]

And what else do I need? Just one more thing. A capital. So I have a capital over here.

[D][oes] [Bob] [love] [Mary] [?]

This is going to be my yes-no question. Now I need an enquiring person. Who’s going to be my yes-no question? (to volunteer) So read it as a yes-no question.

Volunteer 1: “Does Bob love Mary?”

And did you notice that her voice went up? That’s absolutely rule-governed.

Now the mouse wants to get close to his cheese, so I’m going to take away the capital and bring him over here

  [Bob] [does] [love] [Mary]

but what’s going to stop him? I’m going to stop him with this [n’t] All the x-words can become negative. So I’ve put him over here.


[Bob] [does] [n’t] [love] [Mary] and what kind of punctuation?

[Bob] [does] [n’t]  [love] [Mary][.]

a period. Who wants to be a little negative about Bob?

Volunteer 2: Bob doesn’t love Mary.

Listen to the two again, and she’s going to keep her yes-no question. What’s the yes-no question?

Volunteer 1: “Does Bob love Mary?”

And the negative?

Volunteer 2: “Bob doesn’t love Mary.”

And the cheese hasn’t done anything. It’s the x-word that’s doing things. The next person’s a great believer and says argumentatively (I’ll get rid of the negative and change the punctuation) and he puts an emphasis on this

[Bob] [does]  [love] [Mary][!]

Go ahead, Mark.

Volunteer 3: “Bob does love Mary!”

He’s a believer. Listen to the three again. It’s basically the same sentence. It’s only different in its grammar. So the first one, the yes-no question?

Volunteer 1: “Does Bob love Mary?”

And the negative?

Volunteer 2: “Bob doesn’t love Mary.”

The emphatic?

Volunteer 3: “Bob does love Mary!”

And finally, who’s the most relaxed person in this class? Who’s kind of laid back? OK, watch this. We calm down, go back to a period, my little mouse gets to his cheese and only his tail shows. (slide does mouse under love)

[Bob] [love][s] [Mary][.] 

Volunteer 4: “Bob loves Mary.”

This is the affirmative statement. So they have fancy names, yes-no question, negative statement, emphatic statement, but it’s basically the same sentence with the x-word moving through it. This is 100% reliable in English. Every verb that has an “s” simple means “does.”


So the text books say “third person singular.” I don’t know why we say “third person singular.” Yes, that’s true, but if you say, “He can help us,” that’s third person singular, but there’s no “s.” It’s a different x-word. The “s” is just “does,” and it will always pop out to make the yes-no question, pop out to make the negative, pop out to make the emphatic. A mouse has how many tails? One. So if it’s out there, fine. But if it’s a hidden X-word, it’s putting together base form and the x-word does to give you another verb form (V/XS).

But there’s good news. It works with the other ones, too. Here’s my did mouse. Do you see how he’s different? He has a little “d” tail.

Give me my yes-no question. We’re talking about my grandfather. He died a long time ago, so we’re using did.

Volunteer 1: “Did Bob love Mary?”

[D][ id] [Bob] [love] [Mary][?]

And the negative?

Volunteer 2: “Bob didn’t love Mary.”

[Bob] [did] [n’t] [love] [Mary][.]

The emphatic?

Volunteer 3: “Bob did love Mary!”

[Bob] [did]  [love] [Mary][!]

And then we relax.

Volunteer 4: “Bob loved Mary.”

[Bob] [love][d] [Mary][.] 


Now what’s the other member of the “do” family? We’ve got “does” and “did.” And “do.” And what is his tail like? (shows “do” mouse). He’s got no tail.

So we’ll get rid of the “did.” Can I say “Do Bob love Mary?” No

[ do] [Bob] [love] [Mary][?]

What do I have to change? I have to change the subject.

[ do] [Bob] [& Fred] [love] [Mary][?]

So one more time.

Volunteer 1: “Do Bob and Fred love Mary?”

Yes. And you notice, the verb is just sitting there. The x-words really scurry.

[D][ do] [Bob] [& Fred] [love] [Mary][?]

And the negative?

Volunteer 2: “Bob didn’t love Mary.”

[Bob] [& Fred] [do] [n’t] [love] [Mary][.]

The emphatic?

Volunteer 3: “Bob did love Mary!”

[Bob] [& Fred] [do]  [love] [Mary][!]

And finally the affirmative statement.

Volunteer 4: “Bob loved Mary.”

[Bob] [& Fred] [love] [Mary][.] 



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