Do you take off for grammar and spelling?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by dgpiaffeteach, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I had an interesting conversation with a colleague today. He teaches a non-English related subject and has been having issues with students' grammar. Both of the English teachers (myself and another) are new. The other English teacher started last year and I started this year. We both fully recognize that the students' grammar and spelling is terrible! However, we have been informed by various faculty members that they haven't had much formal grammar. We are catching them up as quickly as we can but it's amazing what they still don't know. I gave them a general pre-assessment of what I thought was basic stuff like how to form possessives, items in a series, etc... and the seniors really struggled with it. The kids are working hard at it but it's unfair to them since they haven't received all the education they should have.

    My issue is that this other teacher keeps telling me he's taking off for grammar and spelling errors. I fully believe in grading for grammar and spelling when it is a formal writing but I feel it is unfair to judge students on their spelling when it's an in-class assignment that they don't have any time to proofread. Some of our students are terrible spellers and it's not that they are lazy. I've talked to him about it before but he still seems to want to take off for grammar and spelling, even in their journals!

    I'm especially interested in hearing from those of you who don't teach English. Do you take points off for grammar or spelling? He takes either 1/2 a point or 1 point off for each error. I can't remember which it is at the moment! It's been really bugging me since I feel like he grades harder than the English teachers do!
     
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  3. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    For in-class essays I don't take off for spelling and grammar mistakes. Out-of-class essays have a section on the rubric dedicated to spelling and grammar-about 5-10% of the overall grade.
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I correct it, but don't take off.

    That said, my kids aren't writing essays.
     
  5. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Generally speaking, I grade the standard currently being addressed. If we are learning main idea and supporting details, I would not take off for grammar issues in their main idea statements, even on the summative assessment.
     
  6. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    We are required to write in all subjects. I do like Brendan said, on formal writing projects I have a grammar/mechanics section on my rubric. On informal, in class writing, especially journaling, I never take off, but I will correct it.

    My seventh graders are starting their big first quarter writing project tomorrow. They have to organize, color code, topic sentence, and rough draft a short essay about how to solve equations. The eighth graders are writing an accordion paragraphs about how they use integers in real life.
     
  7. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    I don't take off for spelling unless it is a vocabulary term in my subject...especially since I have a word wall of current terms to refer to. That said, I take points off for NOT following directions such as "Respond in a complete sentence" and "Write an essay."
    So grammatically I deduct for thinking a phrase is a sentence (one reason I stress never beginning a sentence with "because"), or the ever so annoying venn diagram in response to a compare/contrast essay.

    Too often students forget that language skills are used in more than just English class. Since the states graduation test has a written component in every subject it is important that they practice communicating effectively in all subject areas.
     
  8. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    I don't take off points for grammar and spelling for in-class assignments like an essay question on a test. I grade those for content. I do take off points for typed assignments such as lab reports, but spelling and grammar are only worth 5 points out of 40 or so.
     
  9. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    I don't take off for in-class things (usually quizzes), but I definitely grade spelling, grammar, syntax, etc. on everything else they submit.

    However, I think the larger question is whether it's up to you what he grades. The whole idea of writing across the curriculum is that it reinforces what the English teachers do by showing students that writing (including spelling and grammar) matters in every subject. It makes students more receptive to the lessons taught in English.

    Our English department is very supportive of tough grading in every department, and I really value that. Maybe your colleague should be more understanding in his grading, but I'm not sure it's productive for you to worry about it.
     
  10. Milsey

    Milsey Habitué

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    I **** will point it out if I see consistent mistakes and a multitude of misspellings, but because the exam does not penalize for poor grammar and spelling I don't deduct.
     
  11. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I definitely do correct all their mistakes except journals, which I specifically tell them I'm looking for content only.

    Katherine, I'm definitely happy that our school is so good about writing in every subject but I know it is very frustrating for the kids who are losing a whole letter grade or more on assignments so that is where my worry is coming from. I don't believe poor spelling should have that much influence in a grade. If it is truly that bad then perhaps the kids should redo it. I will also say that he has said none of the kids have improved, which makes me wonder how effective it is.
     
  12. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    DG, I hear you. There are many things my colleagues do that I wonder about.

    But the thing is: you have to work with him and he sounds like he's pretty serious about his policy. Is this a fight worth picking?
     
  13. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    You're right about that. It's not one I'm going to pick unless it becomes a huge issue. I'm more curious what other teachers do at this point.
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Um. "Because I know how, I can begin a sentence with 'because'" is grammatical. Could I trouble you to tell your students not that sentences never begin with "because" but that they'll learn how to begin sentences with "because" when they learn about complex sentences?
     
  15. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    I don't think there is a problem with having a section of a rubric dedicated to grammar/spelling, but marking off for every mistake has been proven to be an ineffective method for teaching grammar/spelling. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that it actually impedes grammar instruction.
     
  16. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    TG, my next door teacher, who also teaches high school speech, just had that very argument with a student this week. A well meaning teacher once told him that sentences never begin with because, and naturally, out of 180 days of instruction, that is what stuck. Sigh.

    One of my favorite methods of grammar correction is to write the number of mistakes beside each line (alternatively, you can do every few lines or by paragraph). Then the student is looking for the mistakes. It's not a perfect method, and of course you get students who correct things that don't need correcting, but at least they are looking at their product analytically. I've used this method with fourth graders up to high school, and it works well.

    Perhaps you could suggest this method to your teacher. Point out that just taking points off, or worse, doing the correcting for the student, is not going to teach them how to improve for the next time.
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I HATE having to "unteach" something another teacher has taught my kids!!!!!

    "RARELY" is a MUCH better word choice than "NEVER."
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I had a grammar section of my rubric for out of class writing. I didn't deduct for specific mistakes, but made a judgement call on the effect the mistakes had on the readability of the assignment. The scores ranged from "free of grammar/spelling errors", "errors frequent/severe enough to prevent the reader from understanding what the writer was trying to convey", with several steps in between.
     
  19. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    :yeahthat:

    Don't even get me started on subtraction and square roots.
     
  20. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    That's very similar to what I use for most of my assignments.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Why?? Don't you ALWAYS put the larger number into the calculator first????

    And you CAN'T take the square root of a negative, right???

    And pi equals 3.14... or it it 22/7????

    I always feel so disloyal for letting kids know they were taught wrong. Yet, at the same time, I want to smack their teachers upside the head for not taking the time to teach it correctly. (And,no, I'm not talking about an isolated kid who got it wrong. I'm talking about a class agreeing to something that is incorrect.)

    What is it we keep saying about content??? Oh, yeah: that you've GOT to know it!!!

    OK, off my soapbox and back to our regularly scheduled thread.
     
  22. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    :rofl:

    I second that rant.
     
  23. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    As an English teacher, I don't understand the math rant but I do appreciate that it's not just English :lol::lol:

    I always have a grammar section on papers and for projects and such but it's always worth a certain number of points. If an assignment truly had so many errors that I couldn't understand it then I would sit down with the student and conference and ask for a rewrite.
     
  24. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Was there a good reason for the expletive? Kind of ironic on a thread discussing good grammar...:rolleyes:
     
  25. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I had a history teacher in high school that gave us essay tests and took off points for misspelled words. History was an easy subject for me, and I'm a fairly decent speller, but the policy always rattled me when I was taking his tests. I'd read back over everything and freak out about certain words, afraid that I'd spelled them wrong and would get points off. I'd use really low level vocabulary because I was afraid I'd spell the "big words" wrong, which made my essays a lot poorer quality overall. I can't imagine how this policy was for students who really struggled with spelling. IMO, that's not something they should be evaluated on in a history class. It's one thing to expect a nice polished essay if it was a take home assignment with a rubric, especially since all they'd need to do would be to take the time to have someone proofread it for them- but I think doing it on tests or random assignments is totally unfair.
     
  26. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think it's important to TEACH correct grammar and spelling.

    I'm not sure that, in all subjects, it's important to PENALIZE errors.

    Anytime I correct a kid's grammar, I hear "But this isn't English." And of course I respond "That's good, because you're not speaking English."
     
  27. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Yeah that.
     
  28. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    You can use expletives and still be grammatically correct...
     
  29. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    :lol: ...but one must also consider the source.
     
  30. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    I will plead ignorance here. Exactly when do students today learn the difference between a sentence and a phrase? Direct and indirect objects? Complex sentences?

    Let me make myself clear about my earlier post. I really believe in effective communication in class. I want students to be specific in asking me questions (and "I don't get it" is NOT a question) as well as when providing answers. I am teaching my students to rephrase the question into their response. So if asked "Why does ice float?" they can respond "Ice floats because it is less dense than water." instead of "Because it is less dense than water."

    THIS is why I deduct for "because" grammar.
     
  31. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I have no idea on the "when do they learn?"question.

    But would they lose credit if they answered:
    "Because it is less dense than water, ice floats." ??
     
  32. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    You beat me to it, Alice.

    "Because it is less dense than water" isn't a phrase, it's a clause - to be precise, it's a subordinate clause. (What makes a clause a clause is having a full verb (in this case, is) plus a subject (in this case, it); what makes it a subordinate clause is that word because). If students are old enough to be held to the requirement that they embed their because-answers under main clauses, it seems to me that they're entitled to explore the difference between main and subordinate clauses, since that is the difference on which the requirement depends.
     
  33. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Obviously no, since the subject of the sentence is "ice" and the verb is "floats." I feel like people are getting really picky here and not letting some common sense prevail.
     
  34. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I understand what you are expecting from the students. :)
     
  35. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Alice...at least they won't 'loose' credit, which is a misspelling seen quite often enough on the forums.:dizzy:
     
  36. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    So would the kids lose credit for "Because ice floats, it is less dense than water"?

    I'm hoping they wouldn't, since this sentence is perfectly grammatical - but clearly "ice" is not the subject nor "floats" the verb of the main clause, and clearly this sentence begins with "because". It follows that some other rule of grammar must be in play here - and, in fact, it's the one.

    This is, in fact, a less picky point than it looks. The word "because" patterns with "since" and "when" and "if" and "even though" and a host of other transition words that begin subordinate clauses. In fact, that might be the best way to teach "because", as a word that works like "if".

    Neither is this that picky a point.
     
  37. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    While every rubric I use for essays changes - depending on what I'm looking for - there's always one section for conventions and spelling.

    I also tell my kids they can't start a sentence with the word "and" until they get their driver's license. I figure if they're mature enough to handle a car, they'll be mature enough (and have read enough) to understand when it's appropriate :)lol:... it just gives them a little something extra to look forward to at 16).
     
  38. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I like that rule about "and", chebrutta...
     
  39. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    I don't generally deduct for spelling/grammar errors for normal in-class assignments, but I always include these areas in my rubrics for out of class essays and other writing assignments. I have seen some teachers at my school penalize students as you describe, though.
     
  40. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I only deduct for big mistakes. The "I be" and "mices." Even then, it is a max of 5% for the report. I figure that since my grammar and spelling is so poor, theirs must REALLY be bad if I notice a problem.

    I'll give a kid a negative grade if they write IDK for an answer. Or any other text-speak.
     

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