teaching grammar

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by elibats, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. elibats

    elibats Rookie

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    Jan 7, 2009

    This past semester I was student teaching in a 9th grade English class, and when I asked the teacher what kinds of grammar lessons he used, he said "I just correct them when they use words wrong. I don't think grammar can exactly be taught, you just have to learn it through reading and speaking." If I hadn't been so nervous in my new position I would have asked for some evidence to back up his point, which, though it bothered me, made me think. I never stopped thinking about it, especially while reading student work. Then one day a B/B+ student raised his hand and asked what a noun was. At that point I insisted on teaching a grammar lesson every week. I had to start with the absolute basics because, apparently, this particular school system (and I'm sure many others) swept the teaching of mechanics under the rug and let the red marks on writing assignments do the "teaching."

    Any thoughts?
     
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  3. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Jan 7, 2009

    It's absurd that a 9th grader would not know what a noun is!

    While there has been a great deal of discussion over how to teach grammar, and there is evidence to show that teaching it in isolation is less effective than teaching it in context, I don't see how ignoring the subject is helping the students in any way. Also, there is significant evidence that the red marks on writing assignments do absolutely no "teaching."

    If you're interested in a book about an effective way to teach writing without the red marks, pick up Kelly Gallagher's Teaching Adolescent Writers.
     
  4. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I don't think students need to know how to APPLY grammar knowledge. Some kids can correctly complete grammar drill exercises all day, but they can't write worth crap. I use my grammar books only to give lessons in certain topics, and then I make the students use their own writings for the exercises.
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jan 7, 2009

    It's a good deal easier to teach noun-verb agreement when students already know what nouns and verbs are. And, yes, indeed: one big point of teaching grammar is to give kids tools with which to assess their own writing and correct it as needed.
     
  6. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Jan 7, 2009

    Grammar certainly has its place. When I was teaching English I during first semester, I devoted about 2 days a week to grammar. At the school I was at, we use Easy Grammar Plus (I think that's what it was called). The kids would write down the grammar rules for whatever lesson we were on, and then they had worksheets that accompanied the notes. I would let the students work together to complete their packets. It seemed to work well.
     
  7. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    Jan 8, 2009

    Dear Lord, you really don't want to get me started on this subject, do you?
     
  8. adventuresofJ

    adventuresofJ Comrade

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    Jan 8, 2009

    Two things I love to teach grammar -- School House Rock and a game called Linguishtik. The game gives a fun context for learning grammar. I learned the game while in a club, but my teacher in 5th grade used it to teach grammar to the class. The lessons we were using around the game I didn't see again until 10th grade.

    You could always try diagramming - which i hated because it had no use or context to me, words on lines made no sense to me.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Diagramming works for some people. I like phrase structure trees (with or without semantic features) because they preserve word order at the same time as they show hierarchical relationships.
     
  10. elibats

    elibats Rookie

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    Jan 9, 2009

    I'm not really that familiar with diagramming, but from what I know it sounds like something I'd have a lot of fun with. Unfortunately you can't say that for most students.
     
  11. wunderwhy

    wunderwhy Comrade

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    Jan 9, 2009

    This is something I wish I had a better answer to. After years of making my students learn what a predicate nominative and an adverbial infinitive phrase were, only to have them complain and fail (so that each year I counted the assessments less and less despite the fact that I was creating more and more notes and activities to help them), I decided, fine, I'll jump on the "grammar is something kids will just pick up along the way" bandwagon.

    Then our county adopted this pre-AP curriculum, and as my class is the last honors class before they enter AP Language and Composition, I was told I needed to teach them all the stuff I had been trying to teach them for years so they could write intelligently about the author's use of adverbial clauses on the AP exam.

    So I put the super specific grammar lessons back into my curriculum. And the kids still failed, and I counted it as a quiz, not a test.

    I will say, though, that I had more success with giving them passages from the book we were reading and asking them to identify the clauses, prepositional phrases, adjectives, etc. I wrote the sentence on the board and modeled how to put boxes around one item, circles around another, etc. We decided we weren't that impressed with Sue Monk Kidd, who only used adjectives like "blue." They seemed to feel empowered by being given something to do with grammar. There was a point to it. It wasn't just mindless memorization.

    I am open to all suggestions because I've failed more than succeeded in the grammar department.

    I do think diagramming is useful.
     
  12. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I never learned how to diagram in school, and now even it is difficult for me!
     
  13. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The key, wunderwhy, is precisely that grammar is a tool. Brava to you for showing them how they can use it to figure out not just that they don't like Sue Monk Kidd but why. And the more things you have them DO with it, the more useful they'll find it.
     
  14. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Jan 12, 2009

    One student asked me when we would ever be using that stuff. I replied to him that no matter in what profession he goes, people will only take him seriously if he can articulate his thoughts intelligently, which starts with correct grammar. He seemed to accept that answer.
     

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