Saturday, March 10, 2007 answer on how to teach grammar in context

For some reason, the idea of teaching grammar in context was a complete enigma. I heard much about it, and I knew I needed to do it. BUT, I just didn't get it. This relates quite well to my students who are studying grammar: they've heard about it (over and over and over again) and they knew they needed to do it. BUT, they just didn't get it.

This morning at the CLAS conference Jeff Anderson was the keynote speaker. He gave an enlightening and humorous speech on how to look at teaching grammar in a new light. These wonderful ideas are in his book Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop.

There were a few key parts of his speech that spoke to me and my needs in the classroom.
  • Examine what the students reveal with their errors. The great its/it's struggle is one example. I need to ask myself a few questions: Why do students misunderstand this concept? How can I help them erase their misconceptions? By knowing why they think a certain way is correct (when it is actually wrong) can lead to authentic discussions on those pesky rules.
  • Use correct sentences to teach instead of incorrect sentences. I abandoned the DOL idea a few years ago when I realized that it was only a way to get students working right off the bat (I've since discovered more useful strategies for this). I have never seen a replacement that works for me. Here's what Jeff suggested...Put up a "great" sentence from a published author and use inquiry to discover patterns. Students can notice why things are capitalized in the middle of the sentence, or why there are commas where they are. The beauty of this is that I can look at style as well. Students can emulate the sentence using the correct grammar, but also the style they were shown. The key to this is questioning and letting students figure out patterns and rules. Then...I love this part...students can go into their literature (independent reading or whole class assignments) and find "great" sentences of their own. As a class we can explore them together. So....this fits into reader's and writer's workshop, and it is a quick way to bring in grammar and style instruction more often.

I'd love to hear more grammar in context ideas.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Along the lines of analyzing student errors to help them where they need help, I began to discourage students from typing their final papers in the middle school. I found that word processing software often masks student weakness by the autocorrect function. I discovered that for some students spelling is a weakness, but it does not show up on final papers due to spell check and parent check. The draw back to this was deciphering nearly undecipherable scrawl. One compromise I am toying with is assigning more short, 2 – 3 paragraph essays and encouraging students to track their own grammar mistakes. I haven’t quite figured that out yet, however. I would also like to hear how others manage this task.