Friday, May 1, 2009

Topic: Grammar and Writing

10-second review: RayS.’s principles of teaching grammar and writing.

1. The purpose for teaching grammar is to help students polish their writing.

2. The reason that all those research studies showed grammar to have no influence on learning to write was that grammar and writing have two different focuses.

Grammar is concerned with the sentence. Writing is concerned with whole compositions and paragraphs. No wonder grammar did not appear to have any influence on composition. Holistic grading focused on the whole composition and the paragraphs of which it consisted. Grammar is applied to editing.

3. Writing and grammar should be taught concurrently so that teachers can show students how to apply it to their writing.

4. Keep the language of grammar to a minimum. Begin with problems and teach the parts of speech and sentence as needed to solve the problems. For example, begin with the possessive problem—“it’s/Its,” the most frequent mistake in students’ compositions—and then teach the chapter on possessive nouns and pronouns.

Another example of how to teach grammatical terminology: Define the three most important uses of the comma—after introductory expressions, around interrupters and before afterthoughts. If you need to identify participial phrases, appositives, infinitives and absolutes, teach them in the context of the uses of the comma and reinforce as needed. But explain the label. Why is a “participle” called a participle?

5. Writing involves the following steps in the writing process: brainstorm; thesis sentence; first draft, including intermediate and summary paragraphs; introduction; revising (insert, replace, and move text); and editing. The purpose of editing is to polish the final draft.

6. To prepare for the “grammar” section of the SAT, take the first ten minutes of class and put a problem on the board—dangling modifier, for example. Students try to correct it. If they do, they receive extra credit.

OR, for the first ten minutes of the class, students write as well as they can for ten minutes on a topic of their choosing and the teacher corrects that night. Schedule these 10-minute essays for three weeks per class for consecutive classes and repeat in the second semester. Ten minutes is not much writing and the teacher can correct fairly quickly one class’s ten-minute essays. In addition, students will develop the habit of writing.

Taking the first ten minutes for correcting problems in grammar and style or writing 10-minute essays quiets the students, puts them immediately to work and begins to prepare them for the writing section of the SAT.

What do you think? RayS.

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