Friday, June 19, 2009

Topic: Problems in Teaching Grammar--Terminology

10-second review: Base the teaching of grammar on problems that can be predictably expected in compositions. These problems involve sentence structure, punctuation and usage. Composition should be taught at the same time as grammar so that students can apply their knowledge of grammar to their compositions. The purpose for a knowledge of grammar in composition? To polish writing.

Title: “Grammar and Composition.” Teaching English, How To…. Raymond Stopper. Xlibris, 2004. pp. 164-206.

Problem: Terminology

In my experience, teachers have spent too much time teaching terminology and not enough time on the problems which the terminology is supposed to help students resolve. Imagine yourself as a student facing the following terms:

appositive, case, nominative, objective, participle, gerund, absolute, conjugation, dangling modifier, declarative, predicate, expletive, future perfect, ablative, past perfect, indicative, subjunctive, linking verb, restrictive, nonrestrictive, object complement, pluperfect, predicate adjective, relative pronoun, transitive, intransitive, voice, infinitive.

What sense would you make of these terms?

With my approach, teachers spend most of their time resolving problems in expression and teach terminology only when it helps students understand the problems. For example, in teaching the important reasons for using commas—after introductory expressions, around “interrupters” and before “afterthoughts”—I dispense with formal terminology together. Those three plain statements of the reasons for commas involve the following grammatical terms: “direct address,” “prepositional phrases,” “verbal/gerundial/participial phrases,” "infinitive phrases,” “subordinate clauses,” “appositive” “relative” or “parenthetical” clauses, and “absolutes.”

Next Blog: Problems in Teaching Grammar--Purpose.

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