Thursday, June 25, 2009

Topic: Teaching Problem-Centered Grammar in the First Ten Minutes of Class (3)

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.

Teaching Problem-Centered Grammar in the First Ten Minutes of Class (3).

10-minute Essays

The idea of the ten-minute essays, occurring in the first ten minutes of class, came from a research study that I read in Research in the Teaching of English, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Unfortunately, I have lost that particular research study.

In it, two authors had ninth-grade students write for ten minutes during their classes. They labeled the students’ mistakes—sp., r-o sentence, frag., etc.—and they found that students’ grammatical mistakes began to diminish with time. I decided to go one step further under the following assumptions:

1. Students do not know how to revise and edit. I decided to provide models of how to revise and edit.

2. Most students do not understand the labels teachers put on grammatical mistakes.

3. Students do not have a visual model of how their writing will look if it is a clean and corrected copy.

So, in the first ten minutes of class, students wrote as well as they could on any topic they chose. At the end of exactly ten minutes, students stopped writing, even in mid-sentence. That night, I went through their papers and corrected grammatical mistakes. I really corrected them. I did not label them. I re-wrote the mistakes.

“I like to hunt and fishing” became “I like to hunt and fish” or “I like hunting and fishing.” Of course, I used cross-outs and red ink to make the corrections.

When I returned the papers the next day, students reviewed my corrections and then, outside of class, rewrote their 10-minute essays from the previous day, incorporating my corrections. If the students were interested, I took time to explain changes that students did not understand. As a result they had a clean copy of their corrected 10-minute essays. They were able to compare the clean copy with their originals that had been corrected in red by me, the teacher.

It was a good system. It worked. Most of the students said to me that they had gained confidence in their writing from comparing their originals with their corrected copy. Furthermore, their 10-minute essays, relatively quickly, began to be turned in with NO grammatical mistakes.

To survive, I used the ten-minute essays for one class for three weeks, then began the ten-minute essays with a second class for three weeks and so on through the five classes. At the end of the first semester, I began again with the first class for three weeks.

Next Blog: Summary of my approach to problem-centered grammar.

No comments: