Friday, June 26, 2009

Topic: Teaching Problem-Centered Grammar

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

Research seems to indicate that teaching grammar to improve writing does not happen. As a result, many teachers stopped teaching grammar. But a little common sense shows that composition and grammar have two very different emphases. Composition involves ideas and arrangement of paragraphs. Grammar focuses on the sentence. When compositions are graded holistically, raters are warned not to focus unduly on mistakes in grammar, but on the composition as a whole, involving unity and coherence.

Grammar does have its purposes. A knowledge of grammar allows students to polish their prose.

Since the purpose of grammar is to untangle problems in writing, I suggest a problem-centered approach to teaching grammar, while, at the same time, I am teaching composition, so that students can apply their knowledge of grammar to their writing. I begin with the problem in the students’ writing and then teach the grammar needed to understand and correct the problem. Most of my teaching is practiced in the first ten minutes of class.

1. Students identify mistakes in grammar in the format of the SAT.

2. Students use the textbook to solve problems in grammar.

3. 10-minute essays. Finally, students write as well as they can for ten minutes and then I correct their mistakes, not by labeling them, but by actually making the corrections on their original 10-minute essays. Students compare their originals with my corrections and write a clean copy to develop a visual concept of their writing as clear and correct writing.

I use only the grammatical terminology necessary to help students understand the particular problems in their writing.

I try to do with teaching grammar what I try to do with everything I teach. I assume that students are asking, “Why do I need to know this stuff?” My answer? I predict that you will have a problem in writing and here is how to solve that problem.

I welcome any and all questions concerning my problem-centered teaching of grammar: RayS.

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