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.
Why Teach Grammar?
In this chapter (Chapter 9), I describe a program in which writing and grammar are taught concurrently and in which the teaching of grammar is problem-centered and taught within the context of instruction in the writing process, using textbook exercises, mini-lessons, 10-minute essays, the textbook as reference with major writing assignments to insure correctness and sentence combining to improve style.
The purpose of most grammar instruction is correctness in usage, sentence structure and punctuation, the editing part of the writing process. But I attempt to show that a knowledge of grammar is useful in achieving coherence, in which the reader follows the writer’s text, uninterrupted, undistracted, from beginning to end, the polish for prose.
Directions: Please read the following sentences:
Two days of unseasonably beautiful weather has gotten Plattsburgh Mayor Daniel Stewart to think about some spring cleaning. Its’ unique tangy blend of herbs and spices bring out the natural taste of steak. Recent record high temperatures followed by a cold snap worries local orhardists who say their apple crops are extremely vulnerable to the quick changes. Twenty minutes later, the ordeal ended anticlimactically when the driver ran out of gas on a freeway off-ramp, and laid down, spread eagle, on the ground. I should have went to practice. I should have ran better. Seven years ago, stuck in a midlife crisis, a therapist suggested I try envisioning my life five or 10 years down the road.
Did these sentences bother you as a reader? While reading these sentences, did you pause to speculate about what was wrong? Did you lose your concentration on the ideas because you were distracted by the mistakes? Were you more concerned with the mistakes than with the ideas?
Below, are the sources for the mistakes:
1. Two days of unseasonably beautiful weather has gotten Plattsburgh Mayor Daniel Stewart to think about some spring cleaning.
2. “Its’ unique tangy blend of herbs and spices bring out the natural taste of steak.” Found by an English teacher on a bottle of Heinz57 Sauce. Company officials were not aware of the mistakes. Daily Local News,
3. Recent record high temperatures followed by a cold snap worries local orchardists who say their apple crops are extremely vulnerable to the quick changes.
4. Twenty minutes later, the ordeal ended anticlimactically when the driver ran out of gas on a freeway off-ramp, and laid down, spread eagle, on the ground. Wall Street Journal. Oct. 11, 2002. Internet. [Lie, lay, lain; lay, laid, laid.]
5. “I should have went to practice.” Allen Iverson, at a press conference after being criticized by his coach Larry Brown for missing practice. [“Have gone….”]
6. “I should have ran better.” Professional football player, in an interview on network television, commenting on his failure to gain yardage. [“Have run…."]
7. Seven years ago, stuck in a midlife crisis, a therapist suggested I try envisioning my life five or 10 years down the road. Daily Local News,
What are the purposes for teaching grammar? To be sure that readers are not distracted by mistakes like these and can concentrate on the ideas being expressed by the writer. A knowledge of grammar is helpful in achieving accurate editing, the last step in the writing process (which includes brainstorming, thesis, first draft, topic sentences, introductory paragraph, summary paragraph, revising, editing). A knowledge of grammar can also help a writer achieve coherence, the quality of writing that enables the reader to follow the writer’s flow of thought from beginning to end without distraction. In short, a knowledge of grammar can help to polish prose.
Next blog: Grammar is not writing.