Winning the War Against Boring, Bad Grammar Lessons

MC Hammer - Club Nokia - May 5, 2012

MC Hammer – Club Nokia – May 5, 2012 (Photo credit: starbright31)

“As M.C. Hammer use to sing, ‘It’s Grammar Time'” I would say as I danced across the front of the room.  Thus would begin any of my lessons on commas, subject / verb agreement, pronoun / antecedent agreement, and any other grammar issue.  Of course, this created a cacophony of “Ughs, Args, and guffaws.”  I could actually hear kids cringe.

Then, I would get out the grammar books with exercises and worksheets and begin the lessons.  We would do a few together, do a few with a study buddy, do a few independently, and then the kids would take a quiz.  We would Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Then, write with the hope the kids would apply these grammar skills.  However, it did not always work.  I will let you in on a secret.  Sometimes teenagers don’t think about what they are doing.

This year I plan on letting the students teach the lessons.  I have not worked out all of the details and hope some of you could give me some ideas.  I could break students into small groups (4-6) and let them teach each other.  I could give individual assessments and reward the group with the highest average with food or extra credit or smiley-face stickers.

Smiley Face

Smiley Face (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or, I could have an individual teach a rule to the class.  Or…

I know that I learned grammar best when I taught it.  My dilemma: Is there a best way?  I know there is no one way that works for every student or type of learner.  Therefore, how did you learn writing conventions, grammar rules, etc.?  Thank you for sharing.



Filed under Education, Lesson Plans, Lessons from students, Measuring Student Success

8 responses to “Winning the War Against Boring, Bad Grammar Lessons

  1. I think your idea of getting the students involved in the teaching process is brilliant. The human mind tends to comprehend at a deeper level that which it teaches. If you step back from the conventional role of teacher and play the role of facilitator I believe you will find the kids developing a better team spirit along with discovering their innate talent for leadership. Conventional wisdom might suggest otherwise but consider how we “mature” adults learn in the corporate environment. We form teams, give presentations and assist each other to learn so why don’t we take the same format into the school environment too? I think you will find the kids will grow and blossom as they discover their own particular genius. Keep us up to date with your progress with this. It’ll be a worthwhile experiment that can only have positive outcomes.

    • Thanks for reaffirming what I believe. When you wrote, “I believe you will find the kids developing a better team spirit along with discovering their innate talent for leadership,” it jumped out at me. Leadership skills can be developed, even with “boring” grammar.

  2. Joe Fga

    Last year I needed to hire two senior level managers to fill out my staff. My team is esponsible for assessing risk on requests for project funding and reviewing risk for projects in flight. After rejecting dozens of resumes for qualification reasons, I had 23 remaining. We need to write clear, concise documents of our findings, so I asked the remaining candidates to write a short essay about why they felt they were the best candidate for the job. Only eight wrote a comprehensible response. Perhaps you can have your students write to apply for a job, and then have them read the responses and see for themselves if they would spend consider hiring a person who sounds like an fool on paper.

    • Thanks Joe. I have always done some peer-editing and revision work, and this year I plan on having students revise several times. In the past, students have not felt comfortable with telling friends what is wrong. I plan on revising in stages and having students share the good things in the writing with the class. We will keep the bad things for a private conversation.

  3. Janie

    In a grammar class at OSU (yes, there really was such a thing in the dark ages), we drew little slips of paper that informed us of our topics to research and teach. Mine was “off of”…seriously! The paper had to be ten pages long with a gazillion citations and then we were to present our topics to the class. My suggestion to you is to do the same thing (without the paper, of course), so that your students get the “pleasure” of teaching one of the components of grammar. At the very least, you will know that each student understands at least one of the grammar rules you’re trying to get them to understand. I’m looking forward to hearing how this goes.

    • Janie, My grammar class at OSU was taught by the author of the text. At the time, he attended his 50th high school class reunion. We read 10 pages a night and took a five question true/false quiz each day. Then, he talked. I did a crossword puzzle.

      I like the one student teach one rule, for example, when to use a comma with appositives. I will post results in the fall.

  4. If you aren’t ready to let go of the reins completely, you could plan for different forms of practice. My colleague does grammar daily. She uses the SMARTboard and note taking one day, Day 2-SMARTBoard and individual dry erase boards, Day 3 – SENTEO Response System, Day 4- Independent Practice worksheet, Day 5- Quiz. I think it would be a cool idea to have students create example problems maybe on Day 4. Say every small group had to create 5 examples and then groups rotated.

  5. I like the idea, but I do not have a Smartboard or SENTEO Response system. I have had students do a daily grammar sentence, but the lessons seemed too disconnected. You do have me thinking of switching from vocabulary to grammar warmups. Or… maybe vocabulary warm up one day, grammar another day, and a journal or reader’s notebook / response a third day. I could rotate these… What do you think?

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