Tag Archives: Grammar

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.

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

Comma Quandary

This week, we began, like we usually do, with a handout, some review, and some notes on a certain little piece of punctuation, the comma.   A couple, of kids, overuse, them, because, they, don’t, want, to bother, learning the rules.  A few students write and read at a much faster pace so they prefer to avoid using commas for they fear the comma will slow them down and they would lose the race to complete a paragraph before the other students.

I remember a young lady, Eva, who struggled with using commas correctly.  At first Eva would never use a comma.  As we progressed through the comma rules, she began to use them to separate any two adjectives like “white, tennis shoes.”  Technically and grammatically speaking, tennis is an adjective describing the type of shoes.  They are not running, walking, or soccer shoes.  So, it looks like a comma should go between “white” and “tennis.”  However, our “rules” say tennis shoes are considered one noun or thing.  How do I explain this to the non-tennis playing student?  Do I say “tennis shoes” are special?  Who invented these rules?  I use to think it was Miss Kindleberger, my freshman English teacher.  She had to have been 105 years old when I sat in her class, and she taught for about twenty more years after I graduated.

Now there is a blog by someone who says English teachers lie to students.  I take umbrage to this blog.  As if we made up the crazy rules like never end a sentence with a preposition.  Winston Churchhill responded to this rule with, “That is something I will not up with put.”  The reason for the rule is based on Latin rules.  Well, the spoken language died, so why don’t we let the rule expire also?

The truth is language changes.  Forsooth, tis true.  Wherefore wouldst thou thinkst it doth not?

Now, I am left to explain to Eva and her classmates that a comma goes here but not there.  I get to tell her every grammar rule is not absolute.  There are always exceptions.

How do I deal with this problem?  I allow the students to use their resources on quizzes, tests, and writing assignments.  Everything is open notes and open book.  After the millionth time looking up a rule, they will finally memorize it.   Or, they will learn to avoid that type of sentence construction when writing.  In addition, the tests are no longer an inhospitable and troublesome trepidation.  Instead, they become a way to show how well what has been learned can be applied.

The majority of workers have resources to help them do their jobs.  I do not work without resources.  Why should we handicap the students?

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