I’m enjoying my second snow day today (and hoping for at least one more after this – we got about 10 inches of snow and the temperatures are supposed to be COLD all week), but I’ve got teaching on the mind. Specifically, I’m wondering… How do you teach grammar?
Every year around this time, as we approach our end-of-course writing assessment date in early March, I start to panic about grammar and beat myself up over not covering it more. The truth is, grammar instruction is probably my weakest area as a teacher… I, obviously, value correct grammar in speaking and writing; however, I tend to fall more on the side of “we learn grammar best through regular reading” and am not a big fan of traditional grammar lessons. I can get on board with lessons on where to place a comma or even a colon or semi-colon and certainly “commonly confused words” (think you’re vs. your); but, even with a master’s degree in English, I have never in my adult life needed to use the term “gerund” or “participial phrase.” Honestly, teaching those things feels like a waste of valuable class time. (I realize I’m horrifying some of you right now.)
Of course, the state tests don’t necessarily agree with me. According to some of our pre-tests, they want students to not only know these terms, but also be able to pick them out of or add them to a sentence. This is in addition to being able to edit for correct spelling, punctuation, usage, etc. etc. etc.
On top of all that, I feel like grammar is one of those areas that kids let just go in one ear and out the other (or – worse – memorize for a test and then completely forget it). I teach the same kids for ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade and still feel like I have to start at the very beginning of grammar (with topics like parts of speech, phrases, and clauses) every single year.
It’s probably too late for this year, but I’m already thinking about how I can improve this area of my teaching-game for the future. I’d like to find some kind of grammar “curriculum” that starts with the basics and moves steadily into more complicated grammatical concepts that will a.) engage students, b.) not take up too much class time, and c.) be simple enough that students will remember it, but dynamic enough that they aren’t just memorizing for quizzes but actually APPLYING what they learn to their writing. Anyone have any ideas?!?
How do you structure your grammar units?
How much time do you devote to grammar in your classroom?
How do you make it applicable and useful for students while still meeting the requirements of standardized tests, etc.?
Thanks in advance for your help!!! Have a great day!