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I use a text called Daily Grammar Practice. This uses the same sentence every day for a week. Monday addresses the parts of speech for the sentence. Tuesday addresses the sentence parts. Wednesday addresses the clause(s) and sentence types. Thursday addresses capitalization. Friday addresses diagramming. Other mini-lessons are embedded in the sentece, and this arrangement is wonderful because each day builds on and reincorces the learning from the previous days.
This is an interesting question that should generate a wide variety of opinions. I believe that teaching grammar is only a vehicle for teaching writing. Although I really like it when someone uses the possessive case as the subject of a gerund, I'm not sure that it makes a lot of difference in a person's life. I believe that the best way to teach grammar/writing is through extensive reading, especially if it's begun early in a person's life. There is research evidence that if someone sees grammar/writing well done early in life, they are more likely to repeat that "behavior" in their own writing (again, the only reason that I think we should teach grammar). If the only experience they have with language is speech, they are more likely to repeat these patterns which are often scattered and ungrammatical.
In teaching grammar, we are often just providing lables for things that students know from their reading experience; we tend to test them on the labels rather than the grammar. I'm sure there is some benefit in knowing these labels, particularly as they apply to sentence structure, but I am not sure (and I really mean not sure) that this adds enough benefit to their writing to be worth the time we spend on it.
So I would have students read extensively; I think the time spent reading would benefit them more than the time spent on grammar instruction (a good Ph.D. these here :)).
I'm sure this topic will lead to a lively discussion!
The steps to teaching grammar first begin with the most basic form of symbolism in communication which starts with early speech, and moves to a verbal understanding of the alphabet, and then goes to an understanding of the correlational symbolism of the letters of the alphabet with the sounds, with pictural representation of what the letters look like. It then moves to an understanding of how those letters work together to make words, through an understanding of phonics. Phonics will vary from place to place as dialects are different, but as a whole phonics will then help form the basic understanding of how letters and sounds come together to make words. Once words are formed and understood, the process begins for putting words in the appropriate order to make sentences can begin.
Yes, in our academic study of the English language throughout our early schooling does teach us about labels of words and how they are connected to each other, and what their meanings are. It is important that students have an understanding of these terms, however, the real focus should be on how the words are used in context.
It's important to note that when you speak, it is natural to think that writing should follow suit. When written language is often very different from spoken language. It is important when teaching to note this difference in your teaching. I do agree with the above post that reading is the best way for students to learn and understand written text.
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