Teaching GrammarDo your students in high school still need refresher courses in grammar? If so, what sort of activities do you do?

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npdckrsn's profile pic

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I have Basic English with one freshmen section, two sophomore, one junior, and two senior sections. My kids are definitely on the low-side so I work a lot on grammar with them. My freshmen have a five-week unit, my sophomores have grammar packets they do as homework after I do a mini-lesson on the whole packet on Mondays. All of my classes do DOL (Daily Oral Language) where we correct a sentence on the whiteboard at the beginning of class. The regular kids at my school also have pretty iffy grammar skills and they too have DOL and grammar their freshmen and sophomore years.

I can't help but to notice that students are really losing their skills in grammar. It is not only sad but scary. I hear "I seen him at the store" on a daily basis, they utilize the invariant "be", it is just getting bad. The internet isn't helping either (I am totally aware of the ironic value of this statement since I am posting on an internet discussion board...haha) because it is effective to spell improperly, use words improperly and anything else that can be made to butcher the English language. The only thing we can do is hit them hard in high school with it as well as the middle and primary grades and hope something sticks and they can get their thoughts across to people in a relatively coherent manner.

Jenny, would you like to try some of the exercises I submitted just for fun?  The guys like the War Horses and I think I have a romance type for the girls.  Either way, for them it is almost like getting to have fun with the reading before they have to be serious about the actual grammar.  Let me know.  npdckrsn@aol.com

jennyrocks's profile pic

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I have Basic English with one freshmen section, two sophomore, one junior, and two senior sections. My kids are definitely on the low-side so I work a lot on grammar with them. My freshmen have a five-week unit, my sophomores have grammar packets they do as homework after I do a mini-lesson on the whole packet on Mondays. All of my classes do DOL (Daily Oral Language) where we correct a sentence on the whiteboard at the beginning of class. The regular kids at my school also have pretty iffy grammar skills and they too have DOL and grammar their freshmen and sophomore years.

I can't help but to notice that students are really losing their skills in grammar. It is not only sad but scary. I hear "I seen him at the store" on a daily basis, they utilize the invariant "be", it is just getting bad. The internet isn't helping either (I am totally aware of the ironic value of this statement since I am posting on an internet discussion board...haha) because it is effective to spell improperly, use words improperly and anything else that can be made to butcher the English language. The only thing we can do is hit them hard in high school with it as well as the middle and primary grades and hope something sticks and they can get their thoughts across to people in a relatively coherent manner.

jessecreations's profile pic

Posted on

My students have horrific grammar skills.  Unfortunately, in the past 3 schools where I have worked, grammar has not been a major part of the English curriculum.  Grammar skills are needed on state assessments, where students might be asked to identify revision needs in a passage or to select an error in a sentence.  However, if I want to teach grammar, I have to sneak it in "under the radar," so to speak, since it is not part of my prescribed curriculum to do so.

I like to teach grammar as I notice the mistakes my students are making.  If one class, for example, shows errors in possessive pronouns, then I teach a lesson on possessive pronouns.  I try to make grammar lessons short, sweet, and as entertaining as possible for the kids.

Some ways I make grammar fun are to use song lyrics and students' names.  I use a Rufio song called "Above Me" when I teach the difference between your and you're, for example.  I also create a handful of practice sentences using the names of my own students, to make them laugh.  ex: "When Ben was rebuffed by the girl, he skulked home with his head hung low."

Students hate grammar, and many of us hate teaching it, but I feel I have to help my students improve in this area so that they will be able to communicate in a variety of situations with professionalism and propriety.

npdckrsn's profile pic

Posted on

My high school students do need a refresher in grammar.  However, most of their errors are a result of not speaking English as their first language.  I do believe the research that indicates that teaching grammar in isolation is a futile measure that does not transfer to student writing.  What I do use in my classrooms is to increase the amount of time that students read on their own, since good writers are good readers, and to increase the amount that students write, with explicit instruction in revision.  I also do sentence combining strategies. 

Teaching grammar by itself is a bit like teaching how to sew on a button without having buttonholes. Students need to USE what they learn in context. That is one of the reasons I tried to use 'scenarios' to teach clauses and phrases. Guys like the idea of war horses and battles. Women can tolerate them while learning. I have another exercise with a woman out in the boondocks trying to escape her bad experience with life. That exercise teaches the same thing: phrase and clause recognition. 

I dealt strictly with adults--from 17 to 75 years old. They all seemed to enjoy reading the papers as much as working together to find the phrases and clauses. Letting them work together also helped them to check themselves and made them defend their answers. But they also wrote once a week. It was hard on me, but they learned.

mthibodeau's profile pic

Posted on

My high school students do need a refresher in grammar.  However, most of their errors are a result of not speaking English as their first language.  I do believe the research that indicates that teaching grammar in isolation is a futile measure that does not transfer to student writing.  What I do use in my classrooms is to increase the amount of time that students read on their own, since good writers are good readers, and to increase the amount that students write, with explicit instruction in revision.  I also do sentence combining strategies. 

npdckrsn's profile pic

Posted on

Yes, all students need a refresher course in grammar.  I do "Our Daily Grammar".   Each day we start with a quick grammar activity that relates to what we are working on.  

I am SO glad to hear that someone does a lesson in grammar on a daily basis.  Today I was reading one of those tech site blogs and found the following:

"There is no excuse for the way we treat foreign language learning in America, especially when the technology to augment local resources is cheap and plentiful. Language requirements for graduation shouldn’t be an afterthought - they should be integrated into the curriculum and should leverage the plethora of tools at our disposal to make sure our students graduate with fluency in something other than English (although fluency in English for our graduates would be nice too)."Chinese…How’s that for a 21st Century Skill? | Education IT | ZDNet.com

I will say it again: I learned more English from my years of French than I ever learned in an English class.  It is DRUDGERY to teach grammar unless we use humor or something that touches the students' interest.  But learning a foreign language guarantees that students will learn their own language as well.  Blessings to English and foreign language teachers everywhere. You are the ones who make certain that our children can make themselves understood.

tpisano's profile pic

Posted on

Yes, all students need a refresher course in grammar.  I do "Our Daily Grammar".   Each day we start with a quick grammar activity that relates to what we are working on.  

engtchr5's profile pic

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I often feel like I'm beating my head against a wall when trying to do grammar and mechanics with high-schoolers. So often, they've had years of education without a single exposure to parts of speech or even subject-verb agreement because teachers themselves find grammar mundane.

I have, however, turned such lessons into something kinesthetic to increase attentiveness and retention: Much like the "question ball" method, where different interrogatives are written on a ball and then tossed around a classroom to review, the parts of speech ball calls upon students to name or provide an example of a certain part of speech. This activity gets their brain warmed up for more complex and intense grammar-related activities.

npdckrsn's profile pic

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If Grammar's still taught as it was when I was in what they then called Grammar School, kids are still in trouble!  I didn't learn a damn thing until 7th Grade saturday mornings, when School House Rock interrupted my cartoons. Now that they're on YouTube, I'd steer kids (and adults) there.  Of course, that's just the bare basics -- like adding and subtracting.  Higher levels of Grammar, like calculus, focus on how to quantify and express ideas.  That's what's worth working towards in teaching.  Sadly, I see far too much worry regarding student's ability to spit back definitions of the parts of speech, with no understanding of how to use them. What benefit to the student if the whole class knows the definition of  "gerund," so the school gets a good MCAS rating, but the student knows not how to make or use one?

Your post immediately brought to mind the day my students started to sing: Conjunction Junction, What's your function? Apparently they learned more from the songs than from classes.

I never asked my students the definition of any part of speech.  I don't care if they know a gerund from a participial, but I did care that they knew that the gerund was going to be used as a noun. When we started on the "Comma Confidence" lessons, they knew to set off long prepositional phrases and participial phrases effectively.  I gave them this sentence:

Seething the cook threw the steak back on the grill.  They had to put in a comma to show that the cook was angry instead of being cooked. They thought it was fun to do that kind of exercises. I even used a sentence from the WebEnglishTeacher about the school's dress code manual:  No clothes, which can be considered a distraction, may be worn on campus.

Can you imagine the fun we had with that lesson about restrictive and non-restricitive clauses?

No matter how we try to change our teaching style to accommodate the latest trend in education and accountability, students still need hear the basics.  Grammar is one of those basics just as addition and subtraction are in mathematics.

enotechris's profile pic

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If Grammar's still taught as it was when I was in what they then called Grammar School, kids are still in trouble!  I didn't learn a damn thing until 7th Grade saturday mornings, when School House Rock interrupted my cartoons. Now that they're on YouTube, I'd steer kids (and adults) there.  Of course, that's just the bare basics -- like adding and subtracting.  Higher levels of Grammar, like calculus, focus on how to quantify and express ideas.  That's what's worth working towards in teaching.  Sadly, I see far too much worry regarding student's ability to spit back definitions of the parts of speech, with no understanding of how to use them. What benefit to the student if the whole class knows the definition of  "gerund," so the school gets a good MCAS rating, but the student knows not how to make or use one?

npdckrsn's profile pic

Posted on

Teaching Grammar

Do your students in high school still need refresher courses in grammar? If so, what sort of activities do you do?

For those students who do not actively pursue a foreign language for at least a couple of years, grammar studies in English are essential.  I have taught at all levels from grade school through college level and find that all of the students needed help with the simplest parts of speech study.  When I taught at college level, students swore that they had never heard of independent and dependent clauses and that no one ever told them that a phrase could not contain BOTH a subject and verb.

To echo what one teacher posted here--a student working on his doctorate came to me wanting me to proofread his doctoral thesis.  It was too bad to even consider a problem of grammar.  He did not know how to organize at all. 

Our students need to write daily--whether or not it is graded.  They need the practice of constructing good sentences.  They need to READ good writing to know what it looks like.

Give us an area for grammar questions and you will see them flow in like a trickle at first and then a flood.  And thank you for asking.

timbrady's profile pic

Posted on

I would like to recommend an article in the current (September 2008) issue of "English Journal" entitled My New Teaching Partner?  Using the Grammar Checker in Writing Instruction. It may sound odd, but it is an interesting study of ways to unite grammar and writing.  I have followed a similar procedure for years, and although I am more interested in writing than grammar, the improvement in grammar happens as part of the process.

lynn30k's profile pic

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I have to agree with #7 and #9.  I'm a "change of career" teacher, and went through teaching certification and master's courses in a program designed for people who already had a BA/BS in another field. There was an incredible lack of preparation in basic writing skills. I'm glad my college was trying to address the problem (by insisting that people who were deficient utilize the writing center), because as a mother of 4, I have had notes come home from teachers that were poorly written.  Believe me, nothing makes you doubt your child's teacher as much as having a note come home with grammar or spelling mistakes!

slchanmo1885's profile pic

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In reply to #7, I used to run a College Writing Center and even came across senior students in the non-humanities majors who were writing their thesis papers and had to have basic grammar and spelling lessons. One paper came to me that had the phrase, "as one could no." I was scratching my head, until she talked it out with me. Translation, "As one may know, ..." It's a tough situation because students are coming from all sorts of different situations and don't have the same basis. If some of them only take the Comp 101 and somehow squeak by (or get someone to write their papers for them) and then go on to take non-writing courses, they get to their senior thesis and have NO idea how to tackle it.

kwoo1213's profile pic

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Unfortunately, students need grammar instruction in COLLEGE.  I find myself having to teach basic grammar in my freshmen comp. classes, which is very, very frustrating. 

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