DiagrammingI'd like to know your thoughts on teaching diagramming.  I have done it some years with my students, and some years I have omitted it.  In talking with other English teachers, I have...


I'd like to know your thoughts on teaching diagramming.  I have done it some years with my students, and some years I have omitted it.  In talking with other English teachers, I have heard mixed opinions concerning its usefulness, and I would like to hear some broader input.

Expert Answers
pirateteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think diagramming can be effective, but at our school was dissolved long before I got there.  Like many previous methods, now teachers suffered through intimidating diagrams at the board and have jettisoned the practice for their own students.

While I don't call it diagramming, it's similar. By students use colorful highlighters throughout the year, students learn to locate and determine specific parts of a sentence.  These steps have slowed them down and been helpful.  I've had some parents complain that I don't teach traditional diagramming, and I've had some parents congratulate me.  I think the medium's not as important as finding a way to teach it to our kids.  For some reason, grammar in general seems to be scary for students; any way you can find to explain it to them without making them less scared is wonderful!


Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am of the generation that was taught diagramming as a matter of course.  I have used it, and I think it is helpful because there are so many students who have not a clue about sentence structure.  It's interesting to me that there is, as there should be, so much emphasis on hands-on learning and on graphic representations, but diagramming, which combines both so beautifully, has been largely neglected.

Stanley Fish has a book, How to Write a Sentence, that focuses on shape and structure in a way that I found very helpful in teaching, too.  In some ways, his book is almost a "diagramming plus" endeavor.  He divides sentences into a few different forms and takes off from there.  There are no doubt those who find all of this formulaic, which it is, but students who don't know the formula have nothing to build on.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since I began teaching ten years ago, I have never encountered a high school teacher in my district who teaches diagramming. I always loved diagramming in school but can't prove that it helped me become a more proficient writer.

As Post 2 points out, I am surprised that diagramming isn't viewed as another helpful graphic organizer. I've pondered introducing diagramming because my students, for the most part, don't know the parts of speech well enough to be able to rearrange them in a sentence, but we are on a limited time schedule with 4x4 block; so I don't have time in class to devote to it.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a student, I dreaded diagramming sentences; but have since learned to appreciate the learning I carried away from it. Sadly, too many teachers these days use the "whole language" approach to learning, and students have no idea of the parts of speech, or even how to construct a grammatically complete sentence. In this regard, I believe that the old method was and is the best. I hope all language arts teachers will teach their students how--and require them--to diagram sentences. Those of us who must slough through their writing in other disciplines would appreciate it.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I teach an all-grammar class in our high school and I even find diagramming to be more than my students can handle -- and they absolutely know the parts of speech! I have found that just labeling each word as it works in the sentence is enough to help them understand usage issues such as subject verb agreement pronoun reference, and misplaced modifiers. My ultimate goal is give them the tools to know what to look for as errors in their writing, and the labeling works well enough. (But I personally love diagramming!)

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I always hated diagramming as a student, but I understood its usefulness as a visual, almost mathematical approach to sentence structure. Most of my students hated it, though many students with mathematical tendencies actually preferred it to the teaching of literature and writing. I generally tried to teach a basic course in diagramming each year, but I had several principals who deemed it old-fashioned and who firmly suggested to forego "wasting time" with it.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think diagramming is the best way to learn grammar. Also it has a way of forcing students to deal with weaknesses in grammar. In other words, when you have to take very word of a sentence into consideration, you quickly find out that you might be weak in some areas. For example, most people do not know the difference between a passive participle and a gerund. It is very confusing Diagramming helps.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I must admit that I hated diagramming sentences and have carried it into my own classroom. I struggle enough with grammar--the students simply hate it, do poorly, and their grades drop. (I am not using this as an excuse, just stating a fact.)

I really do think it should have a place in the classroom (as much as I hate to admit it), but time restraints tend to not allow such tedious work.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I personally love it.

For me, it speaks to the more mathematically minded students, and provides a different method of looking at the sentence that incorporates multiple learning styles.  Certainly, there are those who will always hate it, or simply find the task pointless, but as a mode of broader language understanding and appreciation, I like doing it and I like teaching it.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think diagramming can be useful, but I don't believe it is a method that should be taught exclusively. Particularly for visually-minded students, diagramming is something that can be very effective, but as always we need to be aware that one method will not work for all and therefore we need to find other strategies to reach other learners.