how to teach english grammar howto teach english grammar

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I work with what proves to be major problems for them with their papers. For example, I noticed many students having difficulty with hanging modifiers on their last essay, so we worked on hanging modifiers in class and corrected their own sentences from their own papers. It was real world examples of how they made mistakes and it was a lesson in editing.

I like to get them up to move a lot when we are doing grammar too. I give them sheets of paper with words and punctuation on it. Then we form sentences with people and the words and discuss where to put the punctuation. It gets the students involved, up and moving and the students with the comma when we move independent clauses and dependent clauses REALLY gets the point with all the moving she does.

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Teaching grammar in short practices every day as post #2 mentions does help.  In addition, pointing out grammatical errors to students in their journal entries, paragraph writing, etc. seems much more effective than doling out worksheets or completing exercises from books. Another way to teach from context is to have students find parts of speech in newspapers, or in passages from short stories, etc.

Oddly enough, having students diagramming sentences often appeals to male students with mathematical minds.  This "architecture" of sentences has interested some very reluctant learners in the past.  Of course, it is good for teaching the structure of English and it also aids those learning foreign languages.

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If you have the time in your schedule, I think teaching all of the parts of speech is valuable.  If the students have a decent understanding of direct objects or prepositional phrases, for example, they will have a much easier time with a usage issue such as pronoun agreement.  If you teach subordinating and coordinating conjunctions, they will have a much easier time learning when to use and not use commas to separate clauses.  Direct instruction of grammar is out of favor, and I would agree if the purpose is a "trivial pursuit" of the parts of speech, but not if there is building toward creating better sentences, sentence patterns, and better usage on the whole.

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I have used something in my upper-level English classes that has worked very well.  It's called Daily Grammar Practice, and is a program written by Dawn Burnette.  I first discovered this at an NCTE convention in Nashville a few years ago. 

Basically, you have one sentence a week and each day you do something different with it, though I changed the order a bit. 

On Monday, you correct capitalization and punctuation.  This seems pretty easy, but you'd be surprised at how many errors students don't catch.  Tuesday is parts of speech.  Every word in the sentence is labeled.  Wednesday is labeling sentence parts and phrases.  Thursday is picking out clauses and sentence types.  Friday is diagramming, but I choose not to do this.

There are very good, detailed notes pages for each of these days that students are able to use while they complete the corrections/labeling. 

Students may get tired of doing this, but it cements the information into their brains better than a two-week grammar unit would.  After 12 weeks of this, they become very good at it.  And I have to say, it has improved my grammar skills tremendously.   


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