Do you think the study of grammar is overemphasized or underemphasized in schools today?The importance of good grammar.

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missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Grammar has been underemphasized in the public high schools I have taught in on the west coast of the United States. The premise behind the idea is two-fold. First, we look at the standardized tests our students are required to take and we focus our attention on the topics that surface most frequently. When grammar isn't one of those, or if it appears in 4 questions out of 75, it sees much less classroom time. Secondly, we seem to assume that because students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades receive so much language instruction, it is no longer necessary to teach much grammar at the high school level. Unfortunately research indicates that the middle school years often see some students losing a year of instruction somewhere, not because of their teachers or schools, but simply because their body is undergoing so much change. Students are attending class, but are extremely distracted. This is just science.

English teachers tend to focus on literature by the time students reach high school. Grammatical instruction is something that should be an on-going "sneak" into the curriculum of writing and reading, but it is hard. Many young teachers take years to master the art of teaching grammar... I know I did.

A strong command of grammatical structures usually improves the receptance of a mediocre thought. If we spent more time with our students writing, editing, and instructing in the lost art of grammar, we would improve their opportunities.  

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Despite all the acceptance of abbreviated speech and words and the corruption of words by changing their parts of speech, etc. (e.g. We will transition you to the next step), people still judge others by their speech patterns, vocabulary, pronoun/antecedent agreement, and subject/verb usage.

The paucity of students who read worthy books indicates that students no longer respect the beauty of English, nor do they understand the structure of the language.  Without this respect and appreciation for the language one speaks, students perceive no value in studying grammar.

Perhaps an approach to grammar through literature is the key.  Often students who enjoy a poem are more eager to examine the patterns and vocabulary used.  Sentences extracted from a story that students have read can serve as a model for conjunctive adverbs, subordinate clauses, etc.  One textbook company had "Grammar in Action" worksheets that accompanied each selection in the literature book.  Students seemed more eager to work on these as they had sentences familiar to them from the readings. (This was years ago, so who knows now?)

Often the study of a Romance language forces a student to come to grips with grammar that has some similarities to English.  Too bad that younger children do not take up the study of a new tongue earlier as they may better learn their own through such a discipline.

msmegmaynard eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to agree entirely with the above posts - grammar has been under-emphasized to a point where I feel that (from a linguistics viewpoint), English is evolving (or devolving) into an entirely new language. Between copious acronyms and text-speech and the liberties that musical artists take with our syntax and subject-verb agreement, students don't know which way is up! The difference between teaching English in the US and teaching English as a foreign language is staggering. Students in South Korea, even the ones in 9th grade, had better grammar and spelling (and handwriting) skills than many of my American co-teachers!

I used to relish the thought of teaching sentence diagramming to my freshmen, but that is an utter impossibility where I teach because of their utter lack of prior knowledge. It's an uphill battle to teach them what a noun is versus a verb or adjective, let alone talk to them about syntax and tense!

howesk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the way grammar is currently taught is either over or under emphasized depending on the school. When I student taught in public school, I found too much emphasis on grammar and not enough on critical thinking. At the private school where I currently teach, though, grammar is undertaught. I think ideally grammar would be heavily emphasized through middle school and then phased out throughout high school.


9th grade- some element of grammar should be addressed each day

10th grade- some element of grammar should be practiced weekly

11th grade- one focus on a grammatical element each month

12th grade- elements of grammar addressed only as needed by the student demographic, assessed diagnostically through writing assignments

Of course, this system would only work if the school and middle schools could all align their curriculum somehow...

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Unfortunately I feel that grammar has been under-emphasised massively. I unfortunately feel the need to point out that people who learn English find it laughable that we know so little about the way our language actually works and operates. I remember when I did a course on Teaching English as a Foreign Language with some Poles, and they could not believe that some of the Brits with me doing the course did not know the difference between a countable and an uncountable known.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An understanding of parts of speech and sentence structure is crucial to good writing and to analyze literature.  It often seems like we are teaching parts of speech over and over again.  If we give students a strong foundation, then we can build on that to help them apply what they learn to analyze and improve their writing.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to agree that grammar has been underemphasized in schools today. I have heard teachers tell students not to worry about grammar, just get your thoughts down on paper. Which would be fine if they went ahead and had the students come back and work on the grammar afterwards.

txpride | Student

I also feel that grammer has not been taught in the classroom as much as it could we.  We tend to put too much emphasis on state mandated test and that is what I see take precedance in the schools. You would not believe how many tests our students take during the shool year including common assessments every 6 weeks. I think grammar should be taught the old fashioned way with emphasis on spelling, punctuation and the like. I am taking some computer classes at the local college and I will occassionally glance at some other young person's computer and see how bad their grammar is. I would love to help them but I cant since I have my own work to do!

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