How many teachers are convinced and do, therefore, include the study of grammar as essential to strong writing skills?The study of grammar seems to go in and out of vogue. What is the general...

How many teachers are convinced and do, therefore, include the study of grammar as essential to strong writing skills?

The study of grammar seems to go in and out of vogue. What is the general consensus among teachers of English?

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I may agree with the above poster: that grammar is integral in the elementary grades.  I do not teach it as such at the secondary level.

Much of grammar instruction is horribly repetitive.  It is based on "kill-and-drill" seat work.  Most of it is not whole-langauge based: most of the content is random and not related to the literature (too much Dick and Jane silliness).

Also, traditional grammar instruction is antiquated.  It is something from a Dickens novel, and it does not endear students to the English language.   Rather, it is punitive, prescriptive, and counterproductive approach to language instruction.  It alienates rather than brings together.  No one in the history of English class has asked to do an independent study or research paper on grammar rules.

The worst kind of English teachers are the ones who edit a student's paper and deduct points for grammar mistakes.  This negates most of what makes writing pleasurable and meaningful: audience, purpose, content, experimentation, expression.  There is no risk in writing according to a bunch of rules: only fear.

Instead, I teach style analysis.  I examine author's style: point-of-view, word choice, sentence types, purpose, and audience.  We classify according to Walker Gibson's "Plain," "Sweet," and "Stuffy" styles to see sims/diffs and patterns in language.  It is much more diagnostic than traditional or transformative.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With standardized testing as a requisite for high school graduation as well as school funding, many English teachers find themselves instructing students on isolated concepts of grammar such as parallelism, subject/verb agreement, pronoun/antecedent, etc. to ensure that students pass the graduation exam section relative to their subject area.

How effective this is in students' actually acquiring writing and speaking skills is questionable.  But, good scores make the bureaucrats contented, evidentally.  When they have the opportunity, teachers incorporate grammatical/writing skills into reading and writing coursework since the application of concepts is usually more effective in leading a student to true apprehension.

Nevertheless, there are certainly times that grammar skills per se need to be addressed.  There is no question that they are necessary to the learning of the structures of a foreign language, for instance, since analogies made to English can greatly increase a student's understanding. (Here, diagramming is invaluable.) And, it is still true that having a command of one's own language allows one to better express him/herself.  Doors of opportunity can slam shut when a person sounds uneducated because of poor verb usage or other noticeable errors.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You will find many divergent opinions on this.  I think part of the reason why was because a trend of "whole language" based instruction moved away from strict grammar- based analysis and felt that integrating it within the context of reading and writing is more essential to the process of constructing meaning in both.  Over time, people have begun to realize that this is a new approach to teaching the content.  This has made for challenging situations such as, "Don't they teach grammar anymore?"  The answer was that grammar was taught, but within a specific context and this might have ended up being translated or understood as grammar not being taught.  In the end, teaching grammar is essential.  It is highly important to instructing students as to how sentences are structured and how different parts of speech are represented in sentence construction.  This helps to widen student skills in reading and writing.  The challenge is going to be how to ensure that teachers know how to teach grammar as an integral part of the writing process and how students can implement these lessons in their own processes and products.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the other posts and my own experience, I would say that the feeling is pretty mixed.  But most teachers would agree that knowing grammar is important.

I've read some very interesting arguments on both sides, but one that struck me in particular stated that you cannot go back and teach all the basics of grammar if it has been generally ignored in elementary and middle school.  But you can still teach important parts of it while helping students to understand that there are basic rules that must be followed as they still try to express complex thoughts in their writing.

Particularly now with the huge rise in reading taking place on the internet and elswhere with much less editing taking place, it will be interesting to see whether students will be forced to improve their grammar or if readers will simply adapt to the lack of conventions and rules in written communication.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Teaching grammar as part of writing skills is of course, a good idea.  It's a good idea in any language because it is fundamental to the structure and function of language. To completely ignore these conventions limits our ability to be understood in written form.

That being said, it is very difficult to teach effectively.  Students take the path of least resistance and want their work corrected, but would rather not know why their sentence structure or punctuation was wrong in the first place.  That is, the emphasis with most modern day students is on end result, not learned skills.  This makes teaching something like grammar difficult because they don't see it as important.

The spellcheck, grammar editing online and cut and paste features of the internet educational experience have done us no favors in this area.

ktmagalia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As an AP teacher of English Language and Composition, I need students to be competent in the skills required to communicate clearly in writing.  I don't expect my students to get caught up in the grammar "labels" and terminology, but I do need my students at this level to be able to write clear sentences with variance, know the difference between a run-on and a complete sentence, and have some knowledge of comma use.  If we are teaching students to place commas where we would take a breath, are we really meeting their needs? Students need to have some basic understanding of grammar in order to be effective communicators. Besides, if we are analyzing the likes of Cormac McCarthy, shouldn't students "know the rules" before they can acknowledge the "breaking of the rules" for effect?

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I steadfastly believe that grammar rules are an integral part of the English classroom in the middle and high school grades. Just taking a look at some of the highly ungrammatical student posts on eNotes should be a warning that teaching grammar skills are necessary. I personally find teaching grammar far less satisfying than literature-based lessons, and many (but not all) kids find it either difficult or uninteresting. However, grammar skills are essential to the task of teaching writing skills, so it should not be discouraged or reduced in importance. As far as being "in vogue," certain aspects (such as diagramming sentences) may deserve that fate, but the teaching of grammar skills should never be minimized too greatly in the classroom.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that teaching grammar skills is incredibly important throughout the entire educational process. As a teacher, I get many students in my classroom who do not know how to write grammatically correct sentences.

I would like to add that I believe the overuse of computers has something to do with this. Computers are a great resource to use in the classroom. However, I do believe that students are not made to hand write enough. When they use a computer to write a report, they just click the spell check button and the computer automatically fixes the errors for them. This is preventing them from finding the mistakes on their own and fixing them properly (and making them lazy).

cally605 | Student

I honestly feel that, as a 6th grade teacher, it is more important students are able to write complete, interesting, detailed and cohesive sentences about a given topic than be able to identify a pronoun. My school does have a period in which we dedicate two periods a week to grammar instruction and for some of my students, they will just never be able to grasp the concept.

widemanthompson | Student

Teaching grammar has been the object of attack by several progressive groups in the past few years, but it is obvious from television and various media that we are fast becoming an illiterate nation of English speakers and writers.

By all means it should be taught but more through the writing process than by rote memorizing of rules.

jayanthy | Student

I strongly feel knowledge of grammar rules is very important whether it be for your own writing or for speaking without it what we have now a days with the coming in of comp language students tend to use anything and everything and get confused. It is neccesary for students to have some basic knowledge.