‘Connecting Grammar and Writing’ is part five of a ten-part series covering grammar in middle school and high school English classes. Start with part one and follow the links to the other articles in the series.
Let’s pretend your students understand or have a general grasp of the grammar you’ve taught them. They understand punctuation rules. They can identify phrases, clauses, and types of sentences. Students possess a basic knowledge of language and the terminology. They might not perfectly understand all grammar, but they have a general grasp.
In this series, we’ve covered variations of teaching those grammar basics. After you’ve taught those, then what?
An important aspect to grammar instruction is that the identification of grammar components cannot be the end of grammar lessons. Teachers must carry grammar into other aspects of the ELA curriculum; one way is by connecting grammar and writing.
Teachers already connect grammar and writing.
I’ve overheard ELA teachers say they don’t teach grammar, and I’m skeptical. True, grammar terminology may not be in every classroom, but grammar? When students write, they are using their grammatical knowledge to write, edit, and revise their papers.
Something I reiterate with my students is that they know more grammar than they may believe. They understand most punctuation (commas and semicolons – a bit shaky) and capitalization rules. That’s grammar.
Students also understand that they can improve their writing. They will identify that a sentence sounds funny, or that part of their papers are boring. When they tell me such things, we circle back around to grammar.
Teachers can ask…
Are students sure that the sentence is a complete sentence, and not a fragment or dependent clause?
Have students varied sentence structure? (Different types of sentences – are some short and some long?)
Is a variety of punctuation used, some for emphasis? Would incorporating a semicolon or a colon provide a new effect on the message?
Connecting grammar and writing works with students because they already have a natural tendency to communicate – to write well. Grammar aids in communicating, in writing.
Taking it another step…
Students ask (as they should) why they have to learn grammar. Owning an understanding of grammar helps writing.
For high school students, the common core dictates that students use language to improve their writing, specifically by using phrases, clauses, types of sentences, punctuation, and verbals. When teachers empower students with this grammatical knowledge, students will transfer it to their writing. Sometimes it happens naturally, and sometimes teachers must show students how.
I created five worksheets to improve student writing. They ask students to find troublesome or weak sentences and improve them in different ways. These language worksheets are free, and you can use them in several ways to connect grammar and writing. The worksheets include definitions, along with prompts to start students thinking about incorporating their grammatical knowledge to their writing.
Connecting grammar and writing shows students why they study sentence structure, why they learn the different components of a sentence, and why they learn rules.
In the sixth part of this series, I explain how I connect grammar and literature.