Is it possible to have everyday grammar? It probably is, but educators may need to have an honest discussion.
This is my second discussion in the series Grammar Is Important.
Last week I mentioned a few ideas about grammar instruction in schools. My main idea came from my experiences teaching secondary students:
Many teachers are uncomfortable teaching grammar because they themselves do not have a firm grasp of some grammar. Grammar was taken out of the classroom and many teachers did not study it, or study teaching methods with grammar.
This poses a problem because students must understand the language they speak and write. As jobs require communications in a variety of forms, writing is anything but an outdated need. Understanding language means that everyday grammar is important for students today.
The common core rightfully addresses grammar. Teachers must teach grammar. As I kept writing, reflecting, and thinking, I realized that the “grammar problem” is larger than teachers not knowing how to teach it. (Not that teachers don’t know the content – that grammar instruction is often dull).
As a parent, I see how experts emphasize math skills and reading habits. Parents are specifically told to count and read with their children.
That shouldn’t go away, and neither should basic facts that parents (hopefully) cover with their children: colors, shapes, locations, etc. Grammar was removed from the classroom in the 1960’s; do today’s parents have the skills to speak casually with their children about grammar? My thought is that the lack of knowledge from parents makes grammar harder to teach as students didn’t receive a casual introduction to it like they do other common skills.
I think the actual lack of grammar instruction can be broken into four parts:
1. Parents do not casually teach grammar.
2. Teachers do not want to teach grammar.
3. Parents do not want teachers to teach grammar.
4. English language arts classes are heavily loaded with content. Many states require four years of English. When students do not perform well, graduating becomes a challenge. If grammar is difficult for students to master (or not taught at the best age for brain learning), administrators may shove it out.
I want to look at these four problems, and I would love to have teachers chime in. Hopefully together, we can address grammar, and make grammar instruction better for teachers and students. Ultimately, is it possible for everyday grammar discussions to be part of ELA classes?