Interested in making high school grammar resources meaningful?
A little over a week ago, I wrote about middle school resources, with an emphasis on grammar. High school grammar resources have some similarities. Let me explain my thoughts on why.
In middle school, students learn lots of concepts. Students should own grasp of grammatical terms by the end of eighth grade. If you follow the common core, students in lower grades are to learn about verbals and phrases; in high school, students are to use phrases to “convey specific meanings.” But (and this is a huge one), students must actually know the definition of a phrase, be able to identify a phrase, and write a phrase before they can manipulate phrases to “add variety and interest to writing.”
In that way, high school students are similar to middle schoolers; they are still studying the basics. Almost all need a review in various ways. (I typically give a pretest so that I’m not repeating concepts they already know.) Secondly, the age groups differ in their approach to learning. Even if you teach the concept to middle schoolers, your resources for high schoolers will need a different presentation.
High school students are a tough crowd. They’re almost adults, but they’re not. And freshmen are entirely different from seniors. Actually, each year of high school has varying growth, strengths, and issues.
When creating any lesson plan, authenticity is key. Especially with high school grammar resources, students want to know the impact a lesson will have on them. I encourage my students to question! Teachers should then be prepared to address the connection of real life to lessons.
Here are some discussion points I use when discussing grammar with older students. Feel free to make these your own as you discuss high school grammar resources.
Connect language to a future career
If I ask students what their future career plans are, I get a variety of responses: lawyer, marketing executive, teacher, engineer, EMT, translators, and other jobs with obvious writing components.
Other careers mentioned may have less obvious needs for writing, but do nonetheless. Business specialists, retail managers, and salespeople require some writing but students may not understand that in all jobs, advancement happens from an ability to show initiative and growth. Often this is done with research, with better proposals, with writing. Professionals spend up to two hours of their days writing. Students must be able to evaluate and correct their writing errors.
Possessing a firm understanding of grammar will make their writing better and help them succeed in their careers. High school grammar resources should remind students of that.
Explain the world outside of a high school
At some schools, weird is ok; it is accepted. Students are allowed to be “into” whatever they want. Having a variety of interests is an attribute.
Not always, though! Sometimes smart kids take the heat. Schools have students who fear being pegged as smart. (I think the Bully Project does a great job approaching such issues.) Smart is weird and intimidating.
Sometimes those students need a teacher to remind them that they are wonderful the way they are. Learning grammar has benefits and in the world outside of high school, it will behoove students to grasp their spoken and written words. Smart after high school is different from smart in high school.
And if you think I’m being corny in promoting this idea… I’ve had positive results numerous times. Students have approached me to tell me they enjoy grammar. Students have told me that they look forward to life after high school… that they haven’t quite found their place yet. Former students have Facebook messaged me that a college professor was impressed with their grammar knowledge.
Show the power of language
Most students believe that words can persuade. Why else would they be surrounded by advertisements all day? Ads don’t appear in social media and throughout the Internet without solid writing, with language that speaks to potential customers. If students don’t want to write advertisements some day, they should all be aware of how language is used to persuade them with marketing. Have your students study media literacy with an interactive activity.
Another idea is to look at a piece of nonfiction the class recently studied. What is the author trying to convince people to believe or do? In every field, studies and reports (nonfiction!) circulate. Our students will someday be the people to write such reports.
Students might also appreciate reading about politicians and their use of language and then reviewing active and passive voice. High school students very much dislike being “tricked.” They should be aware that millions of dollars analyzes their language and movements online. Older students do appreciate if you show them how marketers and politicians manipulate language.
Connect to writing
Older students often express themselves in a variety of ways through creative writing or poetry. As students grow in their grammatical knowledge, they will experiment. Should a character speak in active or passive voice? What language best demonstrates a passive aggressive character? Add another dimension to narrative writing by showing students to break and twist grammar rules.
With more formal writing, older students sometimes become distracted with research, citations, and complex writing. They struggle with misplaced or dangling modifiers which mucks up their otherwise strong writing.
Creating high school grammar resources should take students’ hesitations and concerns into account. Grammar needs taught in various ways on different levels. Students who deeply understand their language earn that knowledge.
Explaining to students how they will benefit from that grammatical knowledge can be part of our resources. Some students will grow in their understanding of language, and other students will honestly enjoy your grammar lessons.