ELA Content Includes Grammar

‘ELA Content Includes Grammar’ is part three of a ten-part series covering grammar in middle school and high school English classes. Read part one and part two.

All components of ELA fit together – and ELA content should include grammar.

English teachers teach vocabulary within literature, and then they expect students to carry their new knowledge into their own writing.

English teachers study the literary devices of literature, and then they expect students to carry their new knowledge into their own writing.

Somehow, teaching grammar is separate in too many classes; teachers don’t ask students to write four types of sentences in their papers or analyze why a writer uses a variety of verbal phrases. Perhaps teachers aren’t comfortable with grammar, perhaps grammar seems boring.

Incorporating grammar into all ELA content though? This solves many problems created when grammar is taught in isolation.

Here are quick ways to include grammar in all of your English content.

Student writing.

Common areas of concerns with student writing include weak verbs, punctuation (general use and effectiveness), descriptive nouns, pronoun-antecedent agreement – and on. Writing requires a basic knowledge of grammar.

People will sometimes argue this about writing, and state that the more students write, the better their writing will be. True, practice improves technique. I don’t understand the fear of using technical terms specific to ELA, which is grammar. Math and science classes certainly use domain specific words, and the common core requires that teachers use domain words from ELA content.

Students will use particular words for their fields of study and career later in life!

You as the ELA teacher can bridge grammatical lesson plans to literature and writing (and meet those language standards). Here are concrete ways to implement grammar into your language arts lesson plans.

The idea that teaching grammar doesn’t help teach writing is silly. That holds true only if the teacher fails to carry over grammar lessons to writing. Even pages that boast attention-grabbing titles eventually say that grammar instruction through writing is beneficial.

What are struggling areas? Pull sentences from students’ writing and improve them as a class by implementing current grammar concepts.

Reading – literature and nonfiction.

Beautiful, highly edited and crafted sentences are at our fingertips. When we analyze the colors, figurative language, and vocabulary from stories, include the grammatical aspects. Look:

It was in the clove of seasons, summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree. (From “The Scarlet Ibis.”)

Why would James Hurst use “bleeding” here? It is a participle, and it gives an aurora of action – he didn’t say “bloody.” Could this participle relate back to the cross happening in seasons – not quite autumn, a time of death?

Use the literature and nonfiction in front of you to teach grammar, and add mini-lessons when necessary – to clarify.

Who is best equipped?

The teacher knows the content and their students the best. The professional needs access to a variety of tools for differentiating for all learners. Once a teacher has confidence crossing grammar into all areas of an English curriculum, students will gain confidence in grammar as well.

The teacher has a knowledge of writing, literature, and grammar. All students will need different areas addressed as they proceed in writing and reading. Sometimes a grammar activity will benefit the entire class, but more times than not, certain students will review pronoun-antecedent agreement while others focus on complete sentences. If all ELA content needs differentiated, then the grammar portion is no different.

What can I do today?

You as the teacher can do this, and I have a community ready to support you. To start, combine grammar and vocabulary from literature. I offer this activity from A Separate Peace for free to get you started.

If you don’t teach A Separate Peace, pull sentences from any short story or novel and analyze them from a grammatical standpoint. Try “The Scarlet Ibis” or “There Will Come Soft Rains.”

Those are ways to incorporate grammar (or language study) in all ELA content. In my fourth post, I cover ways of differentiating grammar within the classroom. Read 10 Alternatives to the Grammar Worksheet.

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