A Practical Approach to Grammar

This is part one of a ten-part series covering a practical approach to grammar in the middle school and high school classrooms.

Why grammar?

I’ve written before about creating vocabulary and grammar lesson plans. Most of my work (outside teaching my lovely students) focuses on grammar instruction, specifically a practical approach to grammar lesson plans.

The reason why is simple: I once hated grammar instruction of any form. As a student, grammar was my worst subject. I attempted to complete worksheets, became frustrated, finished them haphazardly, and hurriedly returned to the book I was reading – never realizing that what I was supposed to study directly connected to the book in my hand.

Until I went to college (majoring in English), I never understood grammar, and I certainly never connected it to oral and written language. I finally grasped the power of language when I taught grammar. I loved it.

I want my students, other students to love (or at least appreciate) grammar too.

Why grammar – now?

The Common Core Standards (which many states uses – not every state, I know) requires grammar or language instruction. Elementary students should study the parts of speech, middle school students should study types of sentences, and high school students should apply this knowledge to their reading and writing.

To which all the ELA teachers say, yeah right. Students may be taught grammar as the standards dictate, but along the way, middle school and high school teachers will need a practical approach to grammar – an age appropriate approach.

Regardless of feelings about the Common Core standards, most ELA teachers know that grammar and language instruction has a powerful place in ELA classes. Grammar, once forgotten in my classrooms, has made a comeback.

Grammar needn't be (and shouldn't be!) taught in a vacuum. A practical approach to grammar - for ELA teachers writing grammar lesson plans.

The problem?

So we have these two ideas: teachers know grammar is important (and standards say we should teach it), and students don’t always know what they should.

How can we English teachers build a community of grammarians – or at least students who don’t groan when you mention a grammatical term?

I don’t have all the answers, but I spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about grammar instruction and how to improve it for my students. I remember the worksheets from my 1990’s instruction and imagine better ways – or at least additional ways. In this series covering grammar instruction, I’m going to write about my ideas, implementations that have worked in my classrooms, and my thoughts on keeping grammar instruction in ELA courses.

In part two, I look at different approaches for teaching grammar, and what you can do tomorrow to seamlessly include grammar in class tomorrow.

The most powerful practical approach to grammar that works for me is using mentor sentences. You can download (for free) my mentor sentences in The Hunger Games. Print and teach. 

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