Send parents and guardians a grammar newsletter or email, and build relationships.
Including grammar at your school, perhaps a new part of the ELA curriculum, or a contested one? If grammar instruction is new to the curriculum, you may face backlash or honest questioning. Parents sometimes ask why I teach grammar. The standards are quite specific and intense, especially for the high school language ones.
Sometimes I consider:
- Parents are taught to read to their children.
- Research tells parents that creating inquiry, that playing outdoors will build a scientific interest.
- Parents must teach math skills too! Bedtime Math builds quite the case—and provides a daily reminder.
- Oh, and money skills!
You understand. I’m a parent, and it’s overwhelming. And you want to raise productive people and smart people. Parents try to follow the research, to teach life-long skills and to lay the foundation for higher thinking.
No one mentions grammar though, at least that I’ve seen. It may be new concept, maybe an unwanted concept. I’m not sure, but I am sure that as a parent, no one stresses that I teach grammatical concepts to my children.
Young children learn grammar in school, though. So when parents get homework or a returned assignments full of grammar, feelings will vary. Frustration is probably one. I want to encourage grammar understanding at home, thus making life in the classroom a better experience.
Even when parents don’t ask, I’ve found it helps to send home a grammar newsletter. It build bridges and starts an important conversation. Plus, it shows parents that you are teaching engaging grammar activities.
When introducing grammar at your school, include parents too. Explain why this line of instruction matters. How? What would parent involvement look like?
Show the tools to teach grammar.
One of the largest obstacles that teachers face when they start to teach grammar is that parents fear their children will be bored by diagramming sentences. Provide an outline of what students can expect. Are you breaking the mold with grammar games? Grammar scrambles and sorts? Show engaging activities, and others will be more willing to support grammar instruction in the classroom.
When parents question me, I don’t hesitate to explain methods for teaching grammar. Once parents see that their children will be engaged with graphic organizers, one pagers, and other interactive activities outside a worksheet, they see language practice in a new way.
Explanation of the importance of understanding language.
Why does my child need to know this? When will my child use this? These are legitimate questions. Educators are putting grammar back into curriculums. Parents naturally want to know why, and want their children to succeed. Reading and writing in an ELA class is a given; grammar is not always.
NCTE has guidelines and statements about grammar. Not only should students speak according to the occasion, they should also have a handle on language for their writing and speaking. And if students plan on attending college to become a linguist, marketer, lawyer, or international businessperson, the expectation will be that they can have a command of language.
Concerning high school grammar, you might include possible careers and real world implications for understanding grammar.
Support outside the classroom.
Parents legitimately may be unable to help their children with grammar studies. (If I had not taught English, I would be in this parent camp.) Grammar was once part of any language arts class. This changed a few decades ago, but grammar studies have returned.
Parents and teachers sometimes lack a knowledge of basic grammar. It simply wasn’t taught. While it is no one’s fault that many adults don’t have a basic understanding of grammatical terms, we teachers can provide parents with tools for using grammar at home. As a teacher, do you have an opportunity to provide outside resources. For older students, provide websites that you use at school – OWL and Sparknotes are such examples. A few that I’ve used with my young children include ABC Mouse and Khan Academy. The tv show “Martha Speaks” also incorporates grammar into shows. (As a I don’t teach young students, I will gladly take more examples!)
Provide common sense help for parents. Send home a fact sheet for different grammatical areas of study. Of course, you can add other goals for the class as well!
As grammar returns to the classroom, teachers may need to concentrate on the explanation to parents, and a grammar newsletter can alleviate concerns. You may need to explain why the inclusion grammar at your school is important, and that you’re going to teach it using modern approaches.
To help teacher and parent communication, encourage parents to discuss language standards and grammar lessons with teachers, an act I hope breaks down barriers for students’ learning grammar.