The Issues with Grammar

How does one learn grammar? You know the drill. We spend the first six weeks of every school year drilling and re-drilling  parts of speech, phrases, clauses, types of sentences, punctuation, usage …. before realising that the students are only able to do well in sequential grammar exercises.

They can’t transfer it to their writing!

So what gives?

There have been multiple research studies over the last 75 years on the transference of students’ use and knowledge of grammar. What they found is that  students do not transfer grammar concepts learned in isolation to their writing.

When students see virtually NO relevance in their daily lives or in their future work lives, they are unable to use it. This is due to most grammar instruction focuses on the analysis of language rather than the use of it. Students in general do not remember what they learn about grammar from year to year because they only retain it in their short-term memory!

Use Grammar as a Tool to help Students write Better

Many times, you will hear teachers and tutors to use certain phrases or copy certain phrases or just read, read and read… All in the hopes of students being able to pick up words and use them easily just like that. However, there are really many skills that these students need to pick up in order to write better – especially if they do not have the habit or reading and thinking critically from a young age.

Before we can talk about our students using all sorts of description or embedding detail, imagery, and figurative language in their writing, we first need to have students practice sentence construction techniques that include specific grammatical structures.

Creating Cool Sentences with Grammar

One way to allow students not to practise grammar in isolation is to have them  practice sentence construction techniques that include specific grammatical structures.

Step 1

Start with an ordinary sentence that consists of an article, a subject, and a verb.

Step 2

Next, we add adjectives and adverbs.

Step 3

We then add prepositional phrases.

Step 4

Next, let’s try an appositive phrase.

Last Step

End with a subordinate clause for extra oomph.

Of course, it is not necessary to write such long sentences continuously. Yet, it does make a welcome variation from the constant stream of short active sentences.

Comments? Thoughts? Feel free to share them with me!