Thursday, July 05, 2007
Grammar revelations
So I have read/skimmed the four books. The book that I found most useful, was the first one I read (perhaps because it was the first and I read it word for word?) Breaking the Rules, Liberating Writers Through Innovative Grammar Instruction. The thing that I liked about it was that it pointed out how some of our grammar rules that we teachers drill into the kids are not really being used by published, respected writers of today. Language evolves. This can be good or bad, but I want to spend my grammar time as efficiently as possible. So here are my goals for the year:

10th grade - Start off with them brainstorming why it is important that they learn correct grammar. What is the purpose of grammar as they know it in a high school English classroom? We will talk about that. Then I want to hit on the one concept that we didn't cover last year - appositives. Then I want to move into sentence combining, both with unrelated activities and in their own work. The goal of the year will be relevance. Emphasis on writing instead of identifying.

9th grade - Also start with brainstorming, just so they can have a little reflection on grammar in the classroom. Then I am not so sure. I suppose work a little on the concepts that we did last year in 9th grade. I want them to have some background. But just try to make it more meaningful. I am really less excited about this group than the 10th graders because I know exactly what the 10th graders already know (or don't know as the case probably will be).

I know what is good and what is bad in theory. Useful and not so useful. It is actually putting that into practice that is difficult. Because grammar (useful activities with grammar, anyway) are so related to writing, and I feel I have no idea how to teach writing. But the second book I read was very useful with that.

Other points from Breaking the Rules: 1. pre-testing in the introduction - I really like the idea of pretesting. I liked it when we talked about it in my week of GT training. It seems that a usage pretest might be harder to compile than an identification of parts of speech, phrases pretest. Not in the lay/lie/lain sort of way but in the creative, using varied sentence structure, more complex sentences way.

2. Language Acquisition. Chapter 1. Basically in order to speak correct English 98% of the time, students already know grammar. They might not be able to label it, but they can use it.

3. "Knowing a word, being able to use it, necessitates knowing its part of speech" (5). This made me think of when doing grammar instruction and thinking about all the clues of words (ending in -ing, -ion) that I recognized as MEANING SOMETHING and I am not sure that my students did. At least, not as explicitly.

4. The explanation of how the traditional grammar definitions are not good--they do not actually define the, aren't meaningful for students--was very sad to read. I like neat definitions. I understood what he was saying. A definition must be correct. But all along I always understood what the concept of a noun is despite any shortcomings of the definition. For example, I learned young that a noun was a person, place, or thing. Then somewhere, the definition was expanded to include "idea". That never confused me. I think of "thing" to include ideas. (Even persons and places.)

5. Cool preposition statistics - Of, To, and In are the 2nd, 5th, and 6th most commonly used words in the English language. Adding for, on, with, at, from, and by gives the list of the nine prepositions that make up 92.6% of all prepositional phrases. (pg35)

6. Love the appositives lesson.

7. Love the list of confused words (77). THIS might be good for a pretest. Or for focus activities. Might also be interesting to show students the Collins Cobuild corpus or the Kantz/Yates survey results. Oh! Or give them the survey first. Then look at how their answers are the same or different than the English professors' answers.

8. I love the analysis of REAL writing. And this sentence: "Our formulas--use topic sentences, never use passives, vary sentence openings--deny students the resources routinely used by good writers, and our concentration on correctness puts the emphasis on the least important aspect of good writing" (92).

9. Note to self: Don't focus on errors. Focus on the writing and big picture.

10. Nice concept: as writers try new things, they make mistakes. Just like a baby learning to walk.

11. On the discussion of first person. The author says that 82% of some example essays chosen (as models of first rate expository/persuasive prose) uses the first person. Fine. But I am guessing that the these essays were not literary analysis pieces. Those (to my knowledge) need to keep avoiding the first person,


*** this is not finished but I started it in July and figured I should publish. May finish it later.


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