So it has been a few days since any real thoughts came across my brain concerning my teaching or my classroom. Besides being really bummed about not attending NCTE this year, I have been critically thinking about grammar and how to teach it with meaning in the classroom. Grammar and how it should be taught has been an ongoing discussion in our monthly department meetings. Last Spring we took action and ordered Jeff Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined. Over the summer we met and had our own book club with our department. Anderson’s book is written really well and if you haven’t heard him speak, you need to make it your first choice the next conference you attend where he is speaking. I love his sentence strip activity, the idea of bringing mentor text into the classroom to show students how writers use appropriate grammar in their writing, and how he has students set up their writers notebook. My favorite idea is AAAWWUBBIS. The idea behind this bizarre but adequate saying is to help students remember subordinating conjunctions and for students to have a way to remember different ways a complex sentence can be formed. There are many other ways Anderson explains how grammar can be taught efficiently in the classroom. I really liked the fact he said that students will show you what they need to work on. I agree with this and I also think that students need a certain amount of practice too. With the Common Core being implemented this year into my district it is pretty well spelled out what needs to be taught at each grade level when it comes to grammar. It isn’t set in stone, but it is much more definitive than what our State curriculum presented to us in the past.
However an English teacher looks at it, there probably isn’t a magic method to teach grammar. I use some methods introduced in Anderson’s book and I try other strategies that I have picked up in the past. Regardless of what I do, or what anyone does, I think it truly does depend on the group of students you have from year to year. I love my students this year; both my 7th and 8th graders. They have made it easy to try new teaching methods in my classroom. One of my 8th graders today said, “Mr.Hyler, this is the first time this year you have given us a worksheet!” I smiled and replied, “Yes, and I am sorry.” Believe it or not, it was a grammar exercise. Though I don’t pride myself on delivering worksheets to my students and I never will, it was necessary for them to have some practice today to make sure they were brushed up in their skills.
I believe grammar will continue to perplex even the most brilliant language arts teacher and I also believe we will continue to not only develop new ways to teach grammars in our classrooms, but we also revisit some old methods as well. After all, I taught my students to diagram sentences last year and I know one our high school teachers did the same earlier this year.