December 19, 2012
The following blog post is part of a blog series called "Comments on the Common Core," written by Eye On Education's Senior Editor, Lauren Davis.
The Common Core State Standards stress the importance of teaching grammar. The standards lay out which grammar rules should be taught at which grade levels. So you know what rules to teach… but how do you teach them? Here are ten tips for teaching grammar according to the Common Core. (See the infographic here).
- Teach grammar in the context of writing. Grammar shouldn’t be taught as a separate, isolated unit. Think of ways to incorporate grammar mini-lessons into your writing lessons. You may be doing this already. For example, in grade 7, students are expected to correct misplaced and dangling modifiers (Language Standard 1c). Don’t just have students practice with a bunch of random workbook sentences; have students check their own use of modifiers in an essay they’re writing. And remind students that knowing grammar is not only about making corrections; it is also about creating style. The CCSS state that students should “come to appreciate that language is at least as much a matter of craft as of rules” (CCSS, p. 51). In Big Skills for the Common Core, Benjamin and Hugelmeyer give this example: If you’re teaching coordinating and subordinating conjunctions (grade 5), don’t just show students how they function in a sentence. Show students how they can improve your writing by combining sentences to strengthen relationships and by creating sentence variety. Grammar gives you tools to create your own writing style.
- Teach grammar in the context of reading. Use mentor texts. Show students how fiction and nonfiction writers use grammar to communicate clearly and to create their own style. Have students find examples of a grammar rule, such as parallel structure, in a text they are reading.
- Help students figure out the grammar rule; don’t just give it to them to memorize. For example, if you’re teaching concise language, give students a few wordy sentences and ask them to remove the weeds from those sentences. Then ask students to come up with some general rules for eliminating the wordiness from their writing. That approach can be more effective than starting with the rules (e.g., “Eliminate wordiness by doing this, this, and this.”).
- Teach students real-world grammar and not just textbook grammar. In the real world, grammar rules can change over time and can be subjective or contested. In grades 11–12, students are expected to “resolve issues of complex or contested usage, consulting references… as needed” (Language Standard 1b). The serial comma is an example of grammar rule that is contested. Some publications use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma) and some do not. (We like it here at Eye On Education!)
- Don’t just teach students grammar; teach them how to learn grammar. The Common Core requires students to use reference materials. Students need to know how to be independent learners who can figure things out on their own. After all, they won’t always have a teacher telling them which part of speech to use.
- Show students how grammar helps us communicate more clearly. Give examples of how incorrect grammar can lead to miscommunication. Students will be more motivated to learn grammar when they see its importance.
- Show students how grammar can affect our impression of one another. Have a discussion with students about grammar in the real world. If a fancy store has a mistake on its sign, does the mistake affect your impression of the store? Why or why not?
- Avoid negative modeling when possible. Be careful not to spend too much time on the wrong way to write something. If you flood your whiteboard with incorrect sentences (e.g., “Jessica and me went to the movies”), those sentences might start sticking in students’ heads more, even though your intention was to break students of the habit.
- Teach students the rules—and when to break them. For example, sometimes it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition. In some cases, adhering to a grammar rule can make you sound stuffy or silly. As Churchill famously said, “There is some nonsense up with which I will not put!” (My sixth-grade students loved that example.) Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans has another example of breaking the rules: Active voice is usually preferred, but in scientific writing, you may want to use passive voice. That’s because in science, sometimes the action is more important than the subject (e.g., “The chemical was added to the mixture”).
- Teach students the importance of audience and purpose when making language decisions. Students need to make decisions about when to use formal or informal grammar. They should consider audience and purpose. The CCSS require that students learn to apply grammar in increasingly sophisticated contexts.
How are you teaching CCSS-based grammar? Leave me a comment!
Check back on January 9 for the first Comments on the Common Core Tip of 2013
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January 03, 2013 3:27 AM
Thanks so much for reinforcing the grammar teaching concepts in the Ten Tips--ideas I have emphasized over the past three decades in both my Methods of Teaching English course as well as my own teaching. I am delighted to see their usefulness in CCSS.
One particularly interesting concept you mentioned is the non-existent rule about never ending a sentence with a preposition. Many of those little critters that once were prepositions turn into "verb particles," words that are actually part of the verb unit just like helping verbs. There is a difference between "put" and "put up," just as there is a difference between "put up" and "put up with." Those particles are no longer prepositions: they are important parts of the verb because they change its meaning. In a sentence diagram, they would live in the verb slot rather than on a prepositional phrase line.
Thanks again. I'm going to print those tips and keep them within sight on my desk!
May 02, 2013 12:32 PM
Thanks for sharing the 10 tips for Teaching Grammar according to CCSS. I think they give us specific guidelines on how to see the teaching of grammar from a different perspective.
Personally I find it is extremely important for students to become aware of how grammar is a key element for communicating with others, as well as knowing who your audience is and why you are trying to communicate with them. I see this is particularly addressed in tips 6, 7, and 10.
Thanks again for this useful information and I will definitely try to keep them in mind next time I´m addressing grammar lessons.