Wednesday, January 19, 2005


So we all know that grammar isn't fun. (OK, here's a secret: I think it's kind of fun. I especially enjoyed diagramming sentences in my Linguistics class in the fall of 2003. I loved explicating texts in my AP Language class in 11th grade.) Maybe I should start over.

So we all know that most kids don't think grammar is fun. Aside from a nerdy teacher who is enthusiastic about nearly All Things Language Arts (English) (besides spelling, which has never been my strong suit), we need to figure out ways to make grammar at least a little interesting for students. I remember in 10th grade Advanced Language, how Mrs Hyduke (fondly called "Crazy Jane" by her students--honestly, not in a mean way at all--she was a very fun woman!) gave us 12 weeks of grammar straight (well, this wasn't very fun of her) and we followed it out of one of those awful textbooks... we wrote sentences up on the board and she would call us her lumpkins, but only when she was frustrated with us, which was quite often. Twelve weeks of grammar straight was terrible, especially when it comes out of a dry textbook.

But what about having me teach it, who really isn't that great at it at all? I have trouble with then and than, with who and whom, and don't even get me started with lay and lie. (Somehow I've got the whole good and well thing down and don't hesitate to correct people when it is misused--well goes with the verb and good with the noun. "I did well making that jello casserole" and "What a good idea it is to make jello casserole." I hate jello.) Of course, I'm so uncertain about my grammar skills that I feel nervous putting this up in public, in case I am wrong. (Maybe I need to take a grammar class as a brush up! Oh lordy... second guessing myself already.)

OK, so if we're not so sure about our grammar skills or we want to make it more fun for the students (funner, yep)--here are a few resources that I recommend:

Glossary of Grammatical Terms: not exactly what I would call fun, but at least you can make sure you have your bases covered and have a quick link for basic stuff.

Woe is I: (The subtitle: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English.)

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and The New Well Tempered Sentence: There are others by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. You have to admit, kids would really enjoy the goofy illustrations and examples in these books!

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: (The subtitle: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation) This book was a bestseller for a while, which means that maybe some of the parents we'll deal with might understand the need for some semblence of proper grammar. Or maybe not. This is a funny little book that might also be helpful in making it a bit more fun for our poor bored students.

Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated! I know that I will likely use a former teacher's methods in my own classroom: Mrs Kraszewski (who I am forever indebted to for allowing me to teach my very first class --her advanced 11th Language Arts where I taught Longfellow's "The Skeleton in Armor") gives her students a handout (on colored paper as she references it throughout the semester) of thirty most common mistakes (these thirty are also tested for on the ACT). She gradually teaches them these rules and whenever they turn in a paper, she writes the number in the margin of the line where the mistake is made--the students are then required the look for the mistake in that line, correct it, and track which mistakes are made the most often. I don't know how much the tracking works (it should, in theory), but I think that the actual act of editing really works. Students don't want to have to correct themselves when the paper is already turned in, so I think they might make more of an effort trying to keep it mistake-free before turning it in.

I think the key is moderation. And consistency. Yep.

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