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Posts Tagged ‘grammar and mechanics’

Grammar Program Choices

When it comes to grammar, teachers have a wide variety of instructional preferences.

Broadly speaking, teachers agree that standard English grammar and usage needs to be learned, but they disagree on how it should be taught. Some prefer the inductive approach of learning grammar through natural oral language development (Krashen, et al.) or through the process of writing via mini-lessons or learning centers (Graves, Weaver, Calkins, et al.), while others prefer the deductive approach of traditional grammar via rules instruction and practice (D.OL., D.L.R., worksheet-based resources, etc.) Of course, balanced grammar programs, which attempt to teach grammar in the listening, speaking, reading, and writing contexts do exist and are becoming increasingly popular in many classrooms. Following are brief descriptions of the Pennington Publishing grammar programs, which adopt the latter instructional preference and accommodate the challenges of teaching grammar as a secondary instructional focus in most classrooms. Please click on the title you wish to explore further or click HERE to view the entire grammar collection.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Comprehensive grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 “BUNDLE” programs to teach all of the Anchor Standards for Language and the grade level Language Strand (L.1-6) Standards… Everything teachers need to teach, in terms of English-language arts, outside of the Core Adoption (reading, literature, and writing) is in these seamless programs. Much of this Language Strand curriculum has been divided into these full-year programs for each of the grades 4-8: Teaching Grammar and Mechanics, Writing Openers Language Application, Differentiated Spelling Instruction, and the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit.

*28 spelling patterns tests and spelling sorts with teacher display and student worksheets
*56 writing openers language application with teacher display and student worksheets
*56 vocabulary worksheets
*28 biweekly grammar, usage, mechanics, and vocabulary unit tests and summative spelling assessments
*Diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics tests with corresponding remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment
*Diagnostic spelling patterns assessment with corresponding remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment
*Language application remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment
*Complete syllabication program
*Additional grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary resources, review games, and activities

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4-8 and High School

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 are slices of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary programs… Teaching Grammar and Mechanics for High School is its own program, designed for older students.

The grades 4-8 programs feature these components:

*56 language conventions (grammar, usage, and mechanics) lessons with teacher display and student worksheets
*28 biweekly grammar, usage, and mechanics assessments
*Diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics tests with corresponding remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment

The high school program features these components:

*64 quick language conventions (grammar, spelling, and mechanics) lessons for twice-per-week instruction in place of D.O.L. Includes grammar, spelling, and mechanics rule, concept, or skill for each lesson with short practice, simple sentence diagram, mentor text, writing application, grammar cartoon, and three formative sentence dictation assessments

*Diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics tests with corresponding remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment

Grammar Openers (for high school)

The Grammar Openers (for high school) is a slice of the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics (for high school) program…

*64 quick language conventions (grammar, spelling, and mechanics) lessons for twice-per-week instruction in place of D.O.L. Includes grammar, spelling, and mechanics rule, concept, or skill for each lesson with short practice, simple sentence diagram, mentor text, writing application, grammar cartoon, and three formative sentence dictation assessments

Grammar Toolkit (for grades 4-high school)

The Grammar Toolkit (for grades 4-high school) slice of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary and Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs…

*Diagnostic grammar, usage, and mechanics tests with corresponding remedial worksheets–each with a formative assessment

Writing Openers Language Application

The Writing Openers Language Application (for grades 4-high school) slice of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary and Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs…

*56 writing openers language application with teacher display and student worksheets

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4-8

The Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4-8 provides key grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons to address each of the grades 4-8 Language Strand Standards formatted for interactive notebooks (INBs)… culled from the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary and Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs…

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Spelling Rules and Parts of Speech Review Unit

The Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Spelling Rules and Parts of Speech Review Unit includes an eight lesson review unit of the key conventional spelling rules and parts of speech to begin or end the school year or used as test prep. Formatted for interactive notebooks (INBs) and a slice of the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4-8 program

Grammar Comics

A terrific collection of grammar and usage, parts of speech, and sentence problems grammar cartoons by ELA high school teacher, David Rickert. Featured in the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4-8 and hing Grammar and Mechanics (for high school) programs…

The author, Mark Pennington, has taught upper elementary, middle school, high school, and community college English-language arts and reading intervention.

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Grammar Interactive Notebook Checklist

Since the publication of Erin Cobb’s wonderful Interactive GRAMMAR Notebook in 2014, the sale of Interactive Notebooks (INBs) in every subject area has boomed on such key teacher-author curriculum sites as Teachers Pay Teachers.

To say that Erin has been successful is an understatement. As of this writing, her interactive grammar notebook has sold over 30,000 downloads with 6,958 reviews (most all gushingly supportive and/or at least thankful in order to receive the 5% credit for a rating and review on the Teachers Pay Teachers site).

Erin has also been influential. Her clever grammar activities, foldable templates, cover art, and incredibly low price have set the standard for other interactive notebooks. Erin is also prolific. The number of her Lovin Lit products increases at a seemingly exponential rate.

Although secure in her market share of interactive grammar notebooks because of Teacher Pay Teachers page/site position by sales and reviews and Erin’s renowned customer service, any industry standard can be improved upon… After all, “New and Improved” is the American way.

Rather than a specific critique of what an interactive notebook should not be (see my article titled “10 Reasons Not to Use Interactive Notebooks”), let’s learn from Erin’s example and the improvements other teacher-authors have made to the interactive notebook style of instruction for grammar. Here’s a checklist of what to look for in your first grammar INB or if you’re looking for a “New and Improved” version of a grammar INB.

The ideal grammar interactive notebook should include the following characteristics:

  • Less class time wasted… no more than ninety minutes of instructional time per week… two lessons of 45 minutes each seems to be ideal (you do have other subjects to teach)
  • More focus on concepts and skills, less focus on art work
  • Cute, but not too cute with fonts and graphics which do not get in the way of clarity and purpose
  • Less mess and less waste. Keep on the good side of your custodian
  • Minimal prep for each lesson… teach on the fly. Good curriculum is user-friendly.
  • A completed teacher INB for absent students to copy
  • Clear, consistent, and simple directions to be user-friendly to students and so that a new teacher or substitute could teach any lesson with success
  • Less simplistic copying and more time in truly interactive learning via writing down relevant examples, highlighting, annotation, making connections… in short, student response to teacher-provided content… that’s interactive learning
  • Rigorous, grade-level Standards-based lessons based upon a balance of grammar, usage, and mechanics. Check for specific grade-level Standards alignment documents, not a general one page reference.
  • Narrow focus on grade levels… A grades 4-8 notebook will either be too simplistic or too challenging, too juvenile or too mature for any one grade level
  • Enough practice, but not too much practice in the lesson’s concepts and skills
  • Application of the concepts and skills in the reading and writing contexts
  • Easy for students to self-correct and less time-consuming for teachers to skim grade
  • Graphic organizers, aka foldables, templates, pop-outs which are quick and easy for students to cut, glue or tape
  • Graphic organizers which help students problem-solve, classify, reinforce lesson content, and provide a study review for unit tests
  • Biweekly unit tests (with answers) which require students to define, identify, and apply the grammar and mechanics skills in their own writing
  • Formative assessments for each grammar and mechanics lesson to provide immediate feedback to individual students and the teacher
  • Specific remedial worksheets (not just extra practice) to help individual students master grammar and mechanics concepts and skills yet unmastered following the lessons and/or unit test. That’s assessment-based, individualized instruction with a formative assessment to determine mastery on each and every worksheet.
  • Cornell note-taking… the note-taking format used by most every high school teacher
  • Online links and resources with proper copyright permission. Teachers need to model proper digital citizenship and fair use. If we insist upon student citations and warn against plagiarism, then… enough said.
  • Online links and resources need to be extensive and integral to instruction, not mere window dressing

Before buying a grammar interactive notebook, perhaps consider a FREE Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook spelling rules and parts of speech review unit (which includes all of the “New and Improved” instructional features mentioned above. Why not try before you buy?

 

Get the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook FREE Resource:

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The Great Grammar Debate

Although not as contentious as the debate on how to teach children to read, the debate on how to teach grammar* has its moments. In fact, elements of the reading and grammar debate do have similarities regarding how language is transmitted.

The lines of division within reading have been drawn between those who favor part to whole graphophonic (phonics-based) instruction and those who prefer whole to part (whole language) instruction. (Check out my blog on the Reading Wars to get up to speed on the current issues in this debate.) Similarly, the divisions within grammar have also been drawn between those who favor part to whole instruction and those who prefer whole to part instruction. By the way the writers of the Common Core State Standards certainly have made up their minds. Guess which side they favor.

Part to Whole

The essence of part to whole grammatical instruction is the inductive approach. Advocates believe that front-loading the discrete parts of language will best enable students to apply these parts to the whole process of writing. Following are the key components of this inductive approach.

1. Memorization of the key terminology and definitions of grammar to provide a common language of instruction. If a teacher says, “Notice how the author’s use of the adverb at the start of the verse emphasizes how the old woman walks.” Some would carry the memorization further than others: “Notice how the author’s use of the past perfect progressive indicates a continuous action completed at some time in the past.”

2. Identification leads to application. If students can readily identify discrete elements of language, say prepositional phrases, they will more likely be able to replicate and manipulate these grammatical constructions in their own writing. A teacher might suggest, “Let’s add to our sentence variety in this essay by re-ordering one of the sentences to begin with a prepositional phrase like this one shown on the LCD projector.”

3. Focus on the rules of grammar leads to application. If students understand and practice the grammatical rules and their exceptions, they will more likely be able to write with fewer errors. Knowing the rule that a subject case pronoun follows a “to-be” verb will help a student avoid saying or writing “It is me,” instead of the correct construction “It is I.” Some advocate teaching to a planned grammatical scope and sequence; others favor a shotgun approach as with D.O.L. (Daily Oral Language) instruction.

4. Distrust one’s own oral language as a grammatical filter. “Whoever John gives the ring to will complain” sounds correct, but “To whomever John gives the ring, he or she will complain” is correct. Knowing pronoun case and the proper use of prepositions will override the colloquialisms of oral language.

5. Teaching the components of sentence construction leads to application. If students know, can identify, and can apply key elements of a sentence: subjects, predicates, parts of speech, phrases, and clauses they will better be able to write complete sentences which fit in with others to form unified and coherent paragraphs.

Whole to Part

The essence of whole to part grammatical instruction is the deductive approach. Advocates believe that back-loading the discrete parts of language as is determined by needs of the writing task will best enable students to write fluently and meaningfully. Following are the key components of this deductive approach.

1. Memorization of the key terminology and definitions of grammar and identification of grammatical components, other than a few basics such as the parts of speech, subjects, and predicates, does not improve writing and speaking. In fact, teaching grammatical terms and indentifying these elements is reductive. The cost-benefit analysis indicates that more time spent on student writing and less time on direct grammatical instruction produces a better pay-off.

2. Connection to oral language is essential to fluent and effective writing. The students’ abilities to translate the voice of oral language to paper help writers to develop a natural and authentic voice that connects with the reader in an unstilted manner that is not perceived as contrived. A teacher might use mini-lessons to discuss how to code-switch from less formal oral language to more formal written language, say in an essay. For example, a teacher might suggest replacing the fragment slang “She always in his business” to “The couple frequently engages in a physical relationship” in an essay on teen dating.

3. Connection to reading and listening provides the models that students need to mimic and revise to develop their own writing style. Reading and listening to a wide variety of exemplary literature, poetry, and speeches will build a natural feel for the language that students place within their own “writing wells.” Students are able to draw from these wells to write effectively (and correctly) for a variety of writing tasks.

4. Minimizing error analysis. Teachers believe most grammatical errors will naturally decrease with  #2 and #3 in place. A teacher might say, “Don’t worry about your grammar, punctuation, or spelling on your rough draft. Focus now on saying what you want to say. We will worry about how you say it in the revision and editing stages.” Teachers are concerned that too much error analysis, such as practiced in D.O.L. (Daily Oral Language) will actually rehearse errors.

5. Teaching the whole paragraph with a focus on coherence will best enable students to apply the discreet parts such as subjects, predicates, parts of speech, phrases, clauses, sentences, and transitions to say something meaningful.

Of course, the Great Grammar Debate is not necessarily “either-or.” Most teachers apply bits and pieces of each approach to teaching grammar. Teachers who lean toward the inductive approach are usually identified by their “drill and kill” worksheets, their grammatical terms posters, and Grammar Girl listed and Purdue University’s OWL prominently in their Favorites. Teachers who lean toward the deductive approach are often pegged by their “ignore and write more” writers workshops, mini-lessons (if they ever get to these), and their writing process posters prominently display on the wall, next to their autographed picture of Donald Graves.

My take? I suggest an informed instructional balance of the two approaches is most effective. Using effective diagnostic assessments can narrow the focus and time commitment of the inductive crowd. Well-planned front-loading of key grammatical terms, with identification and application practice can transfer to better student writing without having to wait until the process of writing osmosis magically takes place.

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The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

* For the purposes of this article, I use the term grammar as is colloquially used by most teachers, i.e. to mean syntax, grammar, word choice, usage, punctuation, and even spelling—a catch-all term that most English language-arts teachers use to describe the “stuff” that we “have to , but don’t want to” teach. For the “nuts and bolts” of instruction, knowledge of the above distinctions is useful; however, for the purposes of discussing the two philosophical approaches to teaching grammar, such fine-tuning of terms is not necessitated.

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Why Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) Doesn’t Work

Most teachers are familiar with Daily Oral Language, abbreviated as D.O.L. or under the guise of similar acronyms. Teachers like the canned program because it requires no teacher preparation, it provides “bell ringer” busy work so teachers can take attendance, and it seemingly “covers” the subjects of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. D.O.L. is probably the most popular  instructional technique used to teach grammar. The second most often used technique would be the “teach no grammar-nor-mechanics technique” as is frequently employed by writing process purists who save this “instruction” until the last step of a process piece, if they ever get to it at all. However, the subject of this blog is the former technique, and why D.O.L. does not work.

1. D.O.L. is proofreading, not sentence construction. As such, D.O.L. is error-correction, not meaning-making. Jeff Anderson, author of Everyday Editing, calls such activities “error-filled fix-a-thons.”

2. D.O.L. has no scope and sequence. It is random, repetitive, and hodgepodge. Many D.O.L. programs claim to offer grade level editions. Who determined that parentheses are at third grade instructional level and semi-colons are at the fourth grade instructional level? Check out the author’s Common Core aligned grammar and mechanics scope and sequence for one that does makes sense.

3. D.O.L. is implicit, part to whole instruction, divorced from any meaningful writing context. Correction is not teaching, and no D.O.L. program that I know of has effective teacher prompts to teach the grammatical concepts.

4. D.O.L. aims to teach writing without writing. Would a seamstress teach sewing by having her students spend all their time analyzing stitching errors? No. To sew, you have to practice sewing. To write, you have to practice writing.

5. D.O.L. involves little critical thinking. Writing involves decision-making about why and how sentences should be constructed for different rhetorical purposes. “Grammar is something to be explored, not just edited (Jeff Anderson).”

6. D.O.L. is not diagnostic. D.O.L. has too much repetition of what students already know, and not enough practice in what students do not know. Teachers need to use diagnostic assessments to determine individual student strengths and weaknesses in grammar and mechanics and then use instructional materials to effectively differentiate instruction.

7. D.O.L. rehearses errors and imprints them in the long term memories of students. The more visual and auditory imprints of errors, the more they will be repeated in future student writing.

8. D.O.L. correction does not transfer to student writing. Students fed a steady diet of D.O.L. throughout elementary, middle, and high school repeat the same old comma errors in the university setting. D.O.L. simply does not teach “deep learning.”

9. D.O.L. is bad test prep. Although teachers often advocate use of D.O.L. for this purpose, the multiple choice format of standardized tests is dissimilar. Tests generally ask “which is right?” not “which is wrong?” Check out the PAARC and SBAC tests for more.

10. D.O.L. uses bad writing models to teach good writing. It teaches what is wrong, not what is right. Although some error analysis can certainly be beneficial, at least as much time should be spent analyzing what makes good writing so good. Good “mentor texts” (Jeff Anderson) from both professional authors and student authors can teach what students should aspire to and emulate.

11. D.O.L. teaches from ignorance. “If they don’t become familiar with the concepts they are asked to edit for BEFORE they are asked to edit, of course they won’t do it well. How could they? How can you tell if something like a mark is missing if you don’t know where it is supposed to be in the first place?” and “But do we start history class with all the wrong dates and names on the board and ask kids to fix them? What about learning the concepts first (Jeff Anderson)?” Students cannot show what they do not know.

12. D.O.L. doesn’t teach the whys and hows of grammar and mechanics. Math teachers do not just teach the process of long division; they also teach the concepts behind the process, using examples, manipulatives, etc. to provide the “deep thinking” that students need. Students need to know why commas set apart appositives, for example. Students need to know how position of word choice affects meaning, for example.

13. D.O.L. isolates writing instruction from student writing. Students are invested in their own writing, not in that of pre-packaged print shown on the LCD projector, or SMART board®. Relevance and personal connection motivates student buy-in. “If the students care about their writing, are writing for a specific audience, and understand that “the importance of editing (and spelling conventionally) is to make their message clear and easy to read for their audience – or reader, they take this job seriously and work hard at making their writing clear (Regie Routman).”

14. D.O.L. does not provide enough practice. One isolated error correction does not teach to mastery. Good teaching involves instruction and immediate guided practice, followed by independent practice with teacher feedback. D.O.L. is throw-it-all-against-the-wall-and-hope-some-of-it-sticks instruction, not the targeted practice that students need to learn and retain the grammatical and mechanical concepts.

15. D.O.L. is boring. Ask students. They almost universally characterize D.O.L. as “repetitive, irrelevant, unhelpful, and a waste of time.”

16. D.O.L. has little research base to indicate that it works. Why use what does not work, when workable, effective alternatives are available for effective instruction in grammar and mechanics?

Here is the most effective alternative…

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons.The complete lessons also include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

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