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Why D.O.L. Does Not Transfer to Writing

“I greatly prefer D.O.L. over isolated study because it addresses all the issues at once, not just commas or just capitalization or just subject-verb agreement.  Kids have to consider all those, just as they do when they are writing.”

On the surface, this teacher response sounds reasonable and the practice seems authentic. Students do need to multi-task throughout the writing process. However, does the Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) instructional practice lead to transfer in student writing? After all, the chief reason why we teach grammar and mechanics is to improve writing.

The short answer is “No. D.O.L. does not transfer to writing.”

But first, for the uninitiated, here are the basic Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.) Procedures:

  1. Teachers write or project two sentences on the board, each with four errors in mechanics and/or grammar. *
  2. Students come up to the board and correct the errors or identify the errors with proofreading marks, one sentence at a time.
  3. The teacher and students discuss the corrections. Some teachers require students to write out the corrected sentences on binder paper or in a composition notebook.

*A variation has the teacher pass out a D.O.L. worksheet with the error-filled sentences to each student. Each student writes the corrections and proofreading marks on the worksheet.

Learning Theories Explain Why D.O.L. Does Not Transfer to Writing

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Psychologists and educational theorists have developed learning theories to explain how new learning and skills are most efficiently mastered and best transfer to other academic activities. Teachers studied many of these in their post-graduate teacher-training coursework. Although many of these learning theories would suggest different pedagogical approaches, each would exclude D.O.L. as a viable instructional approach to teaching grammar and mechanics, if transfer to writing is the indeed the instructional goal. Let’s examine the most influential of these learning theories to explain why D.O.L. does not transfer to writing.

Behaviorism

Behaviorists stress practice and reinforcement of skills in a controlled environment. The conditioner is front and center in this theory. Behaviorism has fostered the direct instruction movement with its carefully crafted lesson design and measurable behavioral objectives. Teachers isolate learning variables and provide extensive guided and independent practice.

In contrast, the instructional design of D.O.L. does not isolate or control learning variables. A D.O.L. lesson may include a serial comma error, a subject-verb error, a usage error, and a quotation marks error. The focus is on review, not instruction.  Practice of the skill is minimal, just one per lesson. No wonder that D.O.L. produces minimal transfer of grammar and mechanics concepts and skills to writing, if the behaviorist theory has merit.

Cognitivism

Cognitivists stress the importance of learning through patterns and not isolated events. The content is front and center in this theory. The learner develops new skills within the context of previously learned patterns and the “rules” which define them. Cognitivism has largely shaped the standards-based movement with its carefully designed instructional scopes and sequences.

In contrast, D.O.L. does not teach from patterns or rules. Each skill is practiced in isolation with little generalization. For example, “Titles of movies are to be underlined (italicized), not placed with quotation marks” is taught on its own without connection to the rule: “Titles of whole things are underlined (italicized).” The D.O.L. approach is somewhat akin to teaching reading by learning isolated sight words (a generally discredited instructional practice), rather than through an explicit, systematic phonics program. No wonder that D.O.L. produces minimal transfer of grammar and mechanics concepts and skills to writing, if the cognitivist theory has merit.

Constructivism

Constructivists view learning as a process in which learners actively construct new ideas or concepts based upon their own prior knowledge or experience. The learner is front and center in this theory. Establishing the relevance of the learning to the individual’s intrinsic needs is emphasized to motivate learning.

In contrast, because D.O.L. is simply oral, error analysis, students do not practice the skills in context of their own writing. D.O.L. provides no personal connection to the student’s own expression of ideas. In essence, teachers using D.O.L. purport to teach writing without writing. No wonder that D.O.L. produces minimal transfer of grammar and mechanics concepts and skills to writing, if the constructivist theory has merit.

Informal Learning

Informal learning theorists, such as Robert Marzano, advocate building upon prior knowledge to help students refine and adjust their understanding of previously developed big ideas or concepts. The big idea or concept is front and center in this theory. New learning is only acquired and mastered in the meaningful context of the old and will frequently challenge the construct and understanding of the big idea or concept.

In contrast, D.O.L. does not build or refine the big idea of how grammar and mechanics affect writing. For example, how comma placement affects meaning, how sentence variety emphasizes words and their meanings and not others, how language derivations affect usage or spelling. No wonder that D.O.L. produces minimal transfer of grammar and mechanics concepts and skills to writing, if the informal learning theory has merit.

Connectivism

Connectivists place high importance on developing meaningful connections between ideas and concepts. Connections to other similar learning and skills are front and center in this theory. Much of the brain-based learning, pioneered by neuroscientific research emphasizes the importance of these analogous connections.

In contrast, D.O.L. does not emphasize these skill connections. For example, “Titles of movies are to be underlined (italicized), not placed within quotation marks” is taught on its own without connection to other similar examples, such as “Titles of television shows are to be underlined (italicized), not placed within quotation marks.” No wonder that D.O.L. produces minimal transfer of grammar and mechanics concepts and skills to writing, if the connectivist theory has merit.

Now, good teachers use discussion to make D.O.L. instruction more useful. Some even have added on a writing component to extend the practice, motivation, and personal connection. But, these band-aides simply hide the wounds inflicted by this instructional practice. Our students deserve better grammar and mechanics instruction that will meaningfully transfer to student writing.

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. (Check out a seventh grade teacher teaching the direct instruction and practice components of these lessons on YouTube.) 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. Check out PREVIEW THE TEACHER’S GUIDE AND STUDENT WORKBOOK  to see samples of these comprehensive instructional components.

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).

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , ,

Free Grammar and Mechanics Resources

How do most teachers teach grammar and mechanics? Frankly, many of us just are not teaching these subjects, except as a few weeks of drill and kill worksheets prior to the standardized test. Teachers either perceive grammar and mechanics instruction as too boring or as too difficult to teach, so they avoid it like the plague. Some teachers may rationalize why they don’t teach these subjects. You’ve heard the comments: “I didn’t learn grammar and mechanics, and I turned out all right” or “I teach grammar and mechanics through the Writing Process” or “The students should already know these skills—these are not my grade level standards” or “I once that grammar is acquired naturally through oral language development.”

Well-meaning teachers borrowed a well-used copy of Daily Oral Language activities from another teacher years ago and have faithfully used the same lessons as “openers” ever since. The advantage of such “programs” is that they require no teacher preparation. Unfortunately, these collections of grammar and mechanics mistakes provide no diagnostic information, have few teaching resources, and fail to establish a sensible instructional scope and sequence. Students simply rehearse errors. This ineffective practice rarely translates to mastery learning. Learning grammar and mechanics out of the context of meaningful writing may help students get a few questions correct on the standardized test, but this knowledge just won’t transfer to their writing.

Instead, let’s make sense out of teaching grammar, usage, and mechanics. Start with the free 112 writing opener lessons from the comprehensive Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) (of the Common Core Standards) Grades 4-8 The text or these lessons with accompanying PowerPoint slides are listed below. Just click on the links for each of the 112 writing openers. Or, if you prefer, get the YouTube videos of these same lessons. Also make sure to look through the other free grammar, usage, and mechanics diagnostic assessments, articles, resources, and teaching tips on how to teach grammar, usage, and mechanics in the context of writing. Finally, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Grammar and Mechanics

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

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/why-daily-oral-language-d-o-l-doesnt-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 article is the latter technique, and why D.O.L. does not work.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook

 

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/teaching-grammar-and-mechanics-interactive-notebook/

 

The Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Interactive Notebook Grades 4−8 programs will help your students master each of the Common Core grade-level grammar and mechanics Standards. This rigorous, fun, and easy-to-teach interactive notebook is neither a fact-filled collection of boring lecture notes, nor a time-wasting portfolio of art projects.

Daily Paragraph Editing

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/daily-paragraph-editing/

Evan-More’s Daily Editing is certainly an improvement over the publisher’s Daily Language Review or the popular Daily Oral Language (from many different publishers). The instructional scope and sequence of Daily Paragraph Editing is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and most other state Standards in grammar, usage, and mechanics. However, editing in the context of a paragraph does not solve the issue of teaching skills in isolation. Requiring a student to write a similar article is not the same as requiring students to apply specific skills learned in a lesson in the context of their own writing.

Drill and Kill Worksheets

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/drill-and-kill-worksheets/

If you google “grammar worksheets,” you get 2,970,000 hits; if you google “vocabulary worksheets,” you get 8,250,000. Clearly more teachers other than Mr. Worksheet like their worksheets and see the value of deliberate, targeted, independent practice. Thought I’d dig into the educational research a bit to see whether what teachers say or what teachers do makes more sense.

Research-Based Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Worksheets

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/research-based-grammar-usage-and-mechanics-worksheets/

Not all worksheets are created alike. Worksheets need not “drill and kill” students to boredom or busy-work. Good teachers can spot a good worksheet when they see one. The educational research provides insight as to what makes a grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheet an effective instructional strategy for knowledge and/or skills acquisition. Check out the research-based grammar worksheets in this article.

Mechanics Scope and Sequence

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/mechanics-scope-and-sequence/

However, most all teachers support teaching some form of simple to complex instructional order in teaching mechanics. For example, students need to be able to define, identify, and apply simple abbreviations (Mr.) before learning acronyms (UNICEF) and initialisms (FBI). In other words, the simple academic language and mechanics instruction should precede the more complex. We have supportive (and recent–as of January 2016) educational research to validate this instructional order. Check out the grades 4-8 mechanics instructional sequence aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Grammar Scope and Sequence 

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/grammar-scope-and-sequence/ 

Although the grammar debate* continues between 1.Those who favor part to whole (indirect, implicit, inductive) instruction and 2. Those who prefer whole to part (direct, explicit, deductive) instruction, both sides would generally agree that students should be able to define, identify, and use some things before other things. In other words, the simple academic language and grammatical instruction should precede the more complex. We have solid (and recent–January 2016) educational research to support this instructional sequence of instruction

112 Writing Opener Lessons

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/112-writing-openers/

These 112 Writing Openers are from the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4−8 Language Convention lessons. Completely aligned to the Common Core State Standards, these simple and quick writing openers are suitable for upper elementary and middle school. Following are the lesson subjects and links for text-based lessons and editable PowerPoint attachments for the 56 grammar and usage lessons and the 56 mechanics lessons.  Or subscribe to my YouTube Channel and get the same lessons in video format. Bookmark this site for quality writing openers with a well-defined instructional scope and sequence.

Grammar Diagnostic Assessment and Recording Matrix

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/pennington-publishing-elareading-assessments/

http://penningtonpublishing.com/assessments/Grammar%20Assessment%20Matrix.pdf

The TGM Grammar Diagnostic Assessment tests all of the basic grammar, parts of speech, and usage skills in an efficient multiple choice format. Students complete the assessment in 15-20 minutes. Record the data on the TGM Grammar Mastery Matrix and differentiate instruction according to student needs. Note: the Teaching Grammar and Mechanicscurriculum provides worksheets with formative assessments that correspond with each item on this assessment.

Mechanics Diagnostic Assessment and Recording Matrix

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/pennington-publishing-elareading-assessments/

The TGM Mechanics Diagnostic Assessment is a whole class assessment that tests all of the basic punctuation and capitalization skills. Students complete the assessment in 10-15 minutes. Record the data on the TGM Mechanics Mastery Matrix and differentiate instruction according to student needs. Note: the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics curriculum provides worksheets with formative assessments that correspond with each item on this assessment.

Conjunction Junction

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/conjunction-junction/

The old Schoolhouse Rock song poses the question: “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” A clever rhyme, but the rest of the lyric provides little help to answer the question. Here’s the answer with some memory tricks to help your students remember and use the three types of conjunctions to add sentence variety to their writing.

How to Teach Grammar to Primary Students

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/how-to-teach-grammar-to-primary-students/

For those of you primary teachers wondering how to teach the rigorous grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary Standards… you are not alone. Check out how the sentence building exercises using sentence diagramming can make a difference for primary students.

How to Teach Writing Mechanics

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-writing-mechanics/

“How to Teach Writing Mechanics” asks and provides possible answers to the What is (and isn’t) Writing Mechanics, Why Teach Writing Mechanics? When Should We Teach Writing Mechanics? What Writing Mechanics Should We Teach? How Should We Teach Writing Mechanics? How Much Class Time for Writing Mechanics? questions related to teaching the nuts and bolts of punctuation, capitalization, formatting, citations, quotations, etc. Check out and download the entire grades 4-8 mechanics instructional scope and sequence (completely aligned to the Common Core Language Strand Standards.

How to Teach English Grammar

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-english-grammar/

“How to Teach English Grammar” asks and provides possible answers to the most pressing When, Why, How, What, and Whom questions related to teaching grammar. Check out and download the entire grades 4-8 grammar instructional scope and sequence (completely aligned to the Common Core Language Strand Standards.

Grammar Programs

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/grammar-programs/

Teachers frequently ask which Pennington Publishing grammar program will best meet the needs of their students. Of course most of us use grammar as a catch all term to mean parts of speech, syntax, usage, sentence structure, subjects and predicates, punctuation, quotation marks, and capitalization. For those teachers using the Common Core Standards, they are looking for materials to teach the Language Strand 1, 2, and 3 Standards.

How to Eliminate “To-Be” Verbs in Writing

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-eliminate-to-be-verbs-in-writing/

Every English teacher has a sure-fire revision tip that makes developing writers dig down deep and revise initial drafts. One of my favorites involves eliminating the “to-be-verbs”: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been. Learn the four strategies to revise these “writing crutches.”

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

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/teaching-the-language-strand/

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) is part of a comprehensive Grades 4-12 language program, designed to address each Standard in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards in 60-90 weekly instructional minutes. This full-year curriculum provides interactive grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling lessons, a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary instruction. The program has all the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Progress monitoring matrices allow teachers to track student progress. Each instructional resource is carefully designed to minimize teacher preparation, correction, and paperwork. Appendices have extensive instructional resources, including the Pennington Manual of Style and downloadable essay-comments. A student workbook accompanies this program.

Overview of the Common Core Language Strand

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/overview-of-the-common-core-language-strand/

English-language arts teachers have long been accustomed to the four-fold division of our “content” area into Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. These divisions have been widely accepted and promoted by the NCTE, publishers, and other organizations. In a nod to the fearsome foursome, the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts maintains these divisions (now called strands)with two notable revisions: Speaking and Listening are combined and Language now has its own seat at the table. So who exactly is this new dinner guest? For those just beginning to explore the CCSS Language Strand, an overview may be helpful.

Common Core Grammar Standards

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/common-core-grammar-standards/

The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts are divided into Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language strands. The Common Core Grammar Standards are detailed in the Language Strand. It is notable that grammar and mechanics have their own strand, unlike the organization of many of the old state standards, which placed grammar and mechanics instruction solely within the confines of writing or speaking standards.

Of course, the writers of the Common Core use the ambiguous label, Language, to refer to what teachers and parents casually label as grammar and mechanics or conventions. To analyze content and educational philosophy of  the Common Core State Standards Language Strand, it may be helpful to examine What’s Good about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? as well as What’s Bad about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? chiefly from the words of the document itself.

CCSS Language Progressive Skills

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/ccss-language-progressive-skills-standards/

The Language Strand has been one of the most controversial components of the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & LITERACY IN HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES, SCIENCE, AND TECHNICAL SUBJECTS. One of these components stirring up heated debate has been the Language Progressive Skills document.

How to Teach Helping Verbs

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-helping-verbs/

English teachers learn early in their careers that strong nouns and “show-me” verbs are the keys to good writing. Of these two keys, verbs give developing writers the most “bang for their buck” in terms of writing revision. As a plus, revising weak and imprecise verbs, such as helping verbs (also known as auxiliary verbs), with active “show-me verbs” is quite teachable and less vocabulary-dependent than working with nouns. Learn when to use and when not to use helping verbs and how to eliminate them to improve writing.

 

Why D.O.L. Does Not Transfer to Writing

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/why-d-o-l-does-not-transfer-to-writing/

Psychologists and educational theorists have developed learning theories to explain how new learning and skills are most efficiently mastered and best transfer to other academic activities. Let’s examine the most influential of these learning theories to explain why D.O.L. does not transfer to writing.

Problems with Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.)

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/problems-with-daily-oral-language-d-o-l/

Daily Oral Language is built upon oral review. Lack of instructional depth and the methodology of oral practice are key reasons why teachers complain that students do not retain the skills reviewed in Daily Oral Language (D.O.L.). After all, the reason we bother teaching mechanics, spelling, and grammar is to help students improve their writing.

Common Core Grammar Standards

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/common-core-grammar-standards/

The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts are divided into Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language strands. The Common Core Grammar Standards are detailed in the Language Strand. It is notable that grammar and mechanics have their own strand, unlike the organization of many of the old state standards, which placed grammar and mechanics instruction solely within the confines of writing or speaking standards.

Of course, the writers of the Common Core use the ambiguous label, Language, to refer to what teachers and parents casually label as grammar and mechanics or conventions. To analyze content and educational philosophy of  the Common Core State Standards Language Strand, it may be helpful to examine What’s Good about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? as well as What’s Bad about the Common Core State Standards Language Strand? chiefly from the words of the document itself.

Grammar Research and Balanced Instruction

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/grammar-research-and-balanced-instruction/

A balanced approach to grammatical instruction just makes the best sense of the grammar research. An approach that involves direct grammatical instruction in partnership with plenty of connected reading (sentence modeling) and writing (sentence manipulation). Here’s the summary of grammar research and practical instructional implications for teachers committed to differentiated instruction.

Why We Don’t Teach Grammar

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/six-reasons-why-we-don’t-teach-grammar/

Teachers de-emphasize grammar instruction for six key reasons. Learn these reasons and re-prioritize your instruction to include teaching grammar in the context of meaningful writing.

How to Teach Grammar

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-grammar/

Within the field of English-language arts, there is probably no more contentious curricular issue than that of how to teach grammar. The “Reading Wars” and “Writing Wars” get all the press, but teachers are much more unified in their teaching philosophy and instructional practice in those areas than they are with grammar. Here are 21 assumptions about grammatical instruction and four simple steps to teach grammar, mechanics, and spelling to your students.

The Great Grammar Debate

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-great-grammar-debate/

The Great Grammar Debate between those favoring part to whole and those favoring whole to part grammar instruction is still relevant.

How to Integrate Grammar and Writing Instruction

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-integrate-grammar-and-writing-instruction/

Balanced grammar instruction includes four components: 1. Differentiated instruction based upon diagnostic assessments 2. Direct instruction in grammar and mechanics 3. Writing strategies practice and 4. Writing process revision and editing.

How to Identify Subjects and Predicates

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog//blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-identify-subjects-and-predicates-2/

The complete sentence is, undoubtedly, the most important benchmark of conventional writing. Subjects and predicates are the best identifiers of the complete sentence and the best checks to identify sentence fragments and run-ons. This article helps students to identify sentence subjects and predicates with clear definitions and examples.

How to Fix Sentence Fragments

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-fix-sentence-fragments/

Writing in complete sentences is the essential writing skill. Even sophisticated writers sometimes struggle with sentence fragments. Learn how to identify sentence fragments in your own writing and, more importantly, fix these to create mature and complete sentences.

How to Fix Run-On Sentences

Writing in complete sentences is the essential writing skill. Even sophisticated writers sometimes struggle with run-on sentences. Learn how to identify run-ons in your own writing and, more importantly, fix these to create mature and complete sentences.

Grammar Instruction: Establishing Common Ground

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/grammar-instruction-establishing-common-ground/

Perhaps no instructional issue in English-language arts produces more contentious debate than the issue of how best to teach grammar. All too often we bog down in our discussion over the issue of instructional strategies. Perhaps a more useful starting point for our discussion would be to come to consensus about what we expect students to know and when. Establishing a common ground on this issue can help us determine what to diagnostically assess in order to determine our students’ relative strengths and weaknesses.

Sentence Lifting: D.O.L. That Makes Sense

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/sentence-lifting-d-o-l-that-makes-sense/

Unlike traditional Daily Oral Language (DOL), Sentence Lifting uses both sentence modeling and error analysis to teach grammar and mechanics. Using exemplary literature, teacher, and student writing, students will practice emulating these texts and also practice editing sentence errors. Using current writing samples from both literary and student work teaches grammar and mechanics in the context of authentic writing.

Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/top-40-grammar-pet-peeves/

Here is the list of the Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves that irritate most Americans. Learn what’s wrong, what’s write, and the tips to avoid these common grammatical mistakes.

The Parts of Speech Song

Parts of Speech Song

Students love to rap with the parts of speech. The key definitions are included in concise form. An MP3 file makes it easy to teach and learn.

The Ten Parts of Speech with Clear Examples

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-ten-parts-of-speech-with-clear-examples/

Knowing the parts of speech is key to the grammatical language of instruction. Writers need to be able to accurately identify and apply each of these ten parts of speech. This concise reference clearly defines all ten parts of speech and provides clear examples of each.

The Most Useful Punctuation and Capitalization Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-most-useful-punctuation-and-capitalization-rules/

Proper punctuation and capitalization are marks of an educated and careful writer. Here is everything you need to know about proper punctuation and capitalization in one concise reference. Clear examples make this tool a must for every writer.

How to Teach Verbs

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-verbs/

Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches adverbs in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching verbs that makes sense. Get all the definitions, examples, and writing style resources for how to teach verbs in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool verbs cartoon.

How and When to Teach Adjectives

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-and-when-to-teach-adjectives/

Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches adjectives in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching adjectives from primary elementary to high school. Get all the definitions, examples, and writing style resources re: how to teach adjectives in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool adjectives cartoon.

How and When to Teach Pronouns

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-and-when-to-teach-pronouns/

Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches pronouns in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching pronouns from primary elementary to high school. Get all the pronoun definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool pronouns cartoon.

How and When to Teach Nouns

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-and-when-to-teach-nouns/

Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches nouns in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching nouns from primary elementary to high school. Get all the noun definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool nouns cartoon.

How and When to Teach Adverbs

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-and-when-to-teach-adverbs/

Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches adverbs in the context of writing and reading. Review an instructional scope and sequence for teaching adverbs from primary elementary to high school. Most importantly, get adverbial definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool adverbs cartoon.

How to Teach Conjunctions

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-conjunctions/

“Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches conjunctions in the context of writing and reading. Get all the conjunction definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool conjunctions cartoon.

How to Teach Prepositional Phrases

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-prepositional-phrases/

Wouldn’t it make sense to spend instructional time on the part of speech that constitutes 30% of all writing? Prepositional phrases are used that much. Time to ditch ineffective Daily Oral Language (DOL)! Learn an instructional approach that teaches prepositional phrases in the context of writing and reading. Get all the preposition definitions, examples, and writing style resources in easy-to-understand language. And check out the cool prepositions cartoon.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

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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

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Teaching Essay Style: 15 Tricks of the Trade

“Never start a sentence with But.” Countless middle school and high school English-language arts teachers cringe when their students faithfully repeat this elementary school dictum. “Never use I in your five-paragraph essay.” Now university professors similarly cringe and shake their heads at the straight-jacketed rules placed upon their students. However, maybe there is a method to our madness. Perhaps these writing absolutes serve a useful purpose for coaching developing writers. Perhaps the little white lies that we teach our students are actually our tricks of the trade.

Instead of bemoaning past “bad writing instruction,” we should celebrate the fact that our students did remember these rules. After all, writing teachers of all levels are always shocked at how little transfer students make from grade to grade or from course to course. Anything that students retain from previous writing instruction can be used by resourceful teachers as “teachable moments.” Perhaps it’s time that we trust our colleagues that they understand best what works for their students at their age levels.

Teaching all of the seemingly arbitrary rules and enforcing them in student writing practice makes sense. As writers mature, 7-12 English-language arts teachers and university professors can encourage “rule breaking” with sly nods and winks. Without knowing the rules, developing writers cannot make informed choices about which ones to break and when they should break them to serve their writing purposes. In fact, the best writers are rule-breakers. E.B. White revised and updated Strunk’s Bible of writing style, yet he consistently chose to break the rules in his own writing. He knew enough to consciously deviate from the norm.

Writing teachers should worry more when their students unconsciously deviate from the norm. Of course, other forms of prose and poetry have their own stylistic rules to learn and break. But this article will concentrate on those of the essay. So, following is a list of the Teaching Essay Style: 15 Tricks of the Trade.

  1. Require students to write in a formal voice. No figures of speech, slang, clichés, abbreviations, flowery language, or contractions. Teach them to dress in a tuxedo or bridesmaid dress when they are in a wedding, not baggy pants or skinny jeans with flip-flops.
  2. Teach students to write in third person. It’s not that the I is inappropriate in all essays. The problem is that the use of the I requires a sophisticated rationale and limited usage. For example, qualitative research requires the I; however, quantitative research does not. Let the post-graduate supervising professors teach their students to break this rule. Furthermore, the “no I rule” forces a certain degree of objectivity and requires students to focus on the subject, rather than on the writer. These are the real concerns of K-12 and university professors.
  3. Teach students not to use their to reference singular non-gender nouns. Approving such sentences as “The student likes their classes” transfers to other more egregious pronoun reference problems as in “Those desk in the back of our room belong to them guy.” Also, no one likes reading he/she, him or her, s/he or the like. It does make sense to teach students to pluralize when at all possible, but the use of he or she throughout (please don’t alternate!) is no crime.
  4. Teach students to vary their sentence structures. “Never more than two simple sentences back-to-back and never follow a complex sentence with another complex sentence” will increase readability. “Have no more than 50% of your sentences follow the subject-verb-complement pattern” helps students focus on sentence variety.”
  5. “No more than one to-be verb per paragraph” will force students to avoid passive voice and strengthen nouns and verbs.
  6. Require your students to write in complete sentences. “No declarative sentences beginning with but, and, or, so, like, because, how, when, where, or why, unless you finish them” reduces fragments.
  7. “No unparallel verb structures” helps eliminate verb tense errors and awkward writing. For example, “Going to the store, to get some gas, and maybe have a cup of coffee are appearing on my agenda for today” can be eliminated with this rule.
  8. Require transitions between paragraphs. Sophisticated writers may have no need, but your students do to write coherent essays.
  9. Teach your students to choose simple words, not their weekly vocabulary words. Precision is better than pomposity.
  10. Demand specificity and do not permit generalizations, except in conclusions.
  11. Don’t allow your students to make parenthetical remarks. Most misuse these.
  12. Never allow repetition for emphasis. Developing writers do not have the skills to use this rhetorical strategy properly.
  13. Never allow double negatives. Students will confuse their readers.
  14. Teach students not to over-state evidence and to limit their conclusions.
  15. Teach students to place pronoun references close to their subjects to avoid ambiguity and dangling modifiers.

Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision andrhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum,Teaching Essay Strategies.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

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Grammar Instruction: Establishing Common Ground

Perhaps no instructional issue in English-language arts produces more contentious debate than the issue of how best to teach grammar. When most of us refer to grammar we mean the structure of the sentence, the components of the sentence, word choice, the order of words, style, and usage. Some will also include punctuation, capitalization and even, perhaps spelling in the grammar stew.

All too often we bog down in our discussion over the issue of instructional strategies. Should we teach these skills explicitly through direct instruction? Should we teach these skills implicitly at the point of student need? Should we teach these skills in isolation? Should we teach these skills in the context of writing? What are the most efficient and effective means of instruction? Which instructional strategies produce the most retention? How can we differentiate instruction?

It may be that we begin, but quickly end the discussion of how to teach grammar because in posing these questions we are placing the “cart before the horse.” Perhaps a more useful starting point for our discussion would be to come to consensus about what we expect students to know and when. Establishing a common ground on this issue can help us determine what to diagnostically assess in order to determine our students’ relative strengths and weaknesses. Only at this point does it make sense to discuss the instructional strategies that will address the needs of our students.

This goal of consensus can be easier said than done. Teachers are inherently protective of their own instructional sovereignty. We all enter teaching to be “queens and kings of our own castles.” We are, by nature, independent thinkers. Collaboration requires some levels of releasing that sovereignty and replacing some of that independence with dependence. Additionally, we are all afraid of exposing our deficiencies. Many of us have received little grammar instruction and less training in how to teach the skills outlined above. Colleagues can be intimidating. It’s hard to admit our weaknesses. Much easier to keep our ostrich heads in the sand regarding grammar and focus our efforts on what we do know.

However, for the sake of our students we need to acknowledge our “elephants” in the room and begin to trust our colleagues. A climate of collaboration can be nurtured among teaching professionals. This risk-taking climate takes time and requires sensitive leadership. Group norms need to be established and practiced to ensure success. But, the results will be worth the efforts.

What Should Students Know and When?

At first blush, teachers will latch onto to Common Core Language Strand Standards. Fine as a starting point and undoubtedly more rigorous than previous state standards which tended to emphasize grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction only in the writing context; however, standards only offer a basic blueprint for grammatical instruction. The devil is in the details. Defining these issues in meaningful ways that will impact both instruction and learning necessitates detailed conversations. We need to get specific.

It makes sense to establish a set of skills and expectations to be mastered at each grade level. Defining a specific year-to-year instructional scope and sequence (the Common Core Standards are far too generic) with colleagues provides a game plan and also defines the content for assessment. See the following author tag for a comprehensive instructional scope and sequence for Grades 4-8. These skills and expectations need to be hammered out in the context of vertical teaming and articulation. The complexity of English grammar and the recursive nature of grammatical instruction necessitate grade-to-grade level discussion and consensus-building.

At my middle school, we began the conversation with seventh and eighth grade teams. We then got release time to meet with our elementary and high school colleagues. We began the process of building a scope and sequence to help us move students from Point A to Point B to Point C. Our goals were to adopt a common academic language, establish grade-level expectations, and build in review to address the recursive nature of grammatical instruction. We found much more common ground on these goals than many of us had expected, especially because we have not addressed instructional strategies at this point of the conversation.

How Do We Know What They Know and Do Not Know?

Having agreed to 72 skills and expectations for our middle schoolers in our comprehensive instructional scope and sequence, we then began designing diagnostic assessments to inform our grammatical instruction. Our criteria for the diagnostic assessments included the following: The assessments must specifically focus on the 72 “common ground” components of our instructional scope and sequence. The assessments must be whole-class, easy-to-administer, easy-to-grade, and easy-to-record. The assessment components should be “teachable.” One such set of diagnostic assessments, based upon 72 “common ground issues” that we are using as starting points are my own multiple-choice Grammar and Mechanics Assessments.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Having established what students need to know and when, and having developed diagnostic assessments to determine what students do and do not know, the real fun begins. At this point, we are beginning the process of sharing the instructional strategies that seem to best meet the needs of our students. Explicit or implicit instructional strategies? How can we establish benchmarks to formatively assess skill acquisition?  How can we differentiate instruction, according to the results of our assessments?

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.

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

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).

Grammar/Mechanics, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Teach a Balanced Writing Program

The “Reading Wars” and “Writing Wars” have preoccupied educational researchers and teacher-practitioners for nearly five decades. Much like the soldiers along the Western Front in World War I, we have settled down into our fixed positions and rarely leave our trenches to skirmish anymore. An occasional Krashen or Adams volley may occasionally wake us up, but no one really wants to go back into “No Man’s Land” for extending fighting. In fact, much of where we are today reminds me of the scene from All Quiet on the Western Front, in which the opposing German and British soldiers join in the singing of Christmas carols and crawl out of their trenches to exchange gifts and greetings.

Now I may be over-extending my metaphor a bit, but teachers see more value today in an eclectic approach to teaching reading and writing. We embrace both part-to-whole and whole-to-part instruction. No one wants to throw away the explicit teaching of phonemic awareness/phonics or reading to learn; no one wants to throw away explicit grammar, spelling, and writing strategies instruction or the writing process with Writers Workshop. In a previous article, I have made the case that a balanced reading program makes sense. In this article, I will attempt to make the case that a balanced writing program also makes sense. First, I will list 21 Curricular Assumptions that most of us would accept about writing instruction to build a consensus. Then, I will detail six steps to take to ensure a balanced and effective writing program in any classroom.

Most of us would agree with these… 21 Curricular Assumptions about a Balanced Writing Program

1. Teaching and practicing the stages of the writing process through writing process papers in various genre is important. The writing process is not rigid, however. Writers compose differently. Word processing has certainly reinforced these differences. For example, some revise and edit after drafting; some do so during drafting.

2. Teaching and practicing specific writing strategies/skills in short writing pieces, such as “Quick Writes,” is also valuable.

3. Students vary in their writing abilities and have different writing skill-sets. Simply teaching grade-level standards in writing strategies and applications (process pieces) is not enough. Certainly, we teach content, but we also teach students. We need to both “keep them up” with grade-level expectations and new instruction and also “catch them up” with additional targeted practice in their writing deficiencies. Teachers see the value in diagnostic assessments to determine who does and does not need extra instruction and in which writing skills. Yes, we need to differentiate our writing instruction.

4. The reading-writing connection much be taught explicitly. We learn reading from writing, but we also learn writing from reading. For example, teaching expository text structure is both reading comprehension and an essay strategy. Analyzing both good and bad writing is instructive.

5. Good writing instruction is necessarily “recursive.” Students need to review, but also do new. As teachers review, writing foundations are solidified and depth of understanding increases. For example, first graders work on sentence construction, but so should high school seniors.

6. Teaching content is an essential ingredient to teaching writing. Writing is a constructive thinking process, built on prior knowledge. Time spent teaching critical thinking skills, such as errors in reasoning, is time spent teaching writing.

7. Vocabulary development is an important component of writing instruction. Knowing the meanings of words and how to properly use them cannot be confined to a revision task such as substituting boring or over-used words with “cool words” found in a thesaurus. Teaching Greek and Latinates, semantic shades of meaning, idiomatic expressions, etc. are all components of solid writing instruction.

8. Explicit grammatical instruction (sentence components, word choice, usage, word order) should be more than just error analysis or correction. Daily Oral Language is certainly not the answer. Teaching grammar and mechanics rules/proper usage in the context of targeted lessons that integrate this instruction with student writing is appropriate. For example, teaching a prepositional phrase and then following instruction with writing practice in which students use prepositional phrases as grammatical sentence openers makes sense. Grammar and mechanics cannot exclusively be relegated to end of writing process as mere editing skills.

9. Spelling matters and requires direct instruction, even throughout high school. The spelling-vocabulary connection is well-established and needs to be taught in the context of word study (including derivatives and etymological influences), syllabication, and conventional spelling rules. Spell check did not suddenly make orthographical study passé.

10. Revision is the key to writing improvement. Revision requires direct instruction to teach sentence manipulation, sentence combining, sentence variety, and precision of word choice. Revision requires focused tasks in the writing process to add, delete, substitute, and rearrange ideas to afford writers alternative means of expression. Hemingway completely re-wrote the last chapter in For Whom the Bell Tolls in 39 different ways. There must be something to this revision stuff.

11. Authentic writing tasks that are relevant and meaningful to students motivate quality writing, especially when the writing will be published in a venue that students care about.

12. Teaching rhetorical stance: voice, audience, purpose, and form produces significant writing pay-offs. Writing style can be modeled, mimicked, and developed over time.

13. Degree of oral proficiency in vocabulary and grammar impacts writing ability. ESL students need differentiated instruction to bridge language barriers.

14. Direct instruction is not enough—coaching is necessary to teach students how to write. The “sage on the stage” has to be matched with the “guide on the side.”

15. Teaching structured writing makes sense to focus on writing organization and unity. However, form and purpose dictate structure, so structural straight-jackets can be counter-productive, if pressed into service for every writing task.

16.  There are certain writing rules that are worth teaching.  Of course, rules are specific to each writing form. Indenting paragraphs, writing in complete sentences, and the like add to writing coherency.

17.  Writing coherency should be the ultimate goal of any writing task.

18. Teaching grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and writing strategies are more than just test prep. These skills require teaching and practice, not testing. Fortunately, quality instruction and practice in these writing components will result in higher test scores.

19. What we say shouldn’t always be the way that we write. Good writing instruction helps students learn to distrust their oral language as a grammatical filter. Authentic writing voice is not the same as playground banter.

20. Writing fluency is a worthy goal; however, contrived on-demand writing for the purpose of writing lots of words in a given time does not achieve that end.

21. Teaching writing shouldn’t take up an entire English-language arts course. We have other fish to fry as well.

How to Teach a Balanced Writing Program in Six Steps

1. Develop a Writing Plan

Establish a comprehensive writing scope and sequence of instruction with your colleagues, including those who precede and those who follow you. Base your plan on your more general grade-level state standards, but get as specific as possible. I suggest integrating grammar, mechanics, spelling instruction, specific writing strategies, writing genre, and writing process pieces into a multi-year plan. An specific writing scope and sequence makes more sense than a “shotgun” approach.

2. Direct Grammar/Mechanics/Spelling Instruction

Allocate 15 minutes, 2 days per week, to direct instruction of the grammar, mechanics, and spelling skills dictated by your scope and sequence, say on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Find resources that will teach both sentence modeling and error analysis. Require students to practice what has been learned and formatively assess their skill acquisition.

3. Differentiated Grammar/Mechanics/Spelling Instruction

Use an effective diagnostic assessment to identify grammatical and mechanical skills that your students should already know. Also, assess students on their spelling skills. Chart their deficits and find brief, targeted instruction that students can independently practice. Develop brief formative assessments for each skill. Allocate 15 minutes, 2 days per week, of teacher-student mini-conferences to review their practice and grade their formative assessments, say on Wednesdays and Fridays. Have students keep track of their own mastery of these skills on progress monitoring charts. Re-teach and re-assess skills not-yet-mastered.

4. Do Direct Writing Instruction

Allocate 10 minutes, 3 days per week, to direct instruction, sentence models, and guided writing practice in vocabulary development and sentence revision (sentence manipulation, sentence combining, and sentence variety) say on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Require students to practice what has been learned and formatively assess their skill acquisition.

5. Do Differentiated Writing Instruction

Allocate 15 minutes, 2 days per week, to direct instruction of the writing strategies/skills dictated by your scope and sequence, say on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Design paragraph assignments to keep writing and review time manageable. Develop brief formative assessments for each skill. Allocate 15 minutes, 3 days per week, of teacher-student mini-conferences to review their practice and grade their formative assessments, say on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Have students keep track of their own mastery of these skills on progress monitoring charts. Re-teach and re-assess skills not-yet-mastered.

6. Teach Process Papers

Teach and require students to compose at least one process paper per quarter, as dictated by your scope and sequence and grade-level standards. Not every process paper must include all steps of the Writing Process.

Check out this complete writing process essay to see a sample of the resources provided in Teaching Essay StrategiesThe download includes writing prompt, paired reading resource, brainstorm activity, prewriting graphic organizer, rough draft directions, response-editing activity, and analytical rubric.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision and rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies

Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision and rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum,Teaching Essay Strategies.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

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How to Teach Grammar

Within the field of English-language arts, there is probably no more contentious curricular issue than that of how to teach grammar. The “Reading Wars” and “Writing Wars” get all the press, but teachers are much more unified in their teaching philosophy and instructional practice in those areas, than they are with respect to “The Great Grammar Debate.”

Even those who have decried the direct instruction of grammar believe that the subject needs to be learned.

Some say grammar is best learned through reading. Dr.  Stephen Krashen finds that students learn grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary most efficiently through free voluntary reading. However, Dr. Krashen does see the value of teaching some usage issues and grammatical terminology, especially at the high school level. And he advocates teaching students how to use language resources, such as language handbooks, to correct errors and improve writing style.

Some say grammar is best learned through writing. Even those who still trot out forty-year-old research studies to argue that explicit, direct instruction in grammar has no statistically significant effect on writing maturity such as the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Writing Project, Six Traits, or the Writers Workshop folks trot out their own grammar mini-lessons to fill the gaps when students have egregious errors in the editing state of process papers. I have previously written about why teachers avoid teaching grammar, but plan to boldly advocate how to teach grammar in this article. However, some consensus-building is necessary before I do so.

Definitions

Grammar has come to mean a catch-all term that refers to everything English teachers would prefer to avoid teaching. Essentially, grammar includes the part of a sentence, the function of these parts (such as the parts of speech), the arrangement of words with the sentence, word choice, punctuation, and capitalization. Grammar is the study of how our language is used and how it can be manipulated to achieve meaning.

Most of us would agree with these… 21 Curricular Assumptions

1. Good grammar is important. Whether grammar is chiefly taught or caught is beside the point. When it is simply caught by students, “They dint always catched it very good.” Grammar as it is caught must be complemented by a grammar that is taught.

2. Grammar should, as much as is practical, be integrated with authentic writing instruction. Students learn best when instruction is perceived and practiced as being relevant to their needs.

3. Not all students have the same grammatical skill-set. Simply teaching grade-level standards is not enough. We teach content, but we also teach students. We need to both “keep them up” and “catch them up.” It makes sense to develop and administer diagnostic assessments to determine who does and does not need extra instruction and in what skill areas. Yes, we need to differentiate our grammar instruction.

4. Both part to whole and whole to part instruction will work. We learn grammar from writing, but we also learn writing from grammar.

5. Grammatical instruction is necessarily “recursive.” Students need both the review and the new. Solid foundations require maintenance as much as does any new construction. You know the teacher(s) before you taught those parts of speech, even though some of your students still don’t know them. I’ll let the writers of the Common Core State Standards make these points regarding the recursive nature of instruction in grammar and usage:

“Grammar and usage development in children and in adults rarely follows a linear path.”

“Native speakers and language learners often begin making new errors and seem to lose their mastery of particular grammatical structures or print conventions as they learn new, more complex grammatical structures or new usages of English.”

(Bardovi-Harlig, 2000; Bartholomae, 1980; DeVilliers & DeVilliers, 1973; Shaughnessy, 1979).

“These errors are often signs of language development as learners synthesize new grammatical and usage knowledge with their current knowledge. Thus, students will often need to return to the same grammar topic in greater complexity as they move through K–12 schooling and as they increase the range and complexity of the texts and communicative contexts in which they read and write.”

“The Standards account for the recursive, ongoing nature of grammatical knowledge in two ways. First, the Standards return to certain important language topics in higher grades at greater levels of sophistication… Second, the Standards identify with an asterisk (*) certain skills and understandings that students are to be introduced to in basic ways at lower grades but that are likely in need of being retaught and relearned in subsequent grades as students’ writing and speaking matures and grows more complex.”

http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf

6. Layered, sequenced instruction makes sense. An establish scope and sequence makes more sense than a “shotgun” approach. Students need to understand the function of an adverb before they can write adverbial clauses. Check out the instructional scope and sequence from the author’s Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

7. Teaching grammar is more than test prep. In fact, too much of most teachers’ grammar instruction (not you, of course) is testing, rather than teaching. However, we live in the real world. Consider the timing of your standardized test when planning your instructional scope and sequence.

8. Grammatical instruction is more than just error analysis or correction. Grammar and mechanics instruction cannot exclusively be relegated to end of writing process as mere editing skills. Jeff Anderson, author of Everyday Editing, calls such activities “error-filled fix-a-thons.” Most of us who have tried Daily Oral Language or Daily Language Review would agree that this hodgepodge instructional approach does not transfer to student speaking or writing.

9. The fancy names for grammatical constructions are less important than knowing how to use these constructions in one’s own writing. However, memorization of the key terminology and definitions of grammar provides a common language of instruction. Of course, use of the verbage needs to be age appropriate. A fourth-grade teacher should be able to say, “Notice how the author’s use of the adverb at the start of the verse helps us see how the old woman walks.” A high school teacher should be able to say, “Notice how the author’s use of the past perfect progressive indicates a continuous action completed at some time in the past.”

10. Analyzing both good and bad writing is instructive. Sentence modeling and error analysis in the context of real writing, both by published authors and your own students, can work hand-in-hand to provide inspiration and perspiration.

11. Writers manipulate grammar in different ways and at different points of the writing process. Sentence variety is a component of mature writing. Check out these grammatical sentence openers.

12. One’s knowledge and experience with grammar helps shape one’s writing style and voice.

13. Degree of oral proficiency in grammar impacts writing ability.

14. Direct instruction is not enough—coaching is necessary to teach students how to write. The “sage on the stage” has to be complemented with the “guide on the side.”

15. Identification of grammatical constructions can help students apply these in their own writing, but exclusive practice in identification will not magically translate to correct 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. However, students need to practice writing prepositional phrases in the context of real writing to solidify the connection between identification and application.

16.  There are certain grammar rules worth teaching.  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.”

17.  Some grammar instruction gets better “bang for the buck” than other. Teaching the most common errors certainly makes sense.

18. The notion that grammar can’t be learned by students with auditory or visual processing disorders or by students with certain learning styles is a myth. While it may be true that students learn language differently, at different rates, and vary in proficiency, there has been no research to show that some students cannot learn grammar.

19. What we say shouldn’t always be the way that we write. Students need to learn to 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.

20. English grammar can be learned by second language learners. Some teachers think that students who speak other languages get confused between the primary language and English grammars. The research proves otherwise. Intuitively, many of us have significantly increased our own knowledge of English grammar by taking a foreign language. However, teaching English-language learners requires special consideration.

21. Teaching grammar shouldn’t take up an entire English-language arts course. Most of us would say about 20% or less of our instructional time.

How to Teach Grammar in Four Simple Steps

1. Develop a Plan

Establish a coherent scope and sequence of instruction with your colleagues, including those who precede and those who follow you. Base your plan on your more general state standards, but get as specific as possible. I suggest integrating grammar, usage, mechanics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction into the plan. Include both “review” and “new” layered skills. Here’s a very workable model: the instructional scope and sequence from the author’s Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grades 4-8 programs.

2. Do Direct Instruction “Sage on the Stage”

The skills detailed in the above instructional scope and sequence can be taught, modeled, practiced, and assessed in 25 minutes, 2 days per week. Daily Oral Language will not get this done. Grammar instruction need not take up a teacher’s entire class.

3. Individualize Instruction “Guide on the Side”

Use an effective diagnostic assessment to identify grammatical and mechanical skills that your students should already know. Chart their deficits and find brief, targeted instruction that students can independently practice. Develop brief formative assessments for each skill. Allocate 15 minutes, 2 days per week, of teacher-student mini-conferences to review their practice and grade their formative assessments, say on Wednesdays and Fridays. Have students keep track of their own mastery of these skills on progress monitoring charts. Re-teach and re-assess skills not-yet-mastered.

4. Do Independent Practice

Require students to practice the grammatical skills introduced in your direct instruction in their writing that very week. For example, if teaching adverbs, on Monday, students can be required to write three adverb sentence openers in the story, letter, essay, or poem they compose on Tuesday.

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.

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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How to Teach Prepositional Phrases

Wouldn’t it make sense to spend instructional time on the part of speech that constitutes 30% of all writing? Prepositional phrases are used that much. The following article will help teachers properly define prepositions and prepositional phrases, help their students identify prepositional phrases in text, help teachers share specific writing hints regarding prepositional phrases, and help teachers assist English-language learners in using prepositional phrases properly.

Definition: A preposition is a word that shows some relationship or position between the preposition and its object (a noun or a pronoun). The preposition is always part of a phrase and comes before its object. The preposition asks “What?” or “Whom?” and the object provides the answer.

Examples: The secret was shared between friends.   between whom? …friends (noun)                        The secret was shared between them.      between whom? …them (pronoun)

Prepositional phrases never stand on their own. They always modify another part of the sentence, acting as an adjective to answer How Many? Which One? or What Kind? of a noun or pronoun or as an adverb to answer How? When? Where? or What Degree? of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

Examples: The man, with the dog, walked quickly. with the dog modifies The man (adjective)     They ran through the city to their home. through the city modifies ran (adverb)

Identifying Prepositional Phrases

One helpful comparison is to substitute the cloud as an object of a preposition.

Example: In the sentence, Joanne walked past the station, substitute the cloud for the station. If the syntactical substitution (not the meaning) makes sense (it does), then past the station is a prepositional phrase.

Here is a list of commonly-used prepositions. Memorizing this list will help you recognize prepositions and use them in your writing. Remember that these words can be used as other parts of speech, if they are not followed by their objects.

aboard, about, above, according to, across, after, against, along, among, around, as, as to, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, but, by, despite, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, instead of, into, in place of, in spite of, like, near, next, of, off, on, onto, outside, out of, over, past, regardless of, since, than, through, throughout, to, toward, under, underneath, unlike, until, up, upon, with, within, without

Writing Hints Using Prepositions

*You may place a prepositional phrase at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence, but make sure to place it close to the word it describes.

Examples: Clear—The lady in a blue dress found my dog. Unclear—The lady found my dog in a blue dress.

*We often end spoken sentences with a preposition, but avoid this usage in your writing.

Example: Spoken sentence—“Who will you go to?” Written sentence—“To whom will you go?”

Those who dislike this rule cite Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “That is nonsense up with which I shall not put.” However, ending sentences with prepositions is still considered poor writing style.

*Avoid stringing together too many prepositional phrases. A good rule of thumb is “never more than two prepositional phrases in one sentence.”

Example: Down the road, through the gate, and past the fence rode the bicyclist. Too much!

*Use prepositional phrases to form parallel structures in writing. Abraham Lincoln did this throughout the Gettysburg Address to create a memorable speech.

Example: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . . that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . . by the people. . . for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.”

Notice how Abraham Lincoln ignores the prepositional phrase strings rule.

*The subject of a sentence is never the object of a preposition. To identify the subject of a sentence, always begin by eliminating words within the prepositional phrases.

Example: Swimming under the bridge gave me a thrill. The bridge is not the sentence subject. The gerund, Swimming, is the subject.

*Place commas following introductory prepositional phrases, unless the sentence is quite short.

Examples: After the movie, they went out to their favorite restaurant and then to that fabulous dessert place. Through the valley rode the five hundred.

Prepositional Phrases as Idiomatic Expressions

Prepositions create problems for those who learn English as a second language. We rest in bed but on the sofa. We listen to the radio, but listen to a song on the radio.

Three little prepositions cause problems for English-language learners: in, on, and of.

1. Use the preposition in before months, years, and seasons.

Examples: We start school in September. In 2010, I learned to tap dance. I exercise more in summer.

2. Use the preposition on before days of the week, holidays, and months if the numerical date follows.

Examples: We do dishes on Mondays and on Wednesdays. We celebrate our presidents on Presidents Day. I went to the doctor on May 20, 2010.

3. Use the preposition of to show possession with a common noun. The preposition of is frequently  used to show possession instead of the common noun-apostrophe-s.

Example: Say, “The sound of a croaking frog brings back memories,”  rather than “The croaking frog’s sound brings back memories.”

However, don’t use the preposition of to show possession with a proper noun.

Example: “Give me the coat of Sue” is incorrect. Instead, use the common noun-apostrophe-s, as in “Give me Sue’s coat.”

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.

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

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).

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Why Johnny Can’t Use Good Grammar

Some years back, the principal walked into my room while my student teacher was delivering a lesson. After a few minutes, the principal signaled me to step outside. “I would never hire Johnny to work at my school,” he said. Shocked, I asked him why. “On the board, he has a misplaced comma, and he ended a sentence with a preposition.” Sounds quite harsh, doesn’t it? That principal certainly had high expectations of his teachers.

Not every educated adult places the same level of importance regarding the proper use of grammar and mechanics as does that principal. However, many do. Proper grammar is a critically important tool for success in school, work, and life. We are judged, sometimes quite severely, by the words we use and the way we use them in both our speaking and writing. Misused grammar betrays us. The way we talk and write reflects our background, education, and ability to communicate. So what are the myths and realities of grammar instruction and most importantly, how can we improve student grammar?

The Five Myths of Grammar Instruction

1. Grammar is acquired naturally; it does not need to be taught. Oral language is not always an efficient teacher. In fact, it can be quite a mixed bag. For every proper modeling of the pronoun in the sentence: It is I, students hear at least five models of the incorrect: It is me. Grammar as it is caught must be complemented by a grammar that is taught.

2. Grammar is a meaningless collection of rules-most of which don’t work half the time. This myth may have developed from mindless “drill and kill” grammatical exercises with no application to real writing. Actually, our English grammar is remarkably flexible and consistent.

3. Grammar cannot be learned by students with some learning styles or disabilities. While it may be true that students learn language differently, at different rates, and vary in proficiency, there has been no research to show that some students cannot learn grammar.

4. English grammar cannot be learned by second language learners. Some teachers think that students who speak other languages get confused between the primary language and English grammars. The research proves otherwise. Intuitively, many of us have significantly increased our own knowledge of English grammar by taking a foreign language.

5. Reading and writing a lot will improve grammar. Reading grammatically rich literature is wonderful, but learning is not passive and does not come by osmosis. Writing poorly may, indeed, reinforce poor grammatical usage.

How should we teach grammar to Johnny?  Don’t waste time teaching Johnny what he already knows. Find out what he does not know and target these areas of grammatical deficits. Use a good diagnostic assessment. Have Johnny practice those weaknesses with specific skill worksheets.

Teach the language of grammar and recognition of the common grammatical structures. Johnny has to know what a prepositional phrase is and how to know one when he sees one. In fact, over 30% of academic writing is composed of this grammatical form. Maybe learning “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function” on Sesame Street® was not such a bad idea after all. Teach grammar in the context of writing. Using the common grammatical structures, have Johnny begin half of his written sentences with different sentence openers. This practice serves two purposes: It teaches recognition and manipulation of grammatical structures and it improves sentence variety.

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.

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

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).

Grammar/Mechanics , , , , , , , ,