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How to Teach Grammar in Literacy Centers

Teach Grammar in Literacy Centers

How to Teach Grammar in Literacy Centers

Literacy centers, (also referred to as stations), can serve as the wonderful venues for collaborative discussion of how our culture uses written and spoken language. In other words, our grammar. Now, the way we colloquially use the term grammar in teaching circles is not solely in terms of the function of words and syntax (order) within the context of our culture. Teachers use grammar to refer to sentence structure, parts of speech, parts of a sentence (subjects, objects, predicates, phrases, clauses, etc.), usage (including non-standard forms), capitalization, punctuation, and more. In sum, grammar is a catch-all term for the rules and style of our language. The study of grammar provides teachers and their students with a common language of instruction.

Over the years, as an author of numerous grammar programs and a grammar handbook/style manual, I’ve often been rhetorically questioned along the lines of “Hasn’t research constantly proven that direct instruction of grammar yields no measurable improvement in students’ writing or speaking?”

Depending upon my mood, I usually respond by asking what the questioner means by grammar. The responses vary, but the questioner always moves the discussion to how grammar is taught: a completely separate issue in my view. In my article titled “The Great Grammar Debate,” I summarize the how positions as those favoring a part to whole inductive approach (grammar is taught) and a whole to part deductive approach (grammar is caught).

Even the most ardent critics of teaching grammar deductively agree that oral language acquisition is the greatest contributor to our knowledge of grammar, and even our correct usage. Even the most ardent critics of teaching grammar inductively agree that some knowledge of how our language is put together and used within our culture should inform writing and speaking. Indeed, my view is that grammar should be both caught and taught. I tend to be a both-and teacher.

However, to respond to the how grammar should be taught question, I would argue that the best instructional format for learning and exploring the application of grammar in the context of writing, speaking, and reading is in literacy centers. In literacy centers, students use language to learn language. In a didactic approach to grammar instruction, such as Daily Oral Language, students don’t have the social context to provide immediate feedback to learning, ask questions, or discuss.

A GRAMMAR LITERACY CENTER LESSON EXAMPLE

If learning about adverbs, students will need to know their definition, be able to identify adverbs, apply adverbs properly in writing and speaking, and analyze the author’s use of adverbs in the assigned reading. Notice that the first two tasks follow the inductive approach to grammar acquisition, while the last two tasks follow the deductive approach.

A literacy center grammar lesson could include the following:

Remember that an adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb and answers What degree? How? Where? or When? Any part of speech can serve as an adverb. Let’s identify these four types of adverbs and categorize them from this short reading selection.

Did you know that we always almost use adverbs in a certain adverb order? Sounds funny, doesn’t it? This sounds better: Did you know that we almost always use adverbs in a certain adverb order? The adverb, almost, is a What Degree? adverb; the adverb, always, is a When? adverb. When we write or say a sentence with multiple adverbs, we tend to use them in this order: What degree? How? Where? or When?

Let’s practice together revising these sentences according to the What degree? How? Where? or When? adverb order. Check out the writer’s use of multiple adverbs in this article. Help each other circle the adverbs. Discussion: When does she follow the rule and when does she break the rule regarding adverb order? Why did she choose to break the rule?

The next lesson could involve adverb order in terms of placing shorter adverbial phrases in front of longer ones. Example: We ran more slowly, yet more purposefully.

The following lesson could involve adverb order in terms of placing specific adverbs before general ones. Example: We ran to the corner, then everywhere.

See how the collaborative nature of literacy centers is an effective means of learning and applying grammar? Want to try this approach to grammar instruction?

The author’s Academic Language Conventions Literacy Center provides 56 Common Core-aligned grammar and mechanics lessons designed for literacy centers. Plus, the author has a separate remedial grammar, usage, and mechanics literacy center to help your students catch up while they keep up with grade-level instruction. Check out these programs HERE.

But wait. I’m so confident that teachers will recognize the quality of design and content when they see these grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 grammar centers that I’m offering the entire first month-long unit of the Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE (all six centers) free of charge for you to test-drive. If you love them all (you just might), buy the full-year Academic Literacy Center BUNDLE or mix and match by buying the full-year individual centers. I’ve also attached an extensive preview of the Remedial Literacy Centers at the end of the unit for you to check out. Note: Please don’t post this free unit online or share with other teachers.

The individual centers and BUNDLES are available for sale on my Teachers Pay Teachers store and on www.penningtonpublishing.com (use discount code 3716 for 10% off at check-out).

Here’s what you will get in this free, one-month six-center Academic Literacy Center BUNDLE unit (255 pages plus the Remedial Literacy Center preview) sent as a download via email:

Academic Literacy Centers FREE Unit

Reading: Eight leveled expository reading fluency articles with word counts and timing chart. Eight corresponding comprehension worksheets with vocabulary in context. (The only components I can’t give you for this free sample are the modeled YouTube readings at three different reading speeds. You get access to these 129 readings with the paid version of the individual center or the BUNDLE.)

Writing: Eight sentence revisions lessons, which include revising sentence structure, grammar application, and writing style and eight literary response activities, which include literary quotation mentor texts and writer response tasks with different rhetorical stance (voice, audience, purpose, and form)

Language Conventions: Eight grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons including online links for both grammar and mechanics content and/or skills

Vocabulary: Eight vocabulary worksheets including multiple meaning words and context clues; Greek and Latin word parts; dictionary and thesaurus practice; figures of speech; word relationships; connotations; and grade-level Academic language words in the Frayer four-square model

Spelling and Syllabication: Four spelling sorts based upon grade-level conventional spelling rules and four syllable worksheets

Study Skills: Eight self-assessment, study skills, reflection lessons: How to Get Motivated, How to Prevent Procrastination, How to Set Goals, How to Develop a Positive Mental Attitude, How to Create a Home Study Environment, How to Get Organized for Homework, How to Complete a Daily Review, How to Manage Time for Homework

Prefer to see the extensive previews of each books before you download? Click HERE.

Prefer to watch the video overview before you download? Click HERE.

Check out Pennington Publishing articles on using literacy centers HERE.

You and your students will love these centers! Pick your grade level and get started with your month-long test-drive. You will love these six-center BUNDLES!

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 4 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 5 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 6 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 7 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 8 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Writing in Literacy Centers

Teach Writing in Literacy Centers

How to Teach Writing in Literacy Centers

Literacy centers, or stations, are ideal instructional strategies for some writing instruction and practice. As much as teachers love literacy centers (I do!), some instruction and practice is just not conducive to centers. Most teachers and professional writers would agree that drafting is a solitary affair between writer and the imagination.  In the classic writing process stages, drafting follows pre-writing. Collaborative pre-writing (including research, discussion, organization, connection to prior knowledge, etc.) can certainly work well in the social atmosphere of literacy centers or cooperative groups. However, the pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard task of generating meaning seems to be part of the magic best suited for the magician alone.

Following drafting, the response-revision-editing-publication steps of the writing process work best in the social context of the classroom with student-student and student-teacher interactions. Whether using a writers workshop model or not, literacy centers can be beneficial instructional settings for working with the first draft.

Five Effective Uses of Literacy Centers for Writing Instruction

1. Response Activities

In the early years (1970s) of the National Writing Project and the popularization of teaching the writing process in schools, the response step was emphasized and valued as a necessary follow-up to the draft. Subsequently, more and more writing process charts and instructional approaches (writers workshop, 6 + 1 traits, Step up to Writing) tended to ignore this step. Some of the rationale for abandoning the response step seems to make sense. After all, student response groups can turn into mutual admiration societies (“It’s great. I wouldn’t change a thing.”) Or the blind leading the blind. Or crushing Yelp reviews of one star (sometimes as payback for past negative reviews). After all, we do teach kids.

However, if given concrete, objective “what to look for” response tasks dealing with what is said, response groups can be an essential step before writing revision. Additionally, most teachers find that guided response group tasks work efficiently to help writers decided what to keep and what to throw out. It’s all about waste management. Instead of spending excessive time analyzing and directing the trash disposal in terms of following the writing prompts, writing coherence, and unity, the teacher can reasonably expect that response groups can, at a minimum, sort the trash into recyclables, non-green waste, and compost. To mix metaphors, “Many hands make light work.”

2. Guided Revision

If well-designed response activities, used within literacy centers, can provide useful feedback to the writer regarding what is said in the draft and also save the teacher time dealing with the garbage, then well-designed guided revision tasks can help the writer work with how it is said. Guided revision is the back and forth discussion within the center regarding how the writer interacts with the reader.

For example, sentence structure and length is always a great guided revision task. It provides objective criteria: How many short sentences and long sentences are in the body paragraphs? How many simple sentences, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences are in the opening of the story? Are there any sections with three simple sentence in a row? Sections with two complex or compound-complex sentences back-to-back?

Or another example: sentence variety. How many sentences begin with the subject? How many passive voice sentences are there?

Or (from the author’s grammar handbook (see below):

e29 Get more specific. The support evidence is too general. Add more specific evidence by including Fact, Example, Statistic, Comparison, Quote from an Authority, Logic, Experience, or Counter-Argument/Refutation. FE SCALE CR

3. Guided Editing

Focusing on mistakes in word choice, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. can work well in literacy centers, but only if resources are made available and the editing is guided by discrete tasks.

The author provides a nice resource for student and teacher editing and revision in a grammar handbook: The Pennington Manual of Style provides 438 categorized comments which both literacy center partners and teachers can automatically insert into Windows Microsoft Word and/or downloaded into Google Docs or simply copied and pasted (for Windows and Mac users) as guided editing documents. The comments identify what is wrong, why is it wrong, and how to fix it.

For example, many students overuse “to be” verbs in both expository and narrative compositions: 

For more examples, check out the article on how to make revision and editing comments. Or take a look at  The Pennington Manual of Style on the author’s website.

4. Sentence Revision

Students need both the know how and tools to work with their own writing. If students don’t know that constantly beginning sentences with “There are,” “Here is,” “It was,” is poor writing style, unnecessary, and irritating to their audience, they will continue using these expletives. Literacy centers provide the collaborative experience for students to learn how to revise sentences. The author’s Writing Academic Literacy Center provides 56 mini-lessons for grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (Get a FREE one-month unit below to test-drive this program) to help students learn what to revise and how to do so.

5. Literary Response to Mentor Texts

Literacy centers help students borrow each other’s brains to solve problems, ask questions, understand complex ideas, come up with solutions, and apply what has been learned. However, if students only draw water from the same well (each other) the writing results and production will stagnate. Good writers build upon the broad shoulders of better writers. Using grade-appropriate mentor texts can stimulate new ways at looking at things. When connected to interpretive and analytical writing tasks, student writers are exposed to new ideas and new ways of saying these ideas.

The author’s Writing Academic Literacy Center provides 56 mini-lessons featuring short mentor texts and response activities. The response activities requires students to collaboratively alter the rhetorical stance of their responses in terms of voice, audience, purpose, and form). These brain-stretching mini-lessons will significantly improve student writing flexibility, maturity, and style.

 

I’m so confident that teachers will recognize the quality of design and content when they see these grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 writing centers that I’m offering the entire first month-long unit of the Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE (all six centers) free of charge for you to test-drive. If you love them all (you just might), buy the full-year Academic Literacy Center BUNDLE or mix and match by buying the full-year individual centers. I’ve also attached an extensive preview of the Remedial Literacy Centers at the end of the unit for you to check out. Note: Please don’t post this free unit online or share with other teachers.

The individual centers and BUNDLES are available for sale on my Teachers Pay Teachers store and on www.penningtonpublishing.com (use discount code 3716 for 10% off at check-out).

Here’s what you will get in this free, one-month six-center Academic Literacy Center BUNDLE unit (255 pages plus the Remedial Literacy Center preview) sent as a download via email:

Academic Literacy Centers FREE Unit

Reading: Eight leveled expository reading fluency articles with word counts and timing chart. Eight corresponding comprehension worksheets with vocabulary in context. (The only components I can’t give you for this free sample are the modeled YouTube readings at three different reading speeds. You get access to these 129 readings with the paid version of the individual center or the BUNDLE.)

Writing: Eight sentence revisions lessons, which include revising sentence structure, grammar application, and writing style and eight literary response activities, which include literary quotation mentor texts and writer response tasks with different rhetorical stance (voice, audience, purpose, and form)

Language Conventions: Eight grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons including online links for both grammar and mechanics content and/or skills

Vocabulary: Eight vocabulary worksheets including multiple meaning words and context clues; Greek and Latin word parts; dictionary and thesaurus practice; figures of speech; word relationships; connotations; and grade-level Academic language words in the Frayer four-square model

Spelling and Syllabication: Four spelling sorts based upon grade-level conventional spelling rules and four syllable worksheets

Study Skills: Eight self-assessment, study skills, reflection lessons: How to Get Motivated, How to Prevent Procrastination, How to Set Goals, How to Develop a Positive Mental Attitude, How to Create a Home Study Environment, How to Get Organized for Homework, How to Complete a Daily Review, How to Manage Time for Homework

Prefer to see the extensive previews of each books before you download? Click HERE.

Prefer to watch the video overview before you download? Click HERE.

Check out Pennington Publishing articles on using literacy centers HERE.

You and your students will love these centers! Pick your grade level and get started with your month-long test-drive. Tell a colleague and earn a nice gift upon that colleague’s purchase of one of our BUNDLES!

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 4 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 5 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 6 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 7 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Get the FREE UNIT: Grade 8 Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

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Writing Literacy Centers

Writing Literacy Centers

Writing Academic Literacy Centers

As most teachers have now adjusted their writing instruction and practice into the narrowed focus of the Common Core State Standards (more research and essays and less stories and creative writing), I see a renewed interest in developing the skill sets of student writers.

Teachers have, understandably, focused on the first three Common Core Writing Standards: 1. The argumentative (essay) 2. The informational/explanatory (essay or report) 3. The narrative (story). Most teachers have had professional development in these three genre and teach all three at some time within each school year.

Additionally, most teachers are now implementing Writing Standards W.6, 7, 8, and 9 by using technology for short or extended research writing projects.

However, teachers are less familiar with the other three writing standards and few are well-acquainted with the relevant language standard. Teachers usually refer to these standards as writing skills or strategies. Typically, teachers have taught these tools in isolation as writing openers/worksheets or in the writing context as mini-lessons/editing. These skills or strategies are ideally suited to literacy center (station) lessons.

Following are the often-neglected writing and language standards:

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Language

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Teachers have used three research-based strategies to teach these writing skills or strategies: 1. Frequent, short, and focused writing practice 2. Sentence revisions 3. Literary response

How to Teach to These Standards

Fortunately, #s 2 and 3 are best accomplished by #1.

Sentence Revision (called by many other names) includes quick, focused instruction and repetitive practice in precise word choice, sentence structure (grammar, usage, and syntax), and sentence variety (varied grammatical forms, sentence combining, sentence length, parallelism, etc.)

Literary Response includes learning from accomplished writers. Teachers have used both expository and narrative mentor texts for years to model how writers communicate artfully and memorably. Typically, students respond to mentor texts in different rhetorical modes (rhetorical stance: voice, audience, purpose, and form) to develop their own writing style.

If you glance back at the often-neglected writing and language standards above, you’ll see how sentence revision and literary response activities address the components of these standards and can be taught and practiced in frequent, short, and focused writing practice.

One great way to teach sentence revision and literary response writing skills is in literacy centers (stations). The social nature of collaborative writing is especially conducive to literacy centers.

 

The author of this post, Mark Pennington, provides grades 4-8 teachers with grade-level sentence revision resources and literary response resources in two instructional formats: twice-per-week writing openers (or writers workshop mini-lessons) and literacy centers.

Both sentence revision and literary response lessons are provided in Teaching Essay Strategies, the Writing Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8and in the Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLE.

Get the Writing Academic Literacy Center Sample Lessons FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Writing Skills

Writing is Taught and Caught

Writing Skills: Taught and Caught

Now that teachers have had plenty of professional development in how to write arguments (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1) and informative/explanatory texts (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2), teachers are looking at their students’ essays or narratives (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3) with a collective sigh. Students just cannot write.

Students seem to understand the content, they know the demands and constraints of the writing genre, they can dissect a writing prompt, they know the writing process… but the words they use, the sentences they construct, and the intangible feeling our student writers convey simply do not engage their readers (teachers especially).

The Problem

Many teachers are not equipping their students with the tools they need in their tool belts. Or, just as bad, teachers introduce the tools, but don’t provide the practice students need to master the tools.

The Solution

Two time-proven solutions to these problems take little time, but do necessitate some instruction and practice: sentence revisions and literary response. Writing teachers (and writing research) have found these tools to be especially helpful for developing writers.

By sentence revision, I mean the word choice and structure of our language (the grammar, usage, and syntax). It’s the how something is written (and re-written). Think sentence variety, sentence combining, grammar and proper usage in the writing context. The skills of sentence revision are primarily taught.

By literary response, I mean writing style: primarily the style of literary mentors, who not only have something to say, but know how to say it in both expository and narrative writing. Think mentor texts and rhetorical stance (voice, audience, purpose, and form). The skills of writing style are primarily caught.

Fortunately, the Common Core authors do acknowledge the importance of teaching both sentence revisions and literary response in both the Anchor Standards for Writing and the Anchor Standards for Language (highlighting my own):

Writing Anchor Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Language Anchor Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Suggestions

Keep your focus on both the content and process of writing. Maintain a balance of extended writing process assignments (especially essays and stories) and short, say twice-per-week writing skill development, especially using sentence revisions and literary response activities.

The author of this post, Mark Pennington, provides grades 4-8 teachers with grade-level sentence revision resources and literary response resources in two instructional formats: twice-per-week writing openers (or writers workshop mini-lessons) and literacy centers.

Both sentence revision and literary response lessons are provided in Teaching Essay Strategies, the Writing Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and in the Academic Literacy Center Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLE.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLES

Academic Literacy Centers Grades 4-8 BUNDLES

Check out this FREE writing skills resource to see a sample of the resources provided in Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies is a comprehensive curriculum designed to help teachers teach the essay components of the Common Core Writing Standards.

This step-by-step program provides all of the resources for upper elementary, middle school, and high school teachers to teach both the writing process essays and the accompanying writing strategies.

*****

Get the Writing Skills FREE Resource:

 

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