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Grammar in the Writing Context

Teachers know the power of connected learning. When one strand of rope is twisted with another (or several), the rope is less likely to break.

Now some things need to be taught in isolation, but when teachers take the time to show students the connections to other learning, students grasp the big picture and are more likely to retain the information. This finding has been integral to learning theory for years. Indeed, association and linking are powerful memory tools.

With this educational assumption, let’s take a look at one specific educational maxim: Grammar must be taught in the writing context.  

For most teachers, taught usually implies introduce. In other words, to have shared some new content, concept, or skill (or standard) that students had not yet learned. This presents problems for developing student writers, because teachers have been taught that grammar should only be taught in the writing context. This chiefly means that grammar has not be taught at all. The pipe dream of some is that targeted mini-lessons, say one on commas or pronoun antecedents, will be used in the editing stage of the writing process for those students who need them. It just does not get done on a regular basis and the students do not get enough practice to master these skills.

The mini-lesson only approach is akin to assigning your own child the task of building an outdoor play structure (think writing process assignment) in which you provide excellent directions, but hand over the toolbox without prior instruction.

The directions begin with the following: “Use only a ball peen hammer to nail and countersink all 16 penny galvanized.”

One the student has completed building the structure (the draft or revised draft), the teacher determines that the entire class needs a mini-lesson to address the obvious construction short-comings. How inefficient and frustrating.

Clearly, it makes so much more sense to teach every component of the directions before using or mis-using the tools. How you teach (connect to prior learning, identity, define terminology, provide examples, use mentor modeling, provide guided practice, independent practice with feedback, give formative assessment, and remediate with individualized practice) matters. Obviously, each of these steps would be critically important in teaching this direction.

If you would agree that this instructional approach would also make sense with grammar instruction, let me attempt to convince you of one other key instructional point.

Students who did not demonstrate mastery in their first or revised attempts (think first or revised writing drafts) must be re-taught. Yes, mini-lessons in this context would make sense. But, in terms of writing feedback…

Wouldn’t it make sense to use the same language of instruction in both teaching and writing feedbackThat would be powerful, memorable instruction: truly teaching grammar in the writing context.

Grammar in the Writing Context

Writing Context

You can do this with the author’s e-Comments Chrome Extension. This app includes hundreds of canned writing comments with the same language of instruction as the author’s Teaching Grammar and Mechanics and the companion program, Teaching Essay Strategies. Use the same terminology and definitions in your teaching and annotations in Google docs (and slides) comments. Now, that’s a seamless connection to teach and practice grammar and mechanics in the writing context!

Save time grading and provide better writing feedback!

The e-Comments program includes four insertable comment banks (Grades 3‒6, Grades 6‒9, Grades 9‒12, and College/Workplace) feature writing format and citations, essay and story structure, essay and story content analysis, sentence formation and writing style, word choice, grammar, and mechanics.

When you open a student’s doc or slide, the e-Comments menu pops-up in the right margin. Simply highlight a writing issue in the student’s text and click on a comment button. The comment automatically appears in the margin next to the student’s text.

FAQs:

  • Would all my students need this program? No, just the teacher. The e-Comments program syncs to multiple devices and saves to the cloud.
  • Can I edit these e-comments? Yes, they are customizable.
  • Can I add, format, and save my own custom writing comments to the e-Comment menu? Yes.
  • Can I record audio comments? Yes.
  • Can I record video comments? Yes, just make sure your hair isn’t out of place.
  • Can I use speech to text? Yes, save time typing personalized comment additions.

I’m not tech proficient. Is e-Comments easy to use? Yes. The one-page Quick Start User Guide and video tutorial will get you grading or editing in just minutes. No time-consuming and complicated multiple clicks, dropdown menus, or comment codes. This program is intuitive and user-friendly.

Check out the author’s Teaching Grammar and Mechanics and Teaching Essay Strategies programs, and purchase or add the free trial of the e-Comments Chrome Extension.

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

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