Thursday, May 9, 2013

Students Won't Grumble over These Grammar Grapplers

Just the mere mention of the word grammar causes students’ eyes to glaze over and English teachers to argue methodology.  In fact, until the Virginia Standards of Learning were adopted, most county administrators frowned upon the teaching of grammar, usage and mechanics solely as separate entities.

When preparing for the Standards of Learning  assessment, they took heed of the warnings from district English teachers regarding students lack of understanding of  basic grammar and usage concepts. The leaders  rescinded their previous viewpoint. 

Those of us leading classrooms know that students won't understand a comment on a paper that states, "Verbs must agree with their subjects in number" unless they know what a verb is, as well as its subject, and understand what number means in relation to this part of speech. Expecting them to do so reminds me of the time my neighborhood car mechanic growled at me about all of the dirt clogging my oil filter. Oil filter? What was that? I knew my car needed oil...where...I didn't know. And it was filtered?  Chalk up another, "I didn't know that even existed," for me.

Middle and High School ELA Lesson Plans Grammar Grapplers
I strongly feel that students need to see the connection between the “what they say” and the “how they say it” aspects of their writing.  Combined with my philosophy that learning can be fun, I attempt to eradicate the consternation associated with the study of the English language. So do my grammar go to make-believe teenagers, Bubba and Zelda.  Readers have met these two in the Troublesome Words Power Point ( and the Prepositions Power Point (, both of which are also FREE. They are back to engage students grammatically by sharing some of their antics.

The key word, when planning for a grammar segment, is interaction.  Just the other day, a BFF from shortly after we were born and I laughed about the hours and hours that we spent at the blackboard in high school diagramming sentences. Did we learn?  Yes, but at the price of sheer, teeth-grinding boredom. After years in the classroom, we know that lifelong learners emerge from lessons that inspire students with engaging and fun activities.Therefore, it is vital that students do more than work through the exercises in a grammar book.
Middle and High School ELA Lesson Plans- Parts of Speech activity

In fact, other than using a text to clarify the definitions of the work under study, I only utilized our adopted book for defining the grammar concept and for learning and reinforcing the rules associated with its usage. Every introductory lesson for a concept should start with the students writing original sentences on the board. Next, the teacher should guide them to
  1. find the errors (when choosing the sentences to use, I made sure that I selected examples that exhibited the concept that I wanted students to grasp).
  2. name the concept.
  3. review the concept’s rules with students coming to the board and writing original sentence that show the principle.
  4. connect the concept with one of its rules.
 The study of the concept in question continues with as much student involvement as time allows, utilizing both small and large group instruction. The following  FREE 36 pages of worksheets, tests and answer keys (Yes, 36 FREE pages) are by no means conclusive, but are a sampling of how form and function can combine to increase students’ understanding of English usage.  I compiled many of them after selecting prevalent usage errors from students' essays. In others, I use characters that I have created who are the Composites of Students Past (Zelda and Bubba). I found that students displayed more enthusiasm in completing the worksheets when they  related to the thoughts, actions and reactions of the young people wired to their likes and dislikes. You will, too. Download this Freebie from my TpT store:

Middle and High School ELA Lesson Plans: Active Voice Activity

I copied the various grammatical definitions from: Kinneavy, James L, and Warriner, John E. Elements of Writing : Complete Course. Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1998.

NOTE: Regarding the Active Voice Rules activity on pages 27-28, I sell a  corresponding Power Point that teaches this concept and that uses these sentences:

Happy Teaching,

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