Many people shudder at the mere mention of grammar because they have poor memories of learning grammar in school. The memorization and repetitive drills seemed torturous and unnecessary. However, grammar is an extremely vital component of communication, both verbal and written. Having good grammar skills can improve a student’s ability to think analytically and communicate confidently.
Grammar instruction is not only about finding errors and correcting them; it is also about creating precise and clear documents and oral communication with others. It’s about making interesting and vivid images with words. The following are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Teaching grammar will not make all students’ errors disappear.
Grammar is a very complex system of rules. As students’ writing develops, they often make new errors (but not always fewer!). Grammar instruction evolves as students’ abilities to communicate evolve. Therefore, grammar must be studied in conjunction with writing assignments throughout students’ academic experiences. Plus, grammar instruction equips students with a tool to analyze the way they think about the presentation of their ideas.
2. Understanding grammar helps students become better readers and writers.
The first step to becoming a good writer is to be a good reader. Knowledge of basic grammar helps students comprehend a complicated story by enabling them to break apart sentences or locate the main subject and verb in a phrase. If students appreciate the way a certain author writes, they can draw on their grammatical knowledge to figure out the types of sentence structures that the author uses—and can then experiment with their own writing styles. Ask your students about their favorite authors, and wherever possible, use examples of those authors’ works to illustrate new topics in grammar.
3. Grammar instruction is most effective when applied in meaningful contexts.
Grammar drills are not the most effective way to improve student writing. Using instruction that focuses on context-based approach shows students how parts of language work together to create meaning. When students understand how language works, it will help them become effective writers.
Grammar drills and direct instruction are most meaningful when they are applied in the context of the students’ own writing and editing, and in the context of what they are reading. By applying grammar principles to authentic texts, students see the relevance of grammar instruction.
Vanessa Banks is Co-Founder of Kernel Creative Media and the marketing strategist for Sylvan Learning of Clifton Park and Albany. For more information, visit SylvanLearning.com.