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A battle most English teachers fight regularly involves convincing their students that good grammar is important, not only in their speech, but also in their writing. It is understandable, yet frustrating, that today’s students aren’t all that concerned with the correct rules of grammar and punctuation in their writing. Today’s students live in a world of texts and MySpace accounts and just don’t see a real need for correct grammar; they certainly don’t see a need for grammar textbooks and diagramming sentences. The teachers in their lives, however, know there is a need and it’s up to them to teach their students the rules of grammar and punctuation and get their students to actually apply those rules.
I believe that grammar and punctuation rules are best learned through their correct application in actual writing. Just because a student can copy ten sentences from a textbook and make the subjects and verbs agree does not mean that same student can write an essay and use correct subject verb agreement throughout. The two tasks are quite different.
Teaching grammar through writing does not mean getting rid of grammar textbooks. These textbooks are actually excellent resources. They make it easier to explain grammar rules by providing examples of them. However, it benefits students even more if textbooks are used in conjunction with actual writing. You could choose to look at textbooks as the place where students learn the rules and actual writing as where they apply them.
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Suggestions For Teaching Grammar
There are a few things you can do to help students improve their understanding of the application of grammar and punctuation rules without having them copy and correct sentences from textbooks.
If you are teaching subject verb agreement, write a paragraph for your students and point out the subjects, verbs, and how you made them agree with each other.
2) Assign A Specific Task
If you are working on the correct use of adverbs and adjectives, then assign a short piece of writing and require that they correctly use at least five of each in it. Have them highlight each adverb and adjective to make it easier to grade.
3) Make it Entertaining
Let’s face it, grammar and punctuation can be rather boring and dry to students. Try to make them a little more exciting by coming up with creative ways to teach them.(See an example here.)
When grading a piece of writing, assign codes for each grammar and punctuation rule you are looking for (example, C = comma mistake) and each time you see that particular mistake in a line of writing, put the code at the end of the line. This way, your student knows what type of mistake was made and the general area where it was made. However, they must read, think, and figure out exactly what the mistake was. Then have them correct the mistake and highlight their correction. Be sure to check and see that your students are actually correcting their mistakes. If they figure out you are not checking their corrections, rest assured they will not make them.
Do you have any further ideas to share?