March 4, 2010

Don't Get Me Started On Grammar...

Too late. The Booking Through Thursday question this week is on that very topic.

I think grammar is important but I think we teach it in exactly the wrong way. I agree with Dr. Stephen Krashen that we shouldn't directly teach grammar at all until high school and then only in an open-book manner.

Right now we're in crunch time at our district, prepping for the infernal high-stakes test next month. The children were just given a benchmark test and our job is to focus on their lowest performing items and focus on those skills for the next month to try to help them do better on the big test.

Many of those items in elementary school are grammar-related. I'm sorry, but I don't think it's developmentally appropriate. Unless a child is walking around speaking in gibberish because they're switching nouns and verbs or something, then there is no point. So what if they can name an adjective or an adverb? Most people don't know or care what torque in their car engine is, but they can still drive. Certainly the students should be learning to express themselves in writing and some basic rules of grammar and punctuation are necessary, but testing them on names of things like adverbs, adjectives, homophones, etc. is just silly.

I won't even go into the dreadful practice of diagramming sentences they get into in middle school, except to say this: the only thing you learn from diagramming sentences is how to diagram sentences.

If you want to learn better grammar and writing style? Read as much well-written writing as you can and endeavor to write as clearly as possible.