Grammar is a dying art. It seems as though the longer I teach, the worse students are at grammar. Even with spellcheck and all the tools that help to prevent improper forms of grammar learners are still struggling to place the proper punctuation or use the correct verb tense.
In fact, most teachers that I have come into contact with, including myself, are not confident in their abilities to teach grammar and do not consider themselves perfectionists in grammar!
So while it may seem a little daunting to instruct students in an area that you may not feel as comfortable with, the more that we dig into the content, the better we will get.
Within the Bridging Literacy Method, there is a dedicated day that focuses on grammar by utilizing the mentor text to help increase their sentence variation and improve sentence formations. When I begin to tackle the topic of grammar, this is the process that I will follow:
With every skill that I teach, I select a mentor text. This is a text that lends itself magnificently to the skill itself but also rich in questioning, inferring, vocabulary and sentence variation. The text that you choose is very important. While I agree with so many that we shouldn’t say no to any type of book, we must be selective in our book choices in order to expose and encourage our readers to a variety of texts.
Choosing a sentence
When selecting a sentence, spend time rereading the text a number of times. Each time you read, add a sticky note to the page denoting on the sentence that you find “interesting” or “teachable content”. Then determine the skills that need to be taught.
I will typically look at the writing piece and progression of skills that I am having my students focus on and base my sentence variation or conventions that I want to teach on that writing piece. For instance, if my learners are working on a descriptive writing piece then I might want to look for sentences with strong adjectives, compound sentences and looking more deeply at subjects and predicates.
If my students are working on a creative writing piece then I would want to find sentences with dialogue and more complex sentences.
I am attaching a cheat sheet that I have been working on to help guide my own instruction. **Please know that this is not all precise and may change as I continue to work on developing my methods (CONSIDER THIS GROWING… Also, I am still working on developing a cheat sheet for Parts of Speech and will have that to you all shortly). Of course I encourage you to provide feedback and discuss the progression that I have put together.
Write on chart paper or print as a poster
Once I have selected my mentor sentence, I have two options. Option one is to simple handwrite the sentence onto chart paper, skipping lines to provide enough space for labeling the parts of speech. Option two is to type the sentence in word double space and at a font size of around 150, save as a PDF and then print as a poster using Adobe Reader.
Once you have your sentence prepped and ready, you will want to consider how much you will scaffold. I started by giving my students the exact number of parts of speech that we were going to search for and label ready to go. for instance, if the sentence contained 2 verbs and 4 nouns, then I would have 2 sticky notes with the word verb on it and four sticky notes with the word round written on it. This would allow for your students to feel much more successful and go in with a direct purpose. once you feel as though they ave mastered that, you can remove the sticky notes and simply have them label it with a marker.
Scaffolding your instructions maintains a purposeful lesson and keeps you focused as well.
Ask What They Notice
When done, you will want to ask students what they notice about the sentence. Encourage them to point out what words have a capital letter, the type of punctuation, the types of words used and so on. This will get kids thinking about the sentence and using content vocabulary that encourages conversation.
As your learners are telling you what they notice, write their ideas in the margin of the paper or at the bottom. This will give learners a sense of ownership and encourages those students who are less likely to share encouragement to share in the future. Of course there are always multiple instructional strategies that you can use to encourage this as well.
Instruct on the Focus Skill
Once you have allowed students to discuss their noticing, you will provide instruction. Specifically with the sentence. This is where I LOVE using sentence strips…. LOTS of sentence strips. Cut up what you want to teach. Move words and phrases around and discuss what does not make sense.
Teach the vocabulary and the purpose then provide students with a way to practice in groups and receive immediate feedback. Once they have had time to practice, send them off with an assignment. I will ALWAYS have my students think of their writing and how they can recreate (duplicate) their mentor sentence and add to their own writing piece. Of course I model with my own writing and then send students off to complete theirs.
I will have them do this in multiple formats. As of recently, my favorite is to have them write their sentence on a sentence strip and post it on our back doors. Students will then discuss, correct and revise in our next lesson.
Add to Their Writing
The next part is the MOST important in my opinion. This step builds ownership and confidence in learners. They will take their sentence and integrate it pithing their wiring piece. By the end of the writing unit, I look for specific grammar skills that have been taught and the proper formations of sentence and grammar usage.
I repeat this process for each lesson, changing activities, practice and instructional strategies to add a variety and maintain engagement. I’ll get into the instructional strategies and activities that I use in another post.
I'd love to know your approach to grammar instruction. How or what do you plan on integrating into your lessons from this post?
Happy Planning Everyone!