Posted by: Brett | July 18, 2011

In Conclusion . . . . and other resources

In Conclusion . . . . . . .   and more resources

After looking at all the research that is available on teaching grammar (and there is more than one person could read in a lifetime) I think that there is overwhelming evidence that grammar should be taught.  The question then becomes, “How should grammar be taught?”  In an article entitled “On Not Teaching Grammar”, the author describes “anti-grammarians” as “a horse without a cart”.  The “pro-grammarians are the “cart before the horse” and those that ask “if not grammar then what should we teach?” as “pulling the cart out front”.  The author goes to a lot of trouble to basically communicate the idea that students should be able to recognize “grammatical constructions” in their own writing and make revisions when needed.  My question is how are they going to recognize what needs to be revised if they are not familiar with standard English grammar?  So the question truly is not if grammar should be taught, but how. 

I posted several articles on various strategies to teach grammar that involve students in learning activities that are meaningful, and certainly they are not boring.  One activity that is very simple to implement in the classroom involves a teacher who throws her keys on the floor.  She asks her students to make a sentence about the action.  The sentence, Ms. Boggs threw her keys on the floor.  becomes a stem to which the students add clauses, change from active to passive voice, identify the subject and predicate, etc.  Many times the teacher involves the students in actions and they create sentences this way.  This makes the grammar lesson relevant to the students and keeps their interest level up so that they stay involved and not bored.

One article that I found, Teaching Reading and Writing to Struggling Middle School and High School Students: the Case for Reciprocal Teaching, deals with teaching writing skills to students for whom English is a second language and to students who have a learning disability.  I did not post the link to the article because it has very little to do with teaching grammar, but it made me stop and think how I would address teaching grammar to students who are below the “norm” (whatever the norm is).

Several articles reference Carol Weaver’s book that I have posted in my blog.  Another book that was referenced many times is Harry Noden’s Image Grammar: Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing.  Two other resources that I ran across is an article entitled Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle And High Schools by Steve Graham and Dolores Perin.  One of the highlights of the article is a section: Eleven Elements of Effective Adolescent Writing Instruction.  The National Writing Project published a book, 30 Ideas for Teaching Writing, that looks like a great resource.

The bottom line is that grammar should be taught, but it does not have to be daily language drills.  Grammar lessons can be engaging and effective;  if a teacher wants to make grammar lessons exciting, there are lots of resources, to be purchased or for free that can support that desire. 

Posted by: Brett | July 18, 2011

Another Personal Writing Sample

A  lesson that I found interesting and easy to implement is one where the teacher has the students go through their papers and try to put semi-colons where they can best fit.  This is one way to teach students sentence combining so that their papers won’t be “choppy” and simplistic.  The lesson is posted on the lessons section of my blog.   

I chose one paragraph from a paper that I recently wrote about a personal experience that taught me a life lesson.  I have left the original sentence in the paragraph and put revisions in bold and highlighted

          When I arrived at the pyramid-shaped hotel, known as The Luxor, I stepped inside and saw that it looked just like the two dozen other casinos I had been in, only with an Egyptian theme.  (I sat down at the blackjack table; tonight is my lucky night and I am going back to Atlanta a rich man.) Tonight is my lucky night and I am going back to Atlanta a rich man so I sat down at a blackjack table.  In a haze of black jack, roulette, and Budweiser, my chips quickly disappeared.  In the back of my head I heard my Dad’s voice, “These big casinos didn’t get built by people coming out here and winning.” (I reached into my pocket where I had stashed away twenty dollars for a cab ride back to the hotel; much to my dismay, it was not there.)  I reached into my pocket where I had stashed away twenty dollars for a cab ride back to the hotel.  Much to my dismay, it was not there.  It must have fallen out somewhere.  I asked the bartender for directions back to my hotel.  “You’re not walking are you?”  “Yeah”, “That’s a long way my man”, “I know it, but I have to do it.”  (The directions were fairly simple; this did not stop me from wandering into casinos along the way for a directional update.) The directions were fairly simple but this did not stop me from wandering into casinos along the way for a directional update. .




Posted by: Brett | July 18, 2011

Personal Writing Sample

I wrote a brief narrative of my experience with learning grammar.  I revised my paper by using one of the lessons that I posted.  The teacher gives the students a list of about 5 things to look for in their paper and revise:  1)writing an appositive before a noun and/or writing an appositive after a noun 2) using adjectives before a noun 3) absolute phrases to communicate body language 4) participial phrases to communicate body language 5) using no more than 3- 5 “be” verbs.

Here is my paper.  I left the original sentence in the paper and put the revised sentence in bold and highlighted.  The green highlighted words are “be” verbs.  I had 13, but I probably missed some!

               There is one thing that I will never forget about my year in eighth grade language arts- daily oral language warm-ups.  Even though the activity is “daily oral language”, students copied two sentences from the board onto a sheet of notebook paper and corrected the grammar, mechanics and spelling.  Then the teacher would send a student to the board to make corrections to the sentences while the other students made corrections on their paper.  This activity went on everyday for the first twenty minutes of class.  Not only was this activity boring, but it seemed to be an artificial way to learn grammar.  (Boring and artificial, daily oral language, is an ineffective way to learn grammar.) Students should learn grammar in the context of writing tasks (Dean 20-26).

            One of the earliest grammar skills that I learned was to identify the subject and predicate in a sentence.  I was given worksheet after worksheet and instructed to “underline the subject once and underline the predicate twice”.   The worksheets became a little more difficult when the instructions were to “underline the simple subject once and underline the simple predicate twice”.  I could usually pick out the subject; most of the time it was a noun and sometimes a pronoun.  (I could usually pick out the subject, always a noun or a pronoun, but picking out the simple predicate presented a challenge because of the “be” verbs or the helping verbs.) Picking out the simple predicate presented a challenge because of the “be” verbs or the helping verbs, which form a verb phrase.  (Complicating things further, some sentences had a compound subject or a compound predicate.) To complicate things further, some sentences had a compound subject or a compound predicate. 

            By the time I got to high school, I knew a lot of grammar rules and was fairly proficient at identifying the subject and predicate of a sentence.  I did not realize until much later that the objective of learning grammar is to use it correctly in writing.  There is a definite “disconnect between knowing the rules of grammar and being able to apply those rules” in the context of writing (“Essentials of Language Teaching”).

            Given my personal experience learning grammar (out of context so to speak), I ask myself the question, “How can I teach students to identify and use subjects and predicates appropriately and follow grammar rules so that “their personal writing [is] taken seriously in the wider social environment” (Dean 20-26)?  After reading the book, Mechanically Inclined, by Jeff Anderson, I have learned several great ideas for engaging students in learning grammar and linking their learning to writing.  Anderson’s idea of using authentic texts to teach grammar is one that I believe will appeal to students and will make grammar more meaningful.  For example, he asks students to write a sentence in their journals and then calls on volunteers to share their sentences.  He asks the students how they know they have written a sentence.  He questions them until they arrive at the fact that every sentence has a subject and a predicate.  Then Anderson uses sentences from a novel that is the class read-aloud to further practice identifying the subject and predicate (Anderson).  His book is full of other strategies that engage students in learning grammar skills that are far more interesting than daily oral language warm-ups.

            Another resource that I find helpful and inspiring is Harry Noden’s Image Grammar: Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing.  He suggests that “nouns [subjects] flash slide shows of still images, [while] verbs [predicates] project motion pictures”.Mr. Noden compares the writer to a painter stating that, “just as the painter combines… brush stroke techniques to create an image, the writer chooses from a repertoire of sentence structures” and he gives a plethora of ideas for teaching grammar in context.  To turn writing, which seems to be a daunting mental task, into a visual concept is definitely an approach that I will implement in my classroom.



Posted by: Brett | July 17, 2011


Here is a website to get resources related to GPS.

  • Click teachers
  • Click GPS on the main page
  • Click English/Language Arts, Reading on the bar on the left.
  • Click the appropriate grade level on the bar on the left.
  • On the menu bar at the top of the page click Resources and Videos.
  • Click Resources on the main page.
  • At the bottom of the page you can explore lots of different resources.  I chose the Read-Write-Think resource and got the lesson below.

Classroom Resources | Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Minilesson
Choosing the Best Verb: An Active and Passive Voice Minilesson
Students explore how active and passive voices are appropriate to different audiences. They examine online resources, and then draw conclusions about verb use, which they apply to their own writing.

Posted by: Brett | July 17, 2011



First, I will start with a set of lessons that I would never teach:  (BORING!)

LESSON #1:  Grammar Instruction Made Easy

The Daily Two:  Write two sentences on the board each day.  Review the sentences and present succinct, applicable grammar instruction.  Teach correct vocabulary to describe the grammatical concept and explain the underlying rule.

The Weekly Five:  Continue grammar instruction by expecting students to apply the grammatical concepts you are teaching in their own writing.  Select five student papers, appropriate to the grammar topic you are covering, to be shared with the class. White out the students’ names and make enough copies for each student to have a paper.  Have the students edit the papers according to the “daily two” topic that you are covering.

One A Day: Have students search for examples of the grammar concept ina piece of literature.  Make this into a contest by having students compete to locate examples of the concept.



I found this information in a paper, Teaching Writing Strategies written by Steve Graham from Vanderbilt University.   I like his ideas and made a copy for reference for when I start teaching!  I think they would make some useful charts for the classroom.

He uses mnemonics to help students get some ideas of how to organize and revise their papers.  (It really doesn’t have much to do with grammar, but I liked it and wanted to share.)

The first mnemonic:  P O W (Pick my idea, Organize my notes, Write and say more)

Next he shows a picture of a tree and has a mnemonic:  T R E E (T– topic sentence; tell what you believe  R– Reasons- 3 or More; Why do I believe this?  Will my readers believe this?; E-ending; Wrap it up right!  E-Examine; Do I have all of my parts?)

He gives two more mnemonics in his paper as well as some steps that will be very useful to me when I begin teaching.



I think this would be a unique way of getting to know students’ feelings about grammar at the beginning of the year.  It is a lesson that I think would be appropriate for students in grades 8 and above.  This is in the article: “The Grammar Gallimaufry: Teaching Students to Challenge the Grammar Gods.” The link to it is in my articles section of this blog.  The lesson is on page 99.  It goes into more detail than I have given here.

The author likes this assignment because it “combines three areas of instruction: writing a personal essy with anecdotal detail and personal voice; conducting research; and making a persuasive argument.>

Have students do the following: (They will write a research paper that includes their findings.)

1.  Identify a grammar, punctuation, or usage rule encountered sometime in their past that they have a memory of.

2. Research the background of the rule.

3. Brainstorm the details of the personal event they associate with the rule. Part of the paper will include this anecdote.

4. Make a judgment about how and in what way they will follow or modify the rule in their writing. (This will be the persuasive part of the paper.)

5. Write the paper.

Lesson #4:

I found this lesson in an article, Transforming Writers through Grammar Study, published in the May 2006 volume(95) of the English Journal, which is published by the National Council of Teachers of English.  This article is interesting because of how the author and her colleagues have set up the language arts program at their school.  They think grammar should be taught, but they have created a two-year plan for teaching it.  One point they make is that grammar concepts should not be taught back to back.  Students should have time to practice the concepts in their writing assignments.

The lesson is on sentence variety.  The students are asked to compare two paragraphs.  The information in both paragraphs are the same, but one paragraph has sentences that begin differently and include appositives, participial phrases and only 3- 5 “be” verbs.

  • For the assignment, students are asked to revise their paper making the following edits: 
  • One appositive placed before a noun and one place after a noun.
  • Adjectives before a noun
  • Absolute phrases used to communicate body language.
  • Participial phrases used to communicate bodylanguage
  • No more than three be verbs.

LESSON #5: (from

Classroom Resources | Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Minilesson
Choosing the Best Verb: An Active and Passive Voice Minilesson
Students explore how active and passive voices are appropriate to different audiences. They examine online resources, and then draw conclusions about verb use, which they apply to their own writing.


Posted by: Brett | July 17, 2011


Here is a great website, Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar (  It has everything you need to know about teaching grammar.  I have included a PowerPoint that is featured on the site.  It has handouts and charts for using with students throughout the school year. (See below.)

August/September: Starting off the School Year (PowerPoint of handouts and charts for using with students at the beginning of the school year.)


Here are some general lessons on teaching grammar.

General Lessons

Grammatical Stories about Real World Writing, by Bonnie Devet

Enriching Writing by Teaching Phrase Families, by Darryl Biship

Introducing the Passive Voice: Throwing Keys and Body Diagramming


The Q & A on the site includes several questions about teaching grammar.  I have included two that interested me and then I have included some more questions.  You can find the answers to these by visiting the website!


Why is grammar important?

Grammar is important because it is the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language. Grammar names the types of words and word groups that make up sentences not only in English but in any language. As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children–we can all do grammar. But to be able to talk about how sentences are built, about the types of words and word groups that make up sentences–that is knowing about grammar.

People associate grammar with errors and correctness. But knowing about grammar also helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise. Grammar can be part of literature discussions, when we and our students closely read the sentences in poetry and stories. And knowing about grammar means finding out that all languages and all dialects follow grammatical patterns.

Grammar workbook exercises get pretty dull, but they do cover the basics. Are they worthwhile? should I use them?

 How Traditional drill and practice will be the most meaningful to students when they are anchored in the context of writing assignments or the study of literary models. Students find grammar most interesting when they apply it to authentic texts. Try using texts of different kinds, such as newspapers and the students’ own writing, as sources for grammar examples and exercises. This approach helps make grammar relevant and alive. It also avoids the artificiality of studying sentences in isolation, a problem with grammar books; in real texts, students can see how sentences connect and contrast to each other through their grammar.

Is grammar included in the NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts?

I hear that teaching grammar doesn’t help students to make fewer errors. But students make so many mistakes in their writing. What should I do?

I try to teach the standard parts of speech and the usual rules for correct writing even though I’m not convinced the students retain the information for very long. What’s the best way to approach grammar under these circumstances?

Grammar is a large, complicated subject, and I’m not very sure about some of it myself. Besides the grammar material that is in the books I teach, what topics in grammar will help my students?


The site lists some “Grammar Links on the Internet”:

  • Teaching Grammar
  • Grammar Information and Practice
  • Organizations of Interest to Grammar Teachers


This is a nice feature on the site:

The Quill & Feather is a feature of the Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar dedicated to teachers at the middle school level.





Posted by: Brett | July 17, 2011


I found all of these articles using ProQuest from the Kennesaw student library.  If you don’t have a login, then they are available through ProQuest.  For most of the articles, I have included a link that you can click on and if you do have a KSU login, you can read the article online.

Susan, Losee Nunan. “Forgiving Ourselves and Forging Ahead: Teaching Grammar in a New Millennium.” English Journal 94.4 (2005): 70,70-75. ProQuest. PROQUESTMS. 15 July 2011 <>.

Summary:  This article the author cites studies that indicate that teaching grammar in isolation does not transfer to writing.  Her thesis is: “Teaching grammar, however, is necessary for many reasons.”  This is what drew me to read the article.  One reason that she gives is directly related to my inquiry question:  “…grammar must be learned because patterns of speech reflect education, class, even morality.” Another point the author makes is “Teachers…..[determine] lessons based on needs they observe in student  writing and making lessons memorable so that a skill becomes a par ot the students’ repertoire.”



Smith, Michael W., and Jeff Wilhelm. “What Research Tells Us about Teaching Grammar.” Voices From the Middle 13.4 (2006): 40,40-43. ProQuest. PROQUESTMS. 17 July 2011 <>.

Summary: The author states: “…when most teachers think about teaching grammar, they think about it not so much as a  way to improve students’ writing but rather as a way to help students reduce errors.”  He also lists four critical points about teaching grammar.  One idea that the author points out that I have not really considered is the fact that grammar “needs to make sense to the students in order for it to make difference in their writing.”  Basically, the students level of readiness needs to be considered!


Gribbin, Bill. “Our Ambivalence Toward Teaching Grammar.” English Journal 94.3 (2005): 17,17-19. ProQuest. PROQUESTMS. 8 July 2011 <>.

Summary:  This article is somewhat humorous.  The author is/was a high school English teacher and gives his thoughts and ideas on teaching grammar.  He points out that in Texas and New York State grammar is not taught using direct instruction (I guess he means DOL- like I  was forced to endure.).   He also points out that in his home state of Virginia the state standards do not include a “systematic study of grammar”.  I check the Georgia Performance Standards for middle grades.  Most of the grammar standards are in sixth grade.  He ends the article by making a statement about grammar that he thinks that most English teachers believe: “…se don’t believe grammar teaching is useless, we often struggle to make grammatical instruction relevant and exciting.  (I think this is what I experienced as a middle school student- my teachers believed in teaching grammar- they just didn’t know how to make it exciting.)


Potter, Reva, and Dorothy Fuller. “My New Teaching Partner? Using the Grammar Checker   in   Writing Instruction.” English Journal. 98.1 (2008): 36-41. ProQuest. PROQUESTMS.

11 JULY  2011

Summary:  This article focuses on a technique to teach grammar through the use of word processing.  The teachers’ “new teaching partner” is the grammar checker on the word processing software.  They have students input their essays into a “Word” document with the grammar checker turned off.  Then they have the students turn on the grammar checker to find their errors and correct them. 



House, Jeff. “The Grammar Gallimaufry: Teaching Students to Challenge the Grammar Gods.” English Journal 98.3 (2009): 98,98-102. ProQuest. PROQUESTMS. 17 July 2011 <>.

Summary: The author explains that “how you teach grammar depends on what you believe it does.  He gives two sides: 1) Some believe that grammar is a set of rules that students should know and be bound by 2) Some believe that grammar should be viewed as an expression of style and the writer should be allowed to “explore how to create a distinctive voice”.   I agree with both sides.  I think that students should know the rules and should be bound by them, but understand that the purpose of grammar is to “create a distinctive voice” in any piece of writing.

The author gives an idea of a lesson that I will explain further under my activities heading.










This is an article printed in  The Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4.  I found it on the National Writing Project website.  The author conducted “action” research to see how effective grammar handbooks and teachers’ comments on student essays are in teaching students how to use grammar properly.   The last paragraph in the author’s summary sums up my feelings about grammar:

As instructors, we must realize that because many students are unfamiliar with the grammar rules and do not understand how to fix the error beyond attempting to make it “sound right,” the handbooks and our comments on their papers are often useless. Without understanding the rules for a correct sentence or knowing how to apply the terms in the handbook to their essays, the students’ writing skills will not improve. (

Here is the link to the website:  .  You will have to type it into your browser.  It is worth looking at for ideas and articles on teaching writing.


Posted by: Brett | July 17, 2011

Website-Teaching Today- worth exploring!

Here is the link for the website.  You will have to copy it and paste into your browser window.  For whatever reason, I could not get it to hyperlink!  The title of the article is : To Teach or Not to Teach (Grammar)-No Longer the Question. 

The article gives some good ideas of how to teach grammar.  But the article is not the only reason that I posted this website.  It has lots of resources for teachers.  The site is sponsored by Glencoe (textbook publishers).


Posted by: Brett | July 17, 2011

Another teacher-friendly book for teaching grammar!

Teaching Grammar : What Really Works

Authors: Amy Benjamin, Joan Berger
ISBN: 9781596671386
Product Code: 7138-6
©2010 / 7 X 10 inches / 192 pages

Grade range: K-12


Instill grammar fundamentals using lessons that stick! In this book, authors Amy Benjamin and Joan Berger share procedures for teaching grammar effectively and dynamically, in ways that appeal to students and teachers alike. Ideal for teachers just beginning their work in grammar instruction, this book includes day-by-day units and reproducibles to help them embed grammar lessons into writing instruction.

THE WEBSITE ALSO GIVES THE TABLE OF CONTENTS OF THE BOOK.  SEVERAL TOPICS ARE FOLLOWED BY THE PHRASE:  Embedded in the Writing Process.  For example one chapter is entitled: Writing with Compound Sentences That Link Ideas: A Five-Day Lesson Series Embedded in the Writing Process.  From this I take it that the lessons in this book focus on grammar and link it to writing so that grammar is not taught in isolation.

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