Thursday, December 1, 2005

Teaching Grammar

It's been a while since my last post; we're in the final weeks of the semester at CSU, and I'm finishing up projects (mostly starting and finishing) for all my classes. Busy days and nights here.

We did have an amazing discussion in Teaching Composition Wednesday though. Check out these two excerpts from a student paper:

"I couldn't go to the party last Friday. Which really was too bad since everyone I knew was going to be there."


"I think the Beatles had it right when they said there is a time for everything. A time to laugh. A time to cry. So true."

As English teachers, which do we mark wrong. If both, what message do we send to students about playing with language and the stylistic use of sentence fragments? If neither, do we do them a disservice in that they will continue to use sentences like the first example? If the first and not the second, how do we explain to them the difference?

Futhermore, how do we as educators explain to our students the varying expectations English teachers hold to their students? I may let my students experiment with sentence fragments, but I know there are teacher who would not approve. Aren't we telling our students that they need to judge the grammar they use for every audience they ever write for? And should our stuents think that they'll know wider audiences as intimately as their English teachers?

Our class, I believe, reached a concensus. We do need to mark sentence fragments, at least in the first case, but not fix them for the student. A margin note (in pencil, or at least a different color pen than red) asking "These ideas seem disjointed, can you phrase this differently?" (I don't know if disjointed is a word, but that's why I am a descriptive grammarist.)

This begins to raise some other questions I have regarding grammar and grammar instruction. Reserach shows that traditional grammar instruction, like in workbooks and sentence diagraming, is not only ineffective, but damaging to students.

So, should I teach prescriptive grammar to my students so that they know, for example, what a sentence fragment is? Is this important? Does it help the students? Or is this more subvert approach the best and only tool I should use?

No comments:

Post a Comment