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Teaching grammar can be difficult, especially when teaching the concepts to younger children, since the terminology can be confusing and difficult to grasp. A new teacher may want to spend a fair amount of time researching different strategies and trying each one out in the classroom; it is important for the teacher to remember that it is all right to alter a strategy if it is not working. Sticking with a strategy because it should work is never a good idea if the strategy is not effective.
It is important to note whether students are learning how to use grammar functionally. This is more important when teaching grammar than ensuring each student can label the concepts. If, for example, a student cannot label a noun or verb, it may not be too dire of a situation as long as that student can functionally use a noun and a verb properly in a sentence. If they can utilize the concepts, they will be more likely to understand the concept rather than simply knowing the definition. Practice is more important than rote memory when teaching grammar.
Motivating the students will go a long way toward improving retention and synthesis. Students can get bored quickly with apparently aimless repetition, so when teaching grammar, the teacher should try to give the students plenty of real applications for writing. Instead of assigning a random essay about any topic at all, try to have students write a letter to a congressman about a local issue, or have the students write a letter to their favorite musician. This will allow students to use the concepts they have learned while writing a topic in which they are interested.
Sentence expansion is a great technique, especially for younger children. This involves starting with a very short subject-verb sentence, such as, "I ran." This short sentence allows the teacher to explain the idea of subjects and verbs. The student can then add to the sentence: "I ran quickly." A third part of speech, the adverb, has been added, yet the sentence is still small and simple enough to introduce this new part of speech. The teacher can then talk about independent and dependent clauses by further adding to the sentence: "I ran quickly to the store." The independent clause and the dependent clause are both still short enough to be less intimidating to the student, but the concept is easily taught anyway.
@jennythelib - As a middle school English teacher, I haven't done DGP myself, but I've heard good things about. You're right that there needs to be a little more to it than writing, but of course the problem is that the sentences in workbooks and so on are so artificial that it doesn't really help students discuss it in the real word.
What I shoot for is basically teaching grammar in context. I was inspired by a book called Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson, which talks about how to introduce some fairly technical grammar concepts through "mentor texts" - real-world sentences. Students will look for their own example sentences in their own reading and you help them learn through discovery.
Teaching grammar through writing is all very well and good, but I don't see how it could ever be really enough. Don't students still need to practice concepts?
When I was in school, we did Daily Grammar Practice. Basically, you would get a sentence each week, and you would do one step with it each day. The first day, you would label the parts of speech. The second day, you would label the function of the key words in the sentence - subjects, verbs, objects, and so forth. You went into more detail after that, but I'm afraid the only other thing I remember is diagramming on Friday. *Not* my favorite part, but it seemed like it really helped some
of us who were more visual learners.
The nice thing about DGP is that is gave you just a little grammar practice without hitting you over the head with it. It took a few minutes in the beginning and left the rest of class free for literature!
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