Monday, May 18, 2015

My Grammar Curriculum . . . the One I Should Write

I shared a video on Facebook yesterday about a school in Atlanta called Ron Clark Academy. In the video, teachers are leading their students to sing and dance through their lessons . . . walking on the tables . . . stuff like that.

If I really felt the freedom to do it, that's how I would teach. Especially when I teach stuff I love, like grammar. I taught a K-2 grammar class in our co-op where we sang and did hand rhymes and played games. Those games and songs are why my daughters are grammar gurus like me -- why my eldest used to re-explain the grammar lessons to her classmates in high school who weren't getting it from the teachers' instruction.

I LOVE TEACHING GRAMMAR. That apparently makes me some kind of freak; it seems very few people like grammar. I love it. I love the labeling, the analyzing -- I love that there are right answers and I can figure it out. It appeals to many aspects of my personality as well as to my love of words.

I just recently had a conversation with our school's new principal and new academic dean about how I would change the teaching of grammar at my school. And it led me to come home and type up my ideas to give them. Because there are SO MANY THINGS I would change about how grammar is taught -- not just at our school, but pretty much everywhere.

Teach grammar through games. There are so many games -- like "The Minister's Cat" -- that are fun just in themselves but help a kid develop an inner sense of how language works. There are certain words you can use to describe the cat (those are adjectives), and there are other words that don't work. You have to understand in your gut the jobs that words are doing in a sentence before you can label them or analyze them.

Teach grammar through songs. And hand rhymes and chants. Anything rhythmic and easy to memorize. This year, I taught my 7th graders songs to remember the definitions of adjectives and adverbs ("Adverbs tell us how, where, when, or to what extent . . . "). When they needed to remember, I saw them mouthing the words to the song. If they had learned a song like that in 2nd grade, they wouldn't still be needing to mouth the words to themselves -- they would just know it.

Teach grammar through colors. In homeschool, we assigned certain marker colors to certain parts of speech and the girls wrote sentences on the whiteboard with different colors for every word. A visual aid to solidify in their minds what the words are doing in the sentence.

And teach grammar through other visual aids. I told my classes this year that modifiers (adjective, adverbs, prepositional phrases) are like sprinkles. Nouns and verbs are like ice cream and cones -- you have to have ice cream and a cone to make an ice cream cone. Sprinkles, on the other hand, are not required, but they add sparkle and flavor to the cone. You can sprinkle as many as you want on wherever you want them.

I want to write a grammar curriculum. Grammar is so easy to understand if it is taught well. Someday, when I have a reason to . . .

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