Lauralee is a staff writer for Justmeans in the Education category. Lauralee also works at a community college in the Community Programs Department. She is an expert in teaching and leadership. She believes in raising education's standards and rewarding those who make strides in the field. Her passions include empowering communities with educational practices and implementing proven practices....
Crafting papers and analyzing literature with young students is difficult, as no one teaching formula exists. Grammar is a tool, as it is more than the mistakes of a language, as so many believe. 'Grammar' is "the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language," as NCTE's current grammar guideline begins. Speaking the same language-understanding where the rules are modifiable and where they are not-would help with the accumulative process involved with language arts. (How would math teachers explain lessons without using 'multiplication' and 'derivative'?) That is the fault with what NCTE put forth for teachers, because it made incorrect assumptions: One, that teachers were not teaching grammar in context and two, that students would pick up grammar through other lessons.
Students rarely do take hold of items taught in isolation; imagine learning the parts of a microscope, without ever seeing a microscope. Teachers should not teach the parts of a sentence or self-editing skills without using student papers. However, students need basic knowledge first. Learning and memorizing grammatical terms may bore students, but as these past years without grammar instruction have proven, it is necessary. Even NCTE's recent guidelines show this; the guidelines are longer and take into consideration that most state standards require grammar: 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. Decades later, NCTE finds a place for traditional grammar study.
Given distance, it is silly to think that ignoring the foundation of a language would not lead to poor writing and speaking skills. The elimination of grammar has residual effects in school systems. If schools implement NCTE's recent grammar suggestions, teachers who never diagrammed sentences themselves will be teaching grammar. How long will it take for grammar to infiltrate American curriculum again? Will school boards and curriculum directors see the importance of buying new grammar-supported textbooks? Will districts have the money? NCTE dictates language art guidelines. Its presence is at seminars and college classes. Twenty-five years ago, the organization made an egregious error by minimizing grammar instruction. Today, ill-advised teaching methods concerning grammar still hurt students.
Photo Credit: Horia Varlan