Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar

Yesterday Michelle Navarre Cleary was a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Kathleen Dunn Show. During the hour she discussed, in short, the wrong way to teach grammar.

Navarre Cleary’s appearance on the program expanded on her recent article in The Atlantic, in which she outlined the research on the ineffectiveness of teaching grammar—memorizing parts of speech, drilling, diagramming sentences—before students are given the chance to actually write. “There is a real cost to ignoring such findings,” she wrote, and by focusing on grammatical correctness, students “never give themselves the chance to explore their ideas or ways of expressing those ideas.”  

Some schools have moved beyond the traditional model, and those that did have seen positive results: programs at Arizona State and the Community College of Baltimore that allow developmental students to start writing immediately resulted in higher pass rates and less time spent in developmental  courses.

“Good writing is clear thinking,” she says, noting that sometimes “it’s easier to worry about where the comma goes than to really push yourself to clarify your ideas.” But if students are allowed to focus on those ideas, grammar will follow naturally: “it’s in that effort to communicate that people start to learn what makes sense in terms of arranging their words in sentences.”

To read the full article in The Atlantic, click here.
To listen to the WPR recoding, click here.

And a reminder for your students: the deadline to submit to the Writing Showcase is April 1st!

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