Connecting Grammar and Writing in Meaningful Ways

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Grammar?

Your students are writing, you’re grading, you’re marking. Are you positively connecting grammar and writing?

What are you marking? Are you inserting commas? Noting fragments? Recognizing comma splices?

All of those are typical grammar comments that teachers write on student work. They aren’t bad comments, but they should not be the only comments pertaining to grammar.

When teachers provide writing feedback, they are influencing writers. They are shaping how students view the writing process, themselves as writers, and their understanding of their language.

We teachers know that, and it is why so many “sandwich” feedback: positive, an area for improvement, positive.

I challenge you to consider this: is the area for improvement always grammar? Do you ever include grammar in the positive feedback? Chances are, you don’t compliment students on their strengths with grammar.

Students will hate grammar if “grammar” is something they always do wrong. When connecting grammar and writing, show that grammar is a tool to benefit writing. Here are some ideas.

Acknowledge Previous Lessons

Sometimes, teachers tell me that they don’t teach grammar. I reply that they probably do! Give yourself and your students credit.

When you cover the parts of speech with vocabulary words, you are teaching grammar. If you discuss complete sentences, you are covering grammar!

You might feel like grammar is not a large component of your curriculum, but if you reflect, you will probably see that you are teaching grammar. Now, simply take the next step.

Use the Correct Terminology

The might seem basic, but it’s worth mentioning. If you want to connect grammar and writing in meaningful ways, you must use the domain-specific vocabulary.

For instance, if your students need commas, be specific. Don’t simply add the comma; explain where and why students need a comma. Look at introductory dependent clauses or participial phrases. What about comma splices? Explain the sentence structure, that a comma cannot join a subject and a verb to another subject and verb (two simple sentences).

Connect grammar to writing by using the correct grammatical terms.

Grammar is a Positive Tool

Show students that a knowledge of grammar will help them with writing. Praise them for using words in unique ways. Note varying sentence structure. Notice a colon or semicolon (tough punctuation!) used correctly.

Are you stuck? I created 20 positive grammar concepts for teachers to implement! Download the FREE grammar and writing sheet to get started. You can connect grammar and writing in a meaningful way. This sheet will help you get started.

Conference

Conference with students to differentiate. Not all students will have the same strengths or weaknesses. For instance, one student might benefit from understanding sentence structure while another might be using a variety of sentences. . . but needs a reminder about commas and semicolons.

To prep for conferences, I stock my task cards so that I can hand a student a practice set that targets exactly what the individual needs. I’ve found this key to differentiating with grammar and writing.

Explain the “why”

Nothing is more frustrating to a teenager than a pointless exercise, and teenagers will challenge when they do not see the immediate benefit.

Explain to students that grammar is increasing their knowledge of the language they speak and write. When they understand the different approaches they can take with a sentence, they hold power! Future lawyers and advertisers must leverage the language in unique ways. Understanding the components behind a sentence and the possible variations only strengthens student writing.

Try a simple exercise to illustrate this. Ask students to give you a verb. Then, use the verb different ways. For instance, “illuminate.”

Illuminated, Charles celebrated finishing first in the race. (participle)

Charles illuminated the room with his smile. (verb)

Charles chose to illuminate the room with his smile. (infinitive)

You can continue, but connecting grammar to writing can only take a few minutes. Ask students to apply the simple exercise to their writing. Once students see a connection, they will have more buy-in with grammar lessons.

Students might hate grammar if it always presented as a negative with their writing. Show students that their writing has many strong grammatical elements, and continue teaching grammar to add to their writing toolboxes.

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