Sunday, May 17, 2015

#slowchatela Wrap Up: Does Grammar Have a Place in the 21st Century Classroom?

The discussion on #slowchatela this week shows we all know one thing--"The Way We've Always Done It" is not good enough for our students today. Most of us grew up with grammar "for grammar sake" and completed countless grammar worksheets, but we aren't seeing those practices helping our students in our classrooms today. In fact, endless grammar worksheets with little to know context usually frustrate students and end up doing more harm than good.

Language teachers can even be frustrated by grammar themselves. Teachers shared that grammar rules can seem contradictory depending upon sources consulted and that the rules and explanations are often written in what appears to be a foreign language. If teachers find these discrepancies annoying and instructions difficult to decipher, how can we pass them on to our students in good faith?

We all seem to agree that knowledge of grammar rules in and of themselves is not a reason to study grammar; rather the purpose of grammar study should be to ensure our students speak and write in an educated manner.

Pressure to teach "old-school" grammar lessons, worksheets and all, can come from colleagues, administrators, and even parents. Grammar and worksheets are "familiar," and each of these groups, therefore, can find value and comfort in this direct approach to grammar instruction. It's important we understand and address these feelings and that we have courage to have the tough discussions about when to embrace some of the old and when newer visions and means of instruction should replace the old.

AS for the future of grammar instruction, several teachers mentioned the tool No Red Ink, which allows for diagnostic grammar checks and then provides explanation and practice based upon the errors. Teachers are also a fan of the Penny Kittle method of grammar instruction, which involves providing high-quality sentence models fro students to emulate.

Hopefully, these suggestions plus the careful planning of English teachers to incorporate direct instruction as needed mean that grammar will find its niche in our classrooms of today and the future. We know our students need it, but we can't do what we've always done because it's easy and familiar. As always, we must keep what's best for our students at the center of our decisions in the classroom, not the pressure of outside forces or our aversion to change.

View the Storify of this week-long chat for full details!