Sunday, January 8, 2017

Grammar Worksheets Don't Make Kids Better Writers

We've all done it; run off a zillion copies of those handy grammar worksheets in the hopes that our students will grasp the concept and apply it to their writing. Our students will become prolific writers with interesting ideas and no grammar or spelling errors to get in the way of their great ideas. Yeah, right. "My name is Mrs. Jacques and I admit I've been a worksheet grammar teacher," (hand raised, eyes down 😉). Even though I have known it since I began teaching, there are just those times when we need the convenience and ease of a worksheet, right?  And let's face it, there's always a few students who love those fill-in-the-blank pages! Ha! (Honestly there are some!) 
However, most research shows, as well as my own experience as a classroom teacher for 27 years, that there is very little carry-over to their actual writing. We still have to go through their papers and help them edit for grammar mistakes that we have already taught them and then we get frustrated that they aren't supposedly "learning."  In Jeff Anderson's book, Everyday Editing, he discusses this in the Introduction. He says that if the teacher is correcting every single grammar and spelling mistake it sends the message that they don't need to really concern themselves with the editing because the teacher will mark it up with his/her red pen anyway. I agree 100%. They mentally tune out the mistakes. 
When a Writing Workshop approach is used, grammar lessons become short, focused mini-lessons centered around real authors (including student authors from your own class). My students love when I post some of their own sentences on the board for us to read or analyze. And it becomes more motivating for them to apply the correct grammar rules as well as use more interesting sentence variety that is being taught because they want to impress their audience. Jeff Anderson says, "I want students to think, write, read, discuss, notice, question, and discover writing - even during editing instruction." I share that goal for my 4th graders. 

This week I'm planning to teach our 4th grade CCSS for Language
L.4.1e: "Students form and use prepositional phrases."

 I usually begin by writing a sentence or two from our latest read aloud or a current text they're familiar with which contains prepositions. I direct their attention to the sentences as I read them aloud. My next question is one I use every day in my classroom in all subject areas (and I borrowed it from Jeff Anderson): "What do you notice?" (about these sentences). 

 I accept any and all responses and record them on a chart. If not a single student has noticed that both sentences contain words that give "more information" or "some direction" then I will ask guiding questions  or give hints to help them get there. I might even post a list of prepositions without telling them what they are called and ask if they see any of these words in the sentences. 

I will then pass out a page of sentences with parts missing to small groups of 4-5 students. 

These are sentences from real authors. I also have some prepositional phrases that I've written on small index cards and put in a Ziploc which I give to each group. 

Working together, they will complete the sentences with the missing prepositional phrases so that they make sense. 

Afterwards, I will pass out a sentence strip and a marker and have each small group compose and write a sentence using a prepositional phrase and we do a share-out to the whole class and post the sentence strips in a pocket chart or on the wall. 

The next lesson is a fun one; the students will make a one-dimensional origami house out of paper and decorate the inside to look like a room in their house. They then label the room using sentences with prepositional phrases. I will post student samples of those this week. :) 

Have a blessed week! 🌟

You can download the above resources for free at my TPT store