How Should Grammar Be Taught?

This is the first of three posts about conventional grammar instruction – and why I think we need to rethink it.

If you visit my blog often, you know I love stories – and I think they’re marvelous writing tools. (Here’s some writing advice for you: Start collecting stories!)

Today I’m going to tell you about a research project that has been repeated again and again – with identical results. A smiling researcher visits a kindergarten class. She holds up a paper fan she’s made and asks the children if they know what it is. Of course they do! She hands each child a piece of paper a piece of paper and box of crayons. They get right to work and make their own fans.

Then the researcher hands out another piece of paper. This time she picks up an instructor’s guide and reads the children a step-by-step set of directions for making a fan. They laboriously go through the steps to make a second fan.

Now it’s time for the final step in the research project. The researcher hands out yet another piece of paper and asks the children to make one more fan. Not one of them can do it. (The results are always the same!) They’ve lost a skill they had when they walked into the classroom that morning. Why? Because they suddenly realized that making a fan is complicated.

Now let’s think about writing. Does the way we teach grammar help students feel confident about writing – or does it make writing seem hopelessly complicated?

More about this (and another story!) in my next post.

folded paper fan



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