As you may well know, I have been an almost-lone-voice in how rediculously useless teaching grammar (to grow writers) is as homeschoolers. Honestly, it’s the same with mass education as well. Happily, or sadly, the Brits are figuring this out as well 🙂
In an article in THE ECONOMIST entitled Rue the Rules, the author (Johnson) is strikingly honest about the problem with grammar instruction at earlier ages:
Explicit and overly abstract grammar teaching before the age of 11 is a bit like throwing seeds, that one hopes will turn into healthy plants, onto thawing early-spring ground yet to be ploughed. At this young age, spelling and punctuation—which are necessary but straightforward memorisable drudgery—can be introduced. But to expect the teaching of the modal verb and the determiner to make good writers out of young students is not “raising standards”. It is making a category error: writing and explaining syntax are related but not identical. Young children should read, then they should write, write and read again. The formal terms can wait for a later age.
Frankly, grammar is only effective for analysis of a text (as in Bible or Literature scholarship). It is all-but-never helpful for encouraging writing. Rudolph Flesch took (the author of Why Johnny Can’t Read) us to task about this years ago.
Youngs students need to read and write and read and write. This very approach improves motivation and connects the student to the instinct everyone has for language.
If you are a parent and think doing grammar correctly is the key, please re-think this view. Language is an evolving thing & no Grammarian ever won a Nobel Prize for Literature. We need inventiveness and freshness in writing.
Please help bring about a fresh generation of writers. Please stop with the obsession on grammar. If grammar was the key and given to absolutes, then we’d all still sound like Shakespeare (or Chaucer) wouldn’t we?Blessings,Dr. Fred Ray LybrandP.S. We have a writing curriculum that is built on this very idea of instinct over grammar. Check it out: www.advanced-writing-resources.com
Think about editing for a moment.
All it involves is going back through something written and looking for two things:
1. Any mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
2. Any ways to say a sentence or phrase better (as needed or desired). Both of these are much easier to do if the child reads his/her own paper out loud.
Reading it out loud is exactly what works because writing has always been about getting someone else to read your work the WAY you want it read. This best comes about through SOUND! When we read our own writing the way it is written, we can see things to change with much greater ease…it is often obvious. It isn’t a perfect approach, but it helps a great deal…especially as this ‘feedback loop’ aides in hooking up your child’s brain (visual and auditory).
Try this: Before you grade / correct the next writing assignment (even copy work), have them go off by themselves and read the paper out load, making any ‘tweaks’ they want to. I bet you’ll see the mistakes drop and the quality go up! I sometimes find so many mistakes (for that child) that I ask, “Did you read this out loud?” Often they admit they didn’t…so I send them off to really edit. Other times, I just send them off to edit again if it is loaded with mistakes. I don’t want to take their own opportunity to learn to edit away…and I don’t want to waste my time doing their responsibility.
P.S. Yes, I read this out loud!