Grammar Lust & Loathing
Overview: When I'm on a flight I am almost always grading papers. It's just how it is. And when that happens, some neighbor I didn't entirely want to talk to notices and asks me what I teach. And when I say English they invariably say "oh, I better watch my grammar." What I want to say to my fellow traveler is that if they talked less it would probably cut down on any possible grammar errors (I hate talking to people on planes), but I don't. I just smile and say, and I mean it, your grammar is fine. Everyone worries too much about grammar.
This is no more true than it is for folks who teach English, folks who think that they should be absolute experts on dangling modifiers and the like. And, to be clear, I'm not saying you shouldn't be, I'm just saying, more than likely, you are better at grammar and punctuation than you think you are. The deficit thinking that surrounds writing and writing instruction is making you think you are "terrible at grammar."
WHAT TO POST
What I am hoping to talk about today is the relationship of grammar and grammar instruction to writing instruction. For this discussion board post, please include your summary and analysis of the Constance Weaver reading you had for homework. Then please answer the following two questions: What would CW say about the grammar test you just took? About how you felt taking that grammar test? Secondly, what is a "rule" that you always struggle with or simply don't understand?
6/1/2021 12:06:12 pm
Reading Journal #1 Chapters 1-3 of Writing Beside Them by Penny Kittle
Gabriel El Khoury
6/1/2021 12:09:47 pm
In the first three chapters of Constance Weaver’s Grammar to Enrich & Enhance Writing, Weaver borrows from her firsthand experience as a teacher and researcher in order to put forward her unique theory of teaching designed specifically for “junior high and high school level” (xi) students. The first chapter serves primarily to define key terms, outline the history of grammar, and prepare the reader for material soon to be covered in chapter two: “reasons commonly offered today for teaching grammar as a formal discipline” (6). Compromising what can only be described as grammar apologetics, chapter two provides the complex reasoning behind education’s focus on grammar. Citing various studies, Weaver explains that the teaching of grammar, while a com monplace component of education and in theory designed to help students avoid or correct errors (13), is hardly backed up by data. Despite data proving that traditional approaches to the acquisition of grammar are deeply flawed, teachers continue to teach it to their students. Weaver provides a plethora of reasons as to why teachers continue to teach grammar despite a bevy of evidence “demonstrating its lack of practical value” (23): teachers are unaware of the mounting evidence proving the contrary, they assume teaching grammar improves reading and writing, they capitulate “to pressure from parents and other community members” (25), etc. Lastly, chapter three. In chapter three, Constance Weaver, citing Noam Chomsky’s linguistic research, makes known the difference between surface structure and deep structure (30). Children somehow manage to acquire many of the rules of English without being explicitly taught them. “Language acquisition is a subconscious process” (49), Weaver adds.
6/1/2021 12:14:56 pm
Grammar can be described in four ways depending on what aspects teachers are prioritizing. These four major senses are grammar as a description of syntactic structure, as prescriptions for how to use structures and words, as rhetorically effective use of syntactic structures and as the foundational command of sentence structure that enables us to comprehend and produce language. From the start teaching grammar was used for disciplining and training the mind. Now in the 20th century we see a shift from the emphasis on grammar as mental discipline to a shift toward more emphasis on grammar as a means of improving writing and reading. Studying grammar has a built-in assumption that it will improve reading and writing or at least the ability to edit written work and do better on standardized tests however studies have shown that studying grammar does not improve these things as much as expected. Teachers have been told that they cannot teach grammar in a creative way as it must be done according to standards for students to full grasp the concepts. This leaves many students disengaged from learning grammar which results in them not learning as well as they could be. Along with learning grammar comes the idea that we as students will begin to learn the language more. However, many of us have studied the language but few have acquired genuine competence in the language through that process. We can understand how the language works without having any ability to use it correctly when writing or even speaking. In these three chapters it is stated that the teacher teaching students how to write is what makes the difference, not the test they take. I feel like Weaver would believe this grammar test not to be helpful as it is simply not an effective way of going about teaching grammar. She believes that being taught grammar by a teacher who makes it interactive would help many students become efficient at it therefore giving student a multiple-choice assessment about grammar would only discourage students and not help them fully understand the meaning behind grammar principles.
6/1/2021 12:15:49 pm
The first chapter looks at the multiple meanings of “grammar” that involve syntax, the rules of language, and sentence style. A lot of teachers however miss the key component of grammar that connects to how we speak and understand language. A main focus is that we don’t need to necessarily teach grammar because it is innately part of how we acquire the language in our earliest years. Grammar books became more of a focus in the 18th century which heavily reflected the Latin structure. The nineteenth century transitioned from memorizing grammar rules to actually applying them using numerous activities and using it for better student writing today. This second chapter discusses the reasons for teaching grammar and how they have altered throughout the centuries. \The Encyclopedia of Educational Research in 1960 indicated that teaching grammar didn’t align to writing correct English and three years later, Research in Written Composition concluded that teaching grammar could have negative effects on writing. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there was an idea to teach more structural linguistics than formal grammar, but this was eventually dismissed. In 1966, Bateman and Zidonis were some of the first researchers to study the transformational grammar effects on students. Researchers such as John Mellon and Frank O’Hare also studied transformational grammar. The three most well-known studies done on grammar consist of Macauley in Scotland (1947), Elley, Barham, Lamb, and Wyllie (1976), and Finlay McQuade (1980). All three studies showed the lack of value of teaching grammar, but we still continue to do so today. The third chapter highlighted how grammatical competence is gained both in a native language and in nonnative languages. Written language is not the focus, while oral language is. Noam Chomsky, a linguist, thoroughly studied the concept of a native speakers’ language competence. He also studied deep structure (meaning) versus surface structure (sequence of words). Children acquire grammatical structures before even entering school. Children learn these tools not by direct instruction, but through their environment. Forming utterances with two words is how children demonstrate they are learning grammar. This then transitions to longer and more complex sentences with meaning. Most younger readers show signs of grammar awareness through miscues or mistakes. Stephen Krashen’s model of second language acquisition is very crucial to this study. The CUNY experiment further emphasized fluency followed by clarity. Constance Weaver’s Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing's first three chapters emphasize what grammar is and what it means, how grammar teaching has drastically changed throughout the years, why it is taught, and how to acquire grammatical competence.
6/1/2021 12:18:14 pm
Educators must remember the history of grammar to inform their teaching. In the second century, Greece focused on teaching grammar after Aristotle showed that grammar is “a means of understanding language.” Grammar is best taught systematically and was considered the “foundation of all knowledge” as well as a form of discipline to the mind. In the 19th century, grammar was seen as the key to improving writing. Current research suggests that there is not sufficient support for linking grammar skills to discipline and high academic achievement. Some people believe that grammar does not need to be taught since children acquire language through dialogue. Leonard Bloom focuses on how language has been spoken instead of the rules of writing through. Structural linguistics has proven to be more successful in enhancing language development instead of enforcing the correct and incorrect rules. For instance, a study on Kindergarten students showed that the more time children participated in oral conversations and listening to the teacher, the easier it was for students to hear and pick up acceptable academic language to transform in their writing.
6/1/2021 12:19:05 pm
Though teachers need to know grammar in order to help their students, students need to be guided in learning and applying grammar as they work on their skills with writing. Teaching grammar used to be about training the mind and teaching words usage that were considered correct or socially prestigious. Grammar used to be about mental discipline, but now it is taught to improve writing. Grammar is so important to teach because it demonstrates how language is a huge achievement that deserves to be studied. There were researchers who tried to prove the fact that grammar has no benefits. Maccauley's study suggested that despite years of studying grammar, students cannot identify the most basic parts of speech as they work in a sentence. According to his research, even with much practice in elementary grades, it still is not well learned.
6/1/2021 12:19:30 pm
Constance Weaver’s Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing explores the teaching of grammar by highlighting research and theories that suggest efficient approaches for grammar instruction. She introduces her book by defining grammar and reviewing the historical perspective of instruction within this discipline. According to her findings, grammar involves the following: a description of the syntactic structure, a set of rules for how to use structures and words, the rhetorically effective use of syntactic structure, and the functional command of sentence structure that enables the comprehension and production of language. Historically, the instruction of grammar first appeared during the Greek age of Aristotle and Stoics as a form of mental discipline; However, by the late 19th century, grammar shifted to a means of improving writing. Weaver demonstrates this shift to introduce a concern for the effective ways in which grammar can be taught, placing heavy emphasis on the notion that grammar is learned through language acquisition.
6/1/2021 12:20:51 pm
Constance Weaver's philosophy is one that grammar in our schooling system is quite flawed. Her concern was the widespread misuse of grammar teaching in our schooling system. She suggested that teachers need to know key aspects of grammar themselves in order to be proficient writers. Students themselves have to be motivated in order to learn properly. Weaver suggested that students should be placed in an environment that helps students flourish and one that promotes these habits. Weaver's solution to this problem was having teachers offer more writing assignments instead of grammar tests. She questioned their very use and suggested that they were quite useless. Weaver mentioned linguistic research from Noam Chomsky. Chomsky suggested that children learn and acquire language skills by the process of speaking and writing consistently. If Weaver was given a grammar test similar to the one we had just taken I have no doubt in my mind that she would throw it out. She believed that they were unmotivating and completely unnecessary. I agree with her as well, I struggle with my commas and tend to produce long sentences. The more I write the better I get. I dislike taking standardized tests immensely.
6/1/2021 08:57:42 pm
I believed that the school system is pretty much quite because of his concern about the grammar teaching in our school system. I think teachers need to know the keys to aspect grammar in order to be more proficient writer. Students need to be motivated in order to learn properly. Also students should be placed in an environment that helps students with flourish and one them habits.
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