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Sneaky Grammar

In a world of conversations carried out through short text messages and 140 character Twitter updates, new abbreviations seem to be creeping into the English language as many grammar conventions are going out the window. Smiley faces are being used as a new punctuation mark. Although students are writing more than ever, this writing might not be good grammar practice and it is often teaching them habits that are hard to break. It’s up to K-12 teachers in all subjects to encourage good grammar to prepare students for college and their future careers.

Grammar is a subject that lends itself well to interdisciplinary study. Just as good grammar is crucial for success in many areas of life, it should play an important role in every subject in school. In addition to using proper grammar ourselves, we can use activities like the following ones to buff up our students’ grammar skills while we are teaching in other areas.

Although math and grammar don’t seem to go hand in hand, there are ways to incorporate grammar into a math classroom without sacrificing the time students spend learning math. In lessons like How Does It Move, students combine the study of grammar with physics. We featured How Big is Hagrid? in our columns on Harry Potter resources. It’s also a great example of combining writing and math. Check it out to see if you agree!

It can be very helpful for students to explain new math procedures to one another as they are learning. You can make this even more fun by having your students create stories, comics, posters, or pamphlets that explain math techniques in a fun way (using proper grammar, of course)! Allowing students the choice of how they will present the information lets them pick something they will enjoy. If you grade with a rubric, be sure to include a section for grammar. This type of activity is particularly useful in math since students can keep their finished products to review the material later.

Science classes often require writing, but science teachers may be leery of grading grammar since it’s not their area of expertise. Much to my students’ chagrin, I like to dedicate one section of the rubric (and a portion of the grade) to grammar. I don’t like to go through and turn the reports into a sea of red, I just give students feedback if their grammar needs improvement. You can also make the lab reports more fun to write (and read) by assigning them in non-traditional formats. Students can present their findings as stories, persuasive letters, or mysteries. If you get creative and have fun with the assignments, the students will, too.

Don’t forget that when a subject is fun and a teacher is excited about it, the enthusiasm will rub off on students. If you are rocking out to the Schoolhouse Rock songs Unpack Your Adjectives, Conjunction Junction, or any of the others you might remember from your childhood commercial breaks, your students will probably laugh at you, but they might secretly enjoy it. Speaking of teaching with music, look at this blog post by Nik Peachey. He shares some neat tools to help teachers use song lyrics to teach particular grammar conventions. See if you can catch a grammar error in his post…it happens to the best of us!

As I read through this column on my computer, I’m checking nervously for the telltale green squiggly lines that will call me out as a grammar novice. Phew! It looks like I’m safe this time. LOL! Thanx 4 reading. Catch u nxt wk.