Grammar to Enrich & Enhance Writing

by Constance Weaver

Important Findings

  • Teaching grammar in isolation (like worksheets or whole group drills) is ineffective. It is often irrelevant to kids and has little carry-over.

  • It is not essential for kids to understand all of the language and parts of grammar in order to write in formal English. Think about the car analogy.

  • Effective activities integrate grammar and make students think about why and how improved grammar will enrich their writing.

  • Weaver compares making grammatical choices to creating art (much like a poet chooses words and phrases to group or isolate).

  • Grammar instruction can be used during the drafting as well as the revising and editing phases of the writing process.

  • Do NOT fix the student’s writing. The overarching goal is for the teacher to "attain irrelevance" in the student’s writing. According to Weaver, we want them “to be able to lift the metaphorical hood of their own prose, spot problems, and tinker with solutions.” To do this, they will need to be able to find and understand their own mistakes.

Ideas to Use in Your Teaching

  • During the drafting process: Find examples of a specific grammatical element in a student’s work. Make these into examples of good writing during share time.

  • Encourage kids to play with grammar, and use the technical term only in passing.

  • Focus on one small thing at a time--resist the urge to provide a laundry list.

  • Grammar minilessons should be able to be used in each student’s own writing.

  • Consider including a grammar expectation in a student writing checklist.

  • Have students look at certain pieces (famous authors, student pieces, or teacher produced) and rework/rewrite them in small groups or pairs.

  • Don’t be disheartened by the editing process. Published rarely means perfect.