Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reviving Four Blocks: Where Does Grammar Fit?

I recently received this question from a reader who was reading my posts about the Four Blocks Framework (which I LOVE). I must admit that grammar was always one of those things that was sort of up in the air as to where it fit...Word work? (nouns, adjectives, etc...) Writing? (conventions...) I just wasn't really sure, so I started questioning and researching it, especially during the years that I taught writing. After lots of research here's what I came up with. I certainly don't have all the answers yet, but here's what makes sense to me at this point in my teaching journey (Year 13).

  • Should it be taught every day?
    • Yes. I equate grammar and conventions in language arts to facts practice in mathematics. It may not be an actual part of the basal, but you just about have to practice daily to keep it fresh, make connections, and remind children of what they know. 
  • If so, in isolation or integrated in writing or reading? Which block?
    • I prefer to teach grammar and conventions within the writing block, although it is important during reading and speaking as well (more on that later). I always try to connect what they're learning to the other areas of Language Arts.
  • What is the purpose of knowing sentence parts, labels, etc?
    • Knowing the labels gives us all a common vocabulary for which to speak and learn about our language. The names are tools that allow students and teachers to converse about making improvements to writing, or noticing things in reading/speaking.
  • Why do kids "learn" grammar but not speak it or write it correctly?
    • Students will do what they are held accountable for doing. I have learned over the years to hold them accountable for what they know. My students know that if they speak incorrectly, I will correct them and expect them to repeat the correct version. I also hold them accountable in their writing. If they know to put capital letters and periods at the ends of sentences and chose not to do so, they will not receive full credit for work. This may seem harsh, but we talk about how they should be using what they learn, and my students understand that I expect them to do this.  
So...Where does grammar fit? As long as you connect it, anywhere that makes sense to you and works for your students. I teach it during my writing block because it is easy for me as a former writing teacher to help children see the connections between grammar and writing. Connections are the key. Without them, grammar and mechanics are just a bunch of isolated facts that may or may not be useful to kids. I'll post more specifically this week about how I integrate my grammar and writing instruction, but here are a few phrases I often use:

"Remember that good writers use a variety of sentences types. Be sure and use at least one declarative and one interrogative sentence in your writing today."
"Look back at the web you made about sentences. What does a sentence have to have? Remember to include those things in your writing today."
"Check back over your writing. Did you include...?"
"Today you learned that pronouns take the place of nouns. Be careful in your writing to use pronouns sparingly so your reader doesn't get confused."
"Can you find some proper nouns in a story you've written?"
"Circle some adjectives in your story. Can you think of some sparkle words that you could use to replace them?"
How about you? This is one of those topics that I can never seem to learn enough about! What experience can you share? When/how do you teach grammar and conventions? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

1 comment:

  1. This is something I have debated about going on 3 years. I think the ONLY way it will be retained and used in their writing if it is TAUGHT in their writing. Having said that, I will also say that I have never done a good job of teaching it within their writing. :)

    Here's a snapshot of what it has looked like in my 3 years in the upper grades:
    1st year-Strictly workbook-Forgot it each week
    2nd year-We labeled a sentence EVERY day-They knew the parts of speech at end of the year, but it didn't get applied to their writing
    3rd year-English book for the 1st 12 weeks and writing after that-I haven't ONCE mentioned any grammar(well, I have the mechanics)since we have been writing, so about to do a short unit on expanding sentences/parts of speech after spring break

    I NEED a fabulous writing workshop that I can go to that will HELP me figure this out!

    Did that muddle your brain enough? :)




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