Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nouns, Anyone..? Anyone..?

Anyone...? Anyone...?
Yep, that's me. Okay, I look slightly different, but imagine me with that look on my face. It's the look that says, "Really? Are you serious? Please tell me your joking?" Why would a positive person such as myself have this type of reaction, you might ask? Well.....

Picture it: Monday morning. Nouns unit about to begin. Did I mention that's usually the EASIEST grammar unit of the year? I'm thrilled because we're finally finished with the sentence unit! According to my carefully thought out plans, my lovelies were to create a web and jot down everything they knew about nouns, thereby activating their schema. I would then build upon their previous knowledge and add lots of great, new ideas... Eighteen students sat with pencils and writer's notebooks poised to begin when I said, "Draw a web and list what you know about nouns." That's when it happened. Crickets...

I glance hopefully around the room. Students are looking a little confused and slightly apprehensive. "Are you kidding me?" I managed to just barely say in my head instead of out loud. Not one of my babies could list a single thing they knew about nouns! (On a positive note, at least I found that out, so I'd know where to start teaching). After a little prodding, one of them asked tentatively, "Person, place, or thing?" Of course, that is where we started, and we're moving right along, but I'm concerned and confused.

How does an entire class know NOTHING about something that they've been taught for 3 years in a row prior to reaching 4th grade? 

Is this an issue of kids learning it just for the test each year, then forgetting?

Does the curriculum not address it appropriately in the lower grades, or perhaps use a different terminology?

I'm not complaining or trying to blame previous teachers---I know they're doing a great job! I'm just simply on a search for answers. Has this happened to any of you? Did you discover the reason why? Were you able to do anything about it?


  1. I teach Geometry so by the time they reach me there can be HUGE learning gaps. My fellow teacher and I were just talking yesterday about this. Why aren't kids retaining information? Why am I spending so much time reteaching middle school concepts in the 10th grade? I try to come up with sayings and tricks that help the concepts stick, but I can only do so much in my one short year with them. I am completely baffled. I know the Algebra teachers on my campus are working hard and teaching their standards, so why can't they do Algebra when they get to me? I feel your pain. It is a feeling of frustration and confusion. I have heard the crickets on many occations. Good luck this year.

  2. This has happened on several occasions with my fourth graders and the most frustrating part about it is that I taught this same group when they were in first grade so I KNOW that it was introduced! I think it's important to revisit things like nouns several times throughout the year, rather than just the week/month you're teaching it. I have a bad habit of moving on with a skill once I know my kids have mastered it and not coming back to it as much as I should. I definitely feel your frustration!
    iTeach 1:1

  3. Thank you both for your comments. It's nice to know that I'm not alone. Kristin, I think you are right on about revisiting skills several times a year. I definitely need to do more of that. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Hi Farrah!
    I'm also a fourth grade teacher and have had huge issues with kids retaining information from grammar. Actually, when I was a middle school teacher, and the kids couldn't remember what a noun was, I knew there were issues!

    So, I ditched the grammar curriculum and traditional ways of teaching grammar by units. I teach grammar is a way that they are using grammar concepts all the time, each day, multiple weeks in a row.

    It's called Daily Grammar Practice and it's incredibly overwhelming to the students at first, but it works. I mean, really works. And the kids will remember the grammar concepts because they are seeing the big picture.


    You can look at this link for more information! I hope it helps!

  5. Farrah,

    When I taught 6th grade and now in 5th grade they always give blank stares with ALL grammar!!! :) all the teachers at my school complain about this but still teach the same way. A unit on this, a unit on that, never to revisit. I think that's part of the problem. I also think its not relevant to them so they don't care to remember it. Last but not least i don't think we teach it in an authentic way which should be in their writing. Which is HARD!! :)

    Having said all of that, I've tried to step back and look at the big picture. When they are 25 are they going to have to know what a noun is? No, they just need to be able to communicate effectively with their writing. Sooooo, I have decided I will no longer teach grammar in isolation, but within their writing with the writing being the focus. How am I going to do that? Not sure. :)




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