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Week 6

I find it interesting that in the studies Williams discusses, there is no correlation between students’s studying grammar and their writing ability. I think this is an important point for all English teachers to recognize and remember. All too often, students who have difficulties writing are set up with grammar exercises to help them improve their writing skills. Williams states, “As far as their writing was concerned, studying grammar or not studying grammar simply made no difference? (177). He does point out however, that there may be other reasons students should study grammar other than to improve their writing skills.

Others, like Angela Petit for example, believe that teaching the convention and usage of semicolons encourages students to use semicolons stylistically to improve their writing. She calls for the teaching of semicolons and other forms of punctuation to be done contextually. For example, teachers should seek out texts that demonstrate the type of punctuation students are learning in class.

Deborah Dean takes a different approach. She seems to believe that teaching grammar directly improves student writing. Her method begins with a single sentence written in a form that students are not used to using in their own writing. Then, without labeling different pieces of the sentence, students are to create their own sentence in that same form. This exercise is supposed to broaden students understanding of sentence structures, without boring them with labeling the parts of the sentence.

It seems to me that studying grammar does have an effect on writing ability. The difference is between teaching contextualized and decontextualized grammar. There is also a difference in expecting student writing to improve after studying all sorts of grammatical conventions in general and focusing on one convention and its possible uses within student writing. Hence, teaching grammar in broad strokes does not make nearly as much sense as teaching specific skills and conventions that students can apply directly within their writing.

Here is a link to a site with ready-made worksheets, posters, and ideas for teaching grammar: http://www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com/grammar/menu.html
Some of this stuff is pretty basic but could be useful if students are having a hard time remembering pronouns for example.