Grammar in the Classroom

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Grammar in the Classroom A large part of an English teacher’s job deals with helping students find their own voices amidst the many teachings of their parents and peers. A student’s voice can be their values, their interests, and their perspectives of the world in which they live. Their voice can be their critical questioning of the many situations they face, whether in a text, the school cafeteria, or a park after school. It is the job of an English teacher to aid in finding this voice through their writing. It is by putting words and thoughts down on paper that a student can sometimes feel comfortable enough to take risks and find their true voices. Although traditional grammar instruction has long been thought to improve this skill, this is no longer the case. Instead, by providing a classroom environment in which students are immersed in classic literature from many genres including poetry, short stories, and novels, students will learn how to harness grammar for their own purposes of finding their voice in their writing. Rather than teach grammar initially and hope that students connect their drilling exercises of subjects and verbs to the poem they’re working on, teaching the varieties of literature first allows students to gain first-hand experience and familiarity with grammar already in practice. This is not to say that grammar lessons and terminology should be lost altogether. A student will not be better off if they never learn subject-verb agreement. However, their exposure to examples of these uses should come first, leaving the labeling and grammar jargon to a time when their minds have already seen how these nouns and verbs can be used. That’s the key phrase: can be used. Students need to understand that they have control and authority over their work. They should have space enough to understand that although a sentence should be written in a certain way, it does not always have to be straightforward grammar if they’d like to change something stylistically. For example, while teaching a lesson on the poem "l(a" by E.E. Cummings, students might be confused and puzzled as to the form of this unusual piece. However, they should then be invited to challenge Cummings’s lack of traditional grammar and stylistic choices. Some may be angry at its unique appearance, while others may grasp the significance of the form and its effect on the reader.
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