A toolbox is a well-used metaphor because it denotes a set of tools or skills that help get a task done well. Helping students become better writers is an everyday responsibility for each member of the team, and a shared set of effective strategies benefits both the teachers and their students.
Tool # 1: Knowledge of the grammatical errors most likely to doom speakers and writers to be viewed unfavorably.
There are specific grammatical mistakes that grate on people’s nerves and often lead to a diminished respect for the person committing the error. When a team collaborates to help their students eliminate these blunders from their conversations and writing, they move their students toward meeting standards and being able to present themselves in a favorable light in any situation.
The image below lists the most egregious grammar errors.
This image lists grammar mistakes that many people consider very serious.
Here are three ideas of how a team might make use of this knowledge:
- Identify which of these serious grammar mistakes are most prevalent in your students’ speaking and writing. Then, create a plan for helping students eliminate these errors. Helping kids with their grammar can be very delicate work because they may interpret any corrections as an insult to themselves or their families. It is important, I think, to set a context by talking about audience and purpose. For example, the way any of us speaks in a job interview is different from the way we chat with our friends. Taking the time to have conversations about the different ways we communicate with family and friends, in the neighborhood, at a religious service, for an assignment in school, or applying for a job is important. The topic of informal and formal speaking would make a great advisory unit. Students could role play, make posters, create public service announcements for younger children, or draw cartoons that illustrate proper grammar usage.
- As a team focus on one particular error for a week or two — The week of eradicating the double negative or Stamp out sentence fragments month.
- Use common rubrics that include specific grammar usage issues. If the team agrees that they are going to look for three specific errors in all of its students’ writing, students will have proper usage reinforced in multiple contexts. They will also see that all of their teachers value correct grammar. And… for non-language arts teachers it may relieve some stress related to correcting for proper grammar in their assignments. As students’ work improves, add additional grammar usage issues to the mix. It is critical to continue talking about student writing in team meetings and building everyone’s expertise and confidence in addressing writing in their curriculum area.
***Of course, correct grammar is just one aspect of teaching writing across the curriculum. We’ll look at some additional ideas in later posts.