This summer I attended a workshop entitled, Teaching Grammar One Sentence at a Time, lead by Patti Slagle, a Louisville Writing Project Grammar Specialist. She has completed extensive research on best practices for teaching grammar in the classroom. She had many great thoughts to ponder about shifting from the old (traditional) to the new paradigms of teaching grammar. Below are some features of the new paradigm:

  • you don't need more time - integrate grammar instruction with your existing reading and writing lessons - use mentor texts to discuss grammar
  • you can't teach every concept/rule there is for grammar - it's more valuable to teach a set of descrete skills effectively
  • focus instruction on what your kids NEED
  • develop a hierarchy of error (what errors occur most often) with you co-teachers and rank your students' errors - teach what occurs most often
  • work on grammar at the SENTENCE Level (hence the title of the workshop)
  • use routines such as Writer's Notebooks and mentor texts to incorporate regular grammar attention
  • you don't have to be a grammar expert - use reference books along with your students (that's what they're there for)
  • instead of focusing on error correction, focus on helping students to use grammar intentionally
  • grammar skill development is a process, therefore, requires time, attention and practice to master

When using mentor sentences/texts:
- read selection first for enjoyment and comprehension then work on the grammar
-context of the selection should be familar to students
-don't beat a selection to death - don't analyze every grammar concept from the mentor sentence/text
-scaffold your instruction into small, incremental mini-lessons
-go back to selections when students are ready for new concepts
-review previously learned skills while reading and writing - don't teach it once and expect your students to master it
-be a Sentence Stalker - collect good examples of sentences, punctuation, headlines from whatever you are reading - use authentic reading materials including students' writing.

How to use Mentor Texts... adapted by Patti Slagle from Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson
  • examine
  • consider the effect(s)
  • suppose the writer's intent
  • manipulate the mechanics
  • see what changes
  • look for additional examples in reading materials
  • manipulate some of those examles to see what changes
  • observe patterns across the examples
  • speculate possible rules based on those patterns
  • check speculations with the actual rules
  • search for examples in students' own writing
  • manipulate the mechanics in students' own writing to see what changes
  • imitate the mentor text in students' writing
  • create classroom visuals for future reference (posters, snetnce strips, etc.)
  • be on the alert for examples of the construction in future classroom work
  • return to the construction periodically to refresh, review, reinforce in a new context

Three great resources for teaching grammar:
grammar study.JPG mechanically inclined.JPG fresh approach.JPG
Grammar Study - Janet Angelillo (intended for elementary but lessons/strategies could be easily modified for higher grades)
Mechnically Inclined Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop - Jeff Anderson (intended more for middle and high)
A Fresh Approach to Teaching Punctuation - Janet Angelillo

See Language Progressions (pages 30-38) for grammar skills expected to be mastered at each grade level.