For years I have struggled with what to do about teaching grammar in the classroom. At the college level, while it seems like I should be helping students to develop more advanced writing strategies, I am often highlighting common errors and usually feeling like I am wasting all of our time. Yet if I don’t do something they don’t think I am doing my job. In the end, I just want to tell students to read and write more and they will pick up proper grammar, but like Kenneth Lindblom and Patricia A. Dunn claim in their article “Analyzing Grammar Rants: An Alternative to Traditional Grammar Instruction,” this is not true. Unless students read more of the “standard” forms of writing, they will keep making the same mistakes. If they are indeed stuck in a specific socioeconomic class that limits their exposure to other and possibly more standard forms of language, maybe a grammar rant will have them truly proof reading their own writing for the first time.
Some of our best learning moments in life are the ones some off-the-wall teacher had us do. Whatever it was; it sticks with us. For me, it was my sixth grade teacher having us draw pictures of words. He had us pick adjectives and write them in ways to convey the meaning visually. Some students picked easy words like fat and wrote these three letters in a balloon or block style with very short and wide letters. Others took on the challenge and tried to write slimy, scary, or strong. Just how would you write, I mean, draw the word “strong” to convey its meaning visually?
Honestly, I don’t recall what word I drew, but does it matter? I think what matters most is that I learned the difference between an adjective and a noun more clearly than before. I do recall telling someone they couldn’t draw “house” for the assignment because they would be drawing an object in the letters, a thing, a noun. Our teacher was trying to get us to understand that adjectives describe what things are like.
I am definitely going to add a grammar rant exercise to my next course. I am wondering how I can get them to examine their own language from a socioeconomic class or geographic region perspective as well as a language unlike their own. Maybe there is a compare and/or contract writing assignment in there somewhere.