Grammar—OWL

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  • Overview: Welcome to “Teaching and Assessing Grammar in the Writing Classroom.” This presentation aims to suggest ways in which composition instructors and English teachers can incorporate grammar instruction into their writing lesson plans. Students are often resistant to grammar instruction and may not always see the importance of it. This resource will present arguments to help students understand why grammar is relevant and will suggest several methods for incorporating grammar lessons into the writing classroom. In addition, the final slides will offer helpful tips for assessing grammar in students’ writing and suggest some key resources that should be helpful for both instructors and their students. Overall, the methods suggested by this resource seek to make students more self-sufficient when it comes to tackling grammar errors in their writing. This resource may also be of interest to you and can be used in conjunction with this presentation: “Proofreading Your Writing” http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/561/01/ Directions: Each slide is activated by a single mouse click, unless otherwise noted in bold at the bottom of each notes page Writer and Designer: Dana Bisignani, 2009 Contributors: Revising Author: Developed with resources courtesy of the Purdue University Writing Lab Grant funding courtesy of the Multimedia Instructional Development Center at Purdue University © Copyright Purdue University, 2009
  • Overview of Main Points: This presentation will address the following three concepts. Click mouse for each new point.
  • Most students groan when their teachers mention grammar. Students may make one of the following assumptions about grammar and its relationship to their writing: -Grammar isn’t as important as expression: Interesting ideas are vital to writing, but if there are grammatical errors, expression is often hampered, and the reader can be distracted from those ideas. -If they’re bad at grammar, then they’re bad writers: Encourage students to see grammar as only one aspect of their writing. Most writers struggle with something (sentence structure, commas, or spelling), but writing can always be polished and corrected before it’s handed in. That’s the beauty of revision. -Writing is only a matter of grammar: This is obviously false. Grammar is only the mechanics of language. Much more goes into good writing than correct grammar. What other assumptions do your students make about grammar? Why do you think students are so resistant to learning grammar? Click mouse for each new point.
  • You might give your students some of the following reasons for focusing on grammar at times. First, if the writer has obviously neglected to proofread his/her writing, the reader will encounter several problems: 1) s/he may not be able to focus on the ideas or those ideas may actually be unclear due to grammatical errors, and 2) the reader may assume that the writer is either uneducated and therefore not worth reading, or that the writer didn’t care enough about what s/he was saying to really polish it for an audience. A large part of a writer’s ethos comes simply from his/her willingness to polish his/her words and ideas. If it looks like the writer didn’t care about what s/he was saying then why should the reader? Many students believe that they don’t need to address grammar since tools like spell check will do it for them However, be sure to impress upon them that such tools aren’t always accurate and, in some cases, may suggest they correct something that isn’t necessarily wrong. Remind them that they are smarter than such technology and that these tools were designed to assist them, not the do the thinking for them. Finally, remind your students that their audiences will always hold them accountable, as the writer, for accuracy: this includes future instructors and employers.
  • In order to help students realize how important correct grammar is, try this exercise at the beginning of the semester. Find a blog post, article, or website that has frequent and easily recognizable grammatical errors. (The internet is ripe with these, but you can also create a sample text by adding in obvious errors of your own.) Have students read the text as a class and discuss what assumptions they make about the author based on their text. By placing students writers in the role of audience/reader, they will better understand the ways in which a text informs its audience about the writer behind the work. For example, they may assume that the writer is stupid or uninformed and that the source is therefore not credible. This exercise is also a good way to remind student writer that their text must be able to stand on its own.
  • The next several slides will discuss four methods of incorporating effective grammar instruction into the writing classroom. Depending on your own strengths as an instructor, one of these methods may appeal to you more than others, or you may wish to use several of these methods in conjunction with one another in order to create some variation for yourself and your students in class. These methods are: Scheduling a weekly mini lesson during class Having students be responsible for teaching each other about grammar by developing presentations Using conference time to talk to students about their individual grammar errors Handing out a study guide and having students study grammatical concepts independently
  • The first approach may feel comfortable for those instructors whose strength is lecture. As you grade students’ papers, make note of common errors that appear in their writing. Make photocopies or a transparency of a writing excerpt that demonstrates the error and bring it to class so students can see the error in the context of the writing. Allow students to identify the error before you discuss ways they can recognize and correct it (i.e., let them do the work). For a variation of this class activity, you can also have students collaborate in pairs to identify and correct the errors in the writing excerpt and then discuss how they did this as a class. By doing this each week, students’ knowledge of grammar and proofreading techniques should accumulate over the course of the semester.
  • If you use this approach in class, keep these things in mind. Because their own writing will be used as the sample texts from which the class learns, it’s important to inform students that you’ll be doing this before you bring in any of their writing for the class. Reassure students that you will not reveal who the author of the writing excerpt is from week to week so they won’t feel embarrassed. Try to use an excerpt from a different student’s writing each week so that no one feels singled out. Ideally, they should feel positive about the fact that their writing is becoming a teaching tool from which everyone can learn.
  • This method encourages students to collaborate and teach one another as well as the design a presentation for a specific audience. At the beginning of the semester, have each pair of students draw grammar topics from a hat. Then assign each pair a date on which they will present their topic to the class. Encourage students to make their presentations fun and interactive and therefore more appealing to their audience. Instead of having pairs of students, you can also have each individual student responsible for a presentation, this covering more grammatical concepts throughout the semester.
  • The most important thing to keep in mind when using this method is to make sure that 1) students do not simply repeat grammar lessons verbatim from a handbook or website, using jargon that they and/or their audience may not completely understand (words like clause, subjunctive, gerund, etc.), and 2) that they make sure to demonstrate the concept in the context of actual writing (either a found text or one they create themselves). It may be a good idea to use conference time to go over the presentations before students present them to the class or to have students hand in a short written version of their presentation on which you can give them some feedback before their scheduled day. With this approach, it’s important to stress that you, the instructor, are not the primary audience for the grammar presentation. They need to write the presentation to teach their peers.
  • If you meet with your students for individual conferences, this would be a great time to talk with each student about his/her specific grammatical errors and/or concerns. Working individually with students gives them personalized attention on their writing and also gives them a safe context in which to ask questions. Use the student’s writing from class to discuss any errors. It’s important not to overwhelm the student though; focus on only one or two errors per conference to make sure they completely understand a concept before moving on. Make sure you let the student do the bulk of the work—they’ll remember more if they have to find and correct an error on their own—but do explain the concept and model revision techniques if the student seems stuck.
  • Here are some key things to keep in mind when using conference time to discuss grammar with a student. It’s important to have the students set a goal or give the student a task for next time so that what they learn in the conference carries through to their writing. You might have them focus on eliminating a particular error in their next essay or have them be able to summarize the rule(s) for a particular concept the next time you meet.
  • Finally, you might also consider giving students a packet of information on grammatical concepts at the beginning of the semester and scheduling either one text on the materials or a series of quizzes on individual concepts. This method encourages students to study and memorize concepts on their own. This method can easily be combined with any of the previous three methods so that students study on their own but also have opportunities during class to see errors in context and/or discuss grammar as a class. Encourage students to study together. This method does make students memorize grammatical rules, but it also allows more time in class for discussing other writing concepts, since the bulk of studying is done independently outside of class.
  • If you use this approach, make sure that you refer to the concepts included in your packet in class and conferences to give students opportunities to 1) see these concepts in the context of real writing and 2) to get used to using the grammatical terms in conversations about writing.
  • The next three slides will offer some tips for marking grammatical errors in student papers. While it’s important to let students know if they are making such errors, it’s equally important not to serve as their editor and fix all the errors for them: 1) they may be overwhelmed by all the writing on their paper and 2) they are less likely to learn to recognize and fix the error on their own this way. Look for a pattern of error. This indicates that the student better needs to understand a particular concept (i.e., it isn’t just a typo). Correct only the first instance or two of the error, then place a check mark in the margin each time you see the error again. This will force the student to look more closely for their error and learn to recognize it. Have the student correct the error before you meet with him/her for his/her next conference. This is also a great way to encourage students to go back through their papers and learn proofreading skills. Remember that students can only learn one or two concepts at a time, so resist that urge to edit everything!
  • Unless you follow up with students, they may lack the motivation go back through their graded papers and learn how to correct their errors. Here are some methods for encouraging students to review your comments and learn to recognize their errors by reviewing their work. Again, it helps to have the student set a goal for his/her next paper (e.g., eliminate comma errors in my next essay), and you can easily discuss this during a conference.
  • As students better understand the grammatical errors they make, they should also become better at proofreading their work. For some students who have frequent errors in their work, learning how to proofread may dramatically decrease these errors (i.e., they may already be able to recognize and correct grammatical errors but simply don’t know how to edit their own writing). Stress that proofreading is one part of the writing process and that it is important to polish work for the reader (go back to those arguments from slide 4). Here are some ways to help students become better proofreaders. The ear is often a better judge of language than the eye is, especially if we’ve been staring at a paper (or the computer screen) for a long time already. Have students read aloud. If they say that they still have trouble seeing errors, have them try reading their paper from the end to the beginning. Our brains are used to looking for the narrative structure. If we read backwards, we no longer recognize that narrative of ideas, and so the brain automatically pays more attention to sentence-level errors. You might also create a handout of traditional editorial symbols and have students proofread their essays (or their peers’ essays) during class suing the symbols. Sometimes staring at the computer screen is deceptive, especially if they’ve already used spell check or grammar check to “fix” everything it underlined!
  • For more resources on grammar and proofreading, both you and your students can visit the Purdue OWL, where you can find helpful materials for your class and your students can look up grammatical rules as well as tips to make their writing better. You can also Google “Ten Most Common Writing Errors” and visit the St. Martin’s Handbook online, which illustrates these common grammatical mistakes. Finally, if you are an instructor at Purdue, your students are also welcome to visit the Writing Lab in Heavilon Hall 226 or call us to set up an appointment. Writing consultants can help students recognize and correct grammatical errors and teach them proofreading skills.
  • Grammar—OWL

    1. 1. Teaching & Assessing Grammar in the Writing Classroom
    2. 2. Assessing Grammar Effectively <ul><li>This presentation will cover: </li></ul><ul><li>Ways to address grammar in the writing classroom </li></ul><ul><li>Methods of marking grammatical errors in student papers </li></ul><ul><li>Grammar resources for students outside the classroom </li></ul>
    3. 3. Students and Grammar <ul><li>Students’ relationship with grammar is often an antagonistic one. They may believe that… </li></ul><ul><li>Grammar isn’t as important as expression </li></ul><ul><li>If they’re bad at grammar, then they’re bad writers </li></ul><ul><li>Writing is only a matter of grammar </li></ul>
    4. 4. Grammar in the Classroom <ul><li>Arguments for the importance of addressing grammar: </li></ul><ul><li>Grammar mistakes can distract the reader from their ideas/expression. </li></ul><ul><li>Grammar affects a writer’s ethos: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Did the writer seem educated? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Did s/he appear to take the work seriously? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tools like spell check aren’t always accurate </li></ul>
    5. 5. Bad Grammar Exercise <ul><li>Try the following short lesson in class: </li></ul><ul><li>Give students a sample text </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find one with obvious grammatical problems or add several errors yourself </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Put students in the position of reader/audience </li></ul><ul><li>What assumptions do they make about the writer based solely on this text? </li></ul>
    6. 6. Grammar in the Classroom <ul><li>Methods of including grammar instruction: </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly “mini” lessons </li></ul><ul><li>Student grammar presentations </li></ul><ul><li>Conference “tutorials” </li></ul><ul><li>Independent study guide and test </li></ul><ul><li>Choose an approach that both agrees with your teaching philosophy and highlights your strengths as an instructor. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Weekly Mini Lessons <ul><li>If your strength is lecture : </li></ul><ul><li>Choose a common error you’ve noticed in students’ papers that week </li></ul><ul><li>Illustrate the error in context </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bring photocopies of a paper excerpt </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work on an overhead copy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Offer methods of recognizing the error </li></ul><ul><li>Have students work in pairs on a sample text </li></ul>
    8. 8. Weekly Mini Lessons <ul><li>What to keep in mind with this approach: </li></ul><ul><li>Inform students early on that their papers will be used as sample texts </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t identify the writers of sample papers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nobody wants to be the “bad example” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Give students a chance to identify/fix the error before you give it away </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Let students do the work </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Student Grammar Presentations <ul><li>If you’re a fan of group work : </li></ul><ul><li>Have students pair up and draw a grammar topic from a hat. Each pair will… </li></ul><ul><li>give a 10-minute presentation on their scheduled day </li></ul><ul><li>create an accompanying handout for the class </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage students to make presentations fun (quiz shows with prizes, role playing, etc.). </li></ul>
    10. 10. Student Grammar Presentations <ul><li>What to keep in mind with this approach: </li></ul><ul><li>Point students to resources like the OWL or a writing handbook </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure students understand the grammatical jargon they encounter/use </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Will their audience understand it? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Meet with pairs during conferences to preview their presentations </li></ul>
    11. 11. Conference Tutorials <ul><li>If you need to use conference time : </li></ul><ul><li>Address grammar one-on-one in context . Using the student’s recent writing… </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on one pattern of error at a time </li></ul><ul><li>Have the student identify and correct the errors in his/her own paper </li></ul><ul><li>Model revision techniques/alternatives </li></ul>
    12. 12. Conference Tutorials <ul><li>What to keep in mind with this approach: </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t overwhelm the student </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on only one or two errors per conference </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Give the student a mini-assignment or goal for next time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Eliminate comma splices in your next paper </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be able to summarize the rules for semi-colon use </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Independent Study Guide <ul><li>If you’re a proponent of individual study : </li></ul><ul><li>Hand out a packet of grammar study materials at the beginning of the semester. </li></ul><ul><li>Use a sample text each week to illustrate a grammar rule from the packet </li></ul><ul><li>Hold a class review session </li></ul><ul><li>Schedule a test or quizzes over the materials </li></ul>
    14. 14. Independent Study Guide <ul><li>What to keep in mind with this approach: </li></ul><ul><li>Give students opportunities to see the grammar rules/concepts in context </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Review rules/concepts in conferences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have students work on sample texts in class </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Marking Grammatical Errors <ul><li>When you’re grading papers : </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on a pattern of error </li></ul><ul><li>Correct only the first instance of an error </li></ul><ul><li>Place a check mark in the margin beside the line where the error occurs </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss patterns during conferences </li></ul><ul><li>Resist the urge to edit—let the student do the work! </li></ul>
    16. 16. Grading Follow-up <ul><li>Encourage students to review and work on their errors: </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss errors during conferences </li></ul><ul><li>Have each student review and summarize comments on his/her paper </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How will s/he recognize and correct this error from now on? </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Proofreading <ul><li>Discuss proofreading strategies in class. Encourage students to… </li></ul><ul><li>Read their papers out loud </li></ul><ul><li>Have a friend/roommate read out loud while they look on </li></ul><ul><li>Read backwards (from last sentence to first) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus the brain on sentence-level error </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Print a paper copy and edit by hand </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Give students a handout of editorial symbols </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. More Grammar Resources <ul><li>Free resources for you and your students: </li></ul><ul><li>The Purdue OWL </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://owl.english.purdue.edu </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Ten Most Common Writing Errors” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>St. Martin’s Handbook online </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Writing Lab </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Heavilon Hall 226 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(765) 494-3723 </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. The End

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