Grammar

During the summer of 2018, we reexamined our approach to the teaching of grammar. We recognized the need to teach grammar in a way that develops habits of fluency and supports engagement among students. The book, The Power of Grammar, by Mary Ehrenworth and Vicki Vinton, was studied and referenced as grammar instruction was redesigned.

Teachers and administrators identified a comprehensive list of key conventions that grades K-9 would teach each year using four methods of instruction: direct instruction, inquiry, apprenticeship and extravaganza. Grammar instruction is not limited to the editing stage, but is taught earlier in the writing process in order to foster stronger writing habits. Lessons have been incorporated into existing writing units and are currently being piloted across all grades.

Key Conventions K-9

Kindergarten - 5th

Kindergarten

  • What comes before punctuation: letter formation, spaces, between words
  • Capitalization of “I” and names

1st Grade

  • Capitalization of “I” and names
  • Marking sentences with a capital letter at the beginning and a period at the end
  • Ending punctuation choices and their effects (., ?, !)

2nd Grade

  • Ending punctuation choices and their effects (., ?, !)
  • Capitalization of dates, holidays, nations, states, places, titles
  • Naming & understanding: nouns, verbs & adjectives
  • Apostrophes to show possession

3rd Grade

  • Apostrophes to show possession
  • Punctuation simple dialogue
  • Capitalization of places like towns, rivers, of brand names, etc.
  • Contractions
  • Naming & understanding: verbs, adjective and adverbs
  • Narrative paragraph conventions

4th Grade

  • Narrative paragraph conventions
  • Pronouns substitutions (he, she, they, we, him, them, us, it) and its origins
  • Parts of speech so that we can talk about our sentences and words
  • Expository paragraphs
  • Using commas in simple lists
  • Common and important homonyms that can be confusing
  • Capitalization of titles of movies, books, people, etc.
  • Naming & understanding: conjunctions, pronouns and article
  • Simple sentences structure: subjects and predicate, varying short/longer sentences

5th Grade

  • Simple sentences structure: subjects and predicate, varying short/longer sentences
  • The use/misuse of the fragment
  • Subject-verb agreement and common errors with this
  • Verb tense and its relationships to control of time
  • Naming & understanding: preposition
  • Punctuation simple quotations
  • Punctuating References (bibliography, within text, work cited)

6th - 9th

6th Grade

  • Punctuation simple quotations
  • Punctuating References (bibliography, within text, work cited)
  • Regular verb forms for past, present, future tense (is, are, be, was were)
  • Irregular verb forms forms that we can use commonly in our writing
  • Punctuation references, dialogue, quotations
  • Elegant and interesting punctuation such as ellipses, dashes, parentheses
  • Using relative clauses to elaborate (using appositives)

7th Grade

  • Using relative clauses to elaborate (using appositives)
  • Punctuating more complicated dialogue
  • Punctuating more complicated quotations
  • Punctuating longer sentences using commas and conjunctions
  • Punctuating combined sentences with colons and semicolons

8th Grade

  • Punctuating longer sentences using commas and conjunctions
  • Punctuating combined sentences with colons and semicolons
  • Odd and interesting conventions such as who/whom, me/I, who/that, which
  • Code switching between spoken idiomatic language and academic language

9th Grade

  • Punctuating longer sentences using commas and conjunctions
  • Punctuating combined sentences with colons and semicolons
  • Code switching between spoken idiomatic language and academic language
  • Using helping or compound verb forms such as past perfect or future perfect
  • Passive voice

4 Methods of Instruction

Direct Instruction

Direct instruction is when students are explicitly taught how to do something and often includes the teacher modeling with their own writing. For instance, the teacher may demonstrate how to make meaningful choices about ending punctuation, and then students would actively engage in this same work with their independent writing. The majority of lessons are direct instruction and may occur in all stages of the writing process.

Inquiry

Inquiry lessons involve a guiding question that investigates language. The question posed may be focused and precise or broad and thought-provoking. For instance, students may investigate: when and why do writers use commas? The teacher provides students with familiar texts to study and they then collect examples and group them into categories in order to form ideas about the convention. Inquiry lessons may be conducted with the whole class or in small group centers.

Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is when students study the grammar moves published authors make and apply the technique to their own writing. Students focus on a particular text, reading sentences closely and investigating how the style and form extend meaning in powerful ways. After studying the mentor text, students craft their own sentences in an attempt to emulate them.

Extravaganza

After studying particular conventions, students create ways to teach their classmates the tricky rules. Students may develop games, videos, skits, etc.