I can remember when my son took swimming lessons so many summers ago. It was great fun to watch him go from a floundering water baby to a proficient swimmer. Then several years later, he decided to join the swim team. Suddenly his proficient swimming skills were exposed to be basic, beginner techniques. Sure they were good enough to keep him from sinking, even to get him to win the pool game of Marco Polo, but to be a member of the swim team required that he perfect his swimming techniques, from kicking with straight legs to cupping his hands correctly.
Then this summer, watching the Olympics swimming contests, the beauty of the sport lay in the perfection of the techniques, so much so that the techniques weren’t even apparent.
If we think about the progression of learning to swim, it is very similar to the progression of learning to write, specifically how grammar, or the cupping of the hands, fits.
To learn how to swim, children must be in the water. Likewise, to learn how to write, learners must be in a text-rich environment. Surrounding learners with text they are interested in and honoring their writing is the first step in teaching children to write. Practice worksheets with corrections to make is like having children sit by the pool and practice the dog paddle, explaining they will get to swim once they can show on the dry land that they know how to do the proper strokes.
Once children begin to write on their own, focusing on grammar lessons which are relevant to their writing will make the lessons meaningful and memorable. The basics, capital letters to begin sentences and end punctuation, is the beginning of managing grammar in writing. From there the rules and techniques grow more and more complex in direct correlation to the complexity of the writing.
The level of instruction needed to teach grammar within a writing curriculum will be based on the level of complexity of a child’s writing. It may be enough to rely on peer editing, parental feedback and tools found within word processing programs.
Ultimately, though, just like my son had a swimming instructor when he was on the swim team, learners will need an expert in writing to be able to explain the nuances and requirements of grammar.
And yes, there is a place for worksheets to practice grammar. When a student is struggling in his writing with correctly punctuating dialog, I provide a worksheet for him to practice these skills. Once he has practiced enough, the rules and techniques will become automatic. Remember, the worksheet is practice that is relevant to the student writing.
Grammar is important. Can you imagine driving without following driving laws with other drivers who are making up their own rules? Now, can you imagine reading this post without relying on grammar and punctuation to guide your reading?
Proficient writers will want to have a mastery of grammar and punctuation rules. Mastery begins with beginning, then slowly adding techniques toward mastery.
Points to remember:
1. Effective grammar lessons are relevant to a learner’s writing.
2. Effective grammar lessons become more complex as a learner’s writing becomes more complex.
3. Effective grammar lessons are best taught by an expert in the field.
4. Practice is an important part of effective grammar lessons when the practice is relevant to authentic writing.
For some great grammar products, go to the “Help for Parents” page.
So, it’s officially back to school.
Though many schools no longer follow the traditional school year and begin school after Labor Day, that Tuesday reality sets in that it is a long ten months until June.
Even home-schoolers get back-to-school blues according to Danielle Ali Shah in her blog about returning to homeschooling. But it helps if you keep in mind the “four agreements for home schooling.”
1. Follow your heart when making educational decisions.
The numbers are out and it seems more and more families are choosing to home school their children for a variety of reasons. It seems odd that this would be news since we have always believed that parents are a child’s first teacher. Parents often lament not following their hearts when making decisions about the education of their children. I pulled my son from a well-regarded public school and never regretted it.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
Unfortunately, many home-schoolers continue to feel ostracized by the established educational community. As a public educator for over 24 years, the one thing I have learned for sure – I may be an expert in my field of study, but I am not an expert in another person’s child and my job as a teacher or tutor is to provide a service for that first teacher and child expert.
3. Find your tribe.
4. Always do your best.
This may seem obvious, but it is nice to be reminded that we do the best we can and forget the rest. This is true for parents and for students.
So, as we all get back to school, we relearn to juggle our life commitments with our educational commitments – and look forward to Winter Break.