Great advice for writing teachers

Now that I am not going to be teaching developmental writing anymore, I found a post with advice for writing teachers that I can really agree with wholeheartedly.

Like the philosophy of the program I taught in, the writer says:

Grammar instruction by way of worksheets and rote memorization of rules does not work. If you are using grammar bell ringers, ask yourself if you see that learning transferred into their writing. It doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, I don’t think what we did in that program helped much , either.  It was apparent early on last semester that exposing students to sentence patterns and then expecting them to use them in their papers was only somewhat effective for some students.  Most of my students correctly used compound sentences and compound subjects and compound predicates and other structures before we talked about them in class.  As a matter of fact, some of them used them better before we talked about them in class than they did afterwards.  Now, maybe I confused them unnecessarily, but maybe they just didn’t need to talk about those structures at all.

I was encouraged to continue reading and see that the advice offered agrees completely with my philosophy:

Write. Write. Then write some more. Students, even those struggling the most, typically have only a few real grammar issues that they need to learn and watch for. Find their individual issues through writing.

All of the students had a few basic problems that, had I been able to structure the class my way and work on these problems with individual students, I think we could have made more progress.

I know that part of the problem was that I was teaching the curriculum for the first time.  And part of it was my strained relationship with the university and the department.  But I wasted too much time teaching sentence patterns instead of having students write.

In my new job, I hope I will have the opportunity to help students improve their writing.  If I do, I know I will do it by having them write and write and then write some more.  It is the only way!

By the way, the post has a great handout on grammar and style that I think would be very helpful for the students I used to have.  I may try it with the new ones, too.

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3 thoughts on “Great advice for writing teachers”

  1. When I look back at my writing, I’m appalled by how silly and embarrassing I was. I’ve always believed (since reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’) that you can learn great things from bad novels.

    In saying that, I started my Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing this year and it was the best thing I’ve done for my writing. Knowing the rules (as you list above: subject, predicate, sentence structure, etc) helps me to decide whether I want to break them for effect or follow them to enhance my writing.

    The solution is probably to write! write! write! and learn! learn! learn! I read Larry Brook’s STORY ENGINEERING recently and have been inspired to write a “the best advice I’ve learned” series which my readers have encouraged I continue. You’re welcome to check it out if it may help you. :)

  2. Great post. The funny thing about me is that rote learning only helps so much. It isn’t all that practical once you are writing a long piece. Where I learn the best is making the mistake and then being corrected for it (perhaps a few times). Then it is easier to understand how the rule works amd follow it. I’m like that in life too- What do you mean I shouldn’t touch the hot stove? Ouch, okay I get it. Don’t touch the stove when it’s hot because you might get burned. Oddly enough understanding grammar rules goes the same way, except I don’t have physical burn marks to prove it (Thank God)!

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