The following are a series of posters that can be used for teaching as well as cut-and-paste reinforcers for student write’s notebooks. Because I believe so strongly in using student work to teach grammar an mechanics, I do not have actual lessons. A great additional resource for that would be Jeff Anderson’s book, Mechanically Inclined.
“No matter how well intentioned, if I deluge my students with too much of anything, they remember nothing—especially rules and exceptions.” Jeff Anderson, Author of Mechanically Inclined, hits the nail on the head with his statement in regards to grammar and mechanics instruction. I believe that, as teachers, we should be focusing our teacher on principles or patterns, rather than rules. We should also allow our students’ errors to dictate our instruction. That’s where Anderson says the heart of good grammar teaching lies.
I struggled mightily with grammar and mechanics instruction. It always felt like there was too much to teach, especially when my main goal was to help students develop a passion for writing. I want them to love writing and see merit in it. How do you show kids the wonders of the written word if the focus is always on the rules. Taking in Jeff Anderson’s words, I begin to take a close look at the errors my fifth grade students were making. I made a list of the most common errors in their writing. Some of the top errors on my list all involved comma use, or lack thereof.
Because time is always an issue in the classroom, my grammar instruction is embedded within our writer’s workshop. I began teaching a 10-15 minute grammar mini-lesson everyday during our writing block (which happens to be about 90 minutes 2-3 times a week). This was on top of a mini-lesson on craft. I wanted students to immediately apply the pattern or principle I taught to their own writing.
The first thing we did, was create an editor’s checklist. We would add a different “error to look for,” each time one was introduced. The first things we added was capitalization, another one of my students’ top errors. Next, it was check for comma use (add or delete).