Students need to know the real reasons that they study grammar in order to stop the agonizing and questioning why they have to do it at all. Here are the best answers I know: first, grammar is the underpinnings of the language they use every waking moment, or another language in which they would like to become proficient, and second, knowing grammar rules and tools offers students greater opportunities for writing improvement. If, however, grammar study in a classroom is incidental or taught in such a way that does not allow learners to master a variety of phrases and clauses for the purpose of understanding and writing eloquent sentences and also become adept at usage rules, students will have little chance of proficiency.
So how does a student gain the facility necessary to use the language well in both spoken and written discourse? By following the protocol described below and practicing in a cumulative way, students can become absolute language wizards!
- Listen to the instructor and take notes on anything you don’t know.
- Begin with basic sentence patterns and learn everything there is to know about the simplest ones, including punctuation.
- As you progress through each pattern, gaining in syntactic difficulty, continue to add to your knowledge about the possible structures and accompanying punctuation for each one.
- Learn to construct examples of your own as you learn each pattern, practicing adding various phrases—prepositional, appositive, verbal, and absolute phrases—to each sentence pattern. It is important to be able to construct these sentences, not just recognize them in sentences already written in a book or on grammar worksheets.
- The proof of the learning is in the reading of your own coherent and beautifully crafted sentences in any genre, whether it be an essay for school or a letter to a friend.
Grammar instruction, therefore, must be taught throughout the year, not in short term units of study. As with all learning, frequent opportunities for application provide students with the grammar practice that is needed. When students do not learn specific techniques for transferring grammar skills to writing, they fall upon default behavior and often never progress beyond short simple sentences.