Grammar Matters: Lessons, Tips, & Conversations Using Mentor Texts, K-6
If you or your students find grammar a dull or tedious subject, then Grammar Matters is a must have for your professional bookshelf.
At the Philadelphia Reading Council’s Fall Event at St. Joseph’s University, Lynne Dorfman and Diane Dougherty engaged educators in a “let’s talk, let’s practice, let’s learn” style workshop to model ways of delivering grammar instruction using mentor texts. From prepositions and participles to pronouns and punctuation, Lynne and Diane led participants through activities, conversations, and Your Turn Lessons that highlighted the importance of teaching grammar and conventions of writing in ways that empower students, enable them to become more confident and proficient in their writing and communication skills, and embark on a lifelong journey of loving the sound, the power and the importance of words.
With hands and minds on task, teachers partnered to breathe new life into what may become dusty and forgotten rules if practiced only in isolation. Using the mentor text Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, we can help students of all ages “highlight a verb” to add emphasis and a poetic sound to a sentence. Witness this transition: My brother went down the hill on his sled. My brother race, race, raced down the hill on his sled. Practicing this strategy helps writers to think about their verbs, revising their writing to replace weak and overused ones with stronger muscle-making verbs.
Using examples from the mentor text, Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack, we worked on combining sentences, adding or eliminating words, examining punctuation for clarity and meaning. Using the author’s craft as a springboard, and then comparing it to our own, opened up rich conversations about reading, writing, pedagogy and meaningful materials for instruction. As students engage in these types of activities, they will use their conversations to learn grammar, figure out rules, and become independent learners who can problem solve by exposure to myriad sources.
This workshop was a live preface to Lynne and Diane’s book, Grammar Matters. I look forward to reading this book and keeping it handy for brushing up on my grammar and locating tips for lessons in units of study for Narrative, Informational and Opinion Writing. With its extensive list of fiction and nonfiction books linked to grammar instruction and the eight appendices including teaching grammar according to the Common Core State Standards, Grammar Matters will be in the forefront as we engage in ongoing conversations about writing, and how the knowledge of grammar and conventions make us more aware of the magical power of words. As we celebrate the National Day of Writing today, I extend my thanks to Diane and Lynne for gifting us with this book and as well as being our companions on the journey.
Rita Sorrentino is a recently retired teacher from Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia. Rita is finding new pathways for working with teachers and students to use digital tools for reading writing, speaking and listening. She presented ‘Beyond Superheroes: Using Comics Across the Curriculum” at the PETE&C Conference in Hershey in February. Rita joined the Pennsylvania Writing Project in 2004 and the Philadelphia Writing Project in 1994.