Life is tons of discipline. Your first discipline is your vocabulary; then your grammar and your punctuation. Then, in your exuberance and bounding energy you say you’re going to add to that. Then you add rhyme and meter. And your delight is in that power.
The email started off with the words “your credit card has been suspended” and I was on alert for a scam. The definitive clue came in the sentence: “We determine that someone may be using your card without your permission.” Oh? You determine? No, I think you determined and now I’m certain that despite the official-looking email, you are a scam artist.
There are many reasons not to be overly concerned with Standard English in our everyday speech. We have shortcuts, intimacies, dialects — you name it. But when we are conducting business or addressing an audience that expects precision, we need to work hard to get it right according to current language conventions. As much as we may wish this wasn’t so, in many situations our language is judged and if it doesn’t fit the standards of the setting, it is disregarded.
My point is not to get the scam artists out there to brush up on their syntax. What matters to teachers is that students need to know about this power dynamic. This came up when I was looking at student writing with a second-year teacher I’ll call Shari. One of the students was using ‘was’ in place of ‘were’ as in, “We was going downtown.” Shari said she hadn’t drawn his attention to the error in previous writing because that was how he talked. She didn’t want to show disrespect for the language used at home. I suggested, “Then how about yes/and approach? Let’s affirm that yes, his everyday language is a part of who he is AND . . .when writing a piece for his teachers and peers here’s what to do with ‘was’ and ‘were.’ You will be giving him the gift of teaching him how to write using conventions so his message is received. That’s respect for him and respect for his future literacy.”
This week we’ve compiled a wealth of resources to help you teach students about grammar and writing conventions. Plus more as always — enjoy!
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From the archives, Franki Sibberson shares a booklist for Teaching About Words, Grammar, and Mechanics Through Children’s Literature:
This quote collection on punctuation includes fun and provocative quotes to share in newsletters or at a staff meeting:
Check out the Choice Literacy Pinterest board with mentor texts for teaching punctuation:
The Living Dead from Grammarphobia explains the top language myths which need to be buried, from “never split an infinitive” to “don’t end a sentence with a preposition”:
The Grammar Handbook from the University of Illinois is a comprehensive and succinct web guide to rules and definitions of grammar terms:
Here are the 20 Most Common Errors for Writers (other than spelling), from comma splices to dangling modifiers:
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We’re starting a new month-long series on conventions this week. Heather Rader works with a teaching team as they integrate conventions instruction into their writing workshop:
In this week’s video, Linda Karamatic is launching a unit on punctuation with her second graders which includes mentor texts, inquiry, and anchor charts:
Aimee Buckner makes some surprising discoveries about what types of texts support writers working in nonfiction genres in Reading to Write Informational Text:
Stella Villalba has practical advice for reaching a young English language learner who is reluctant to write and often frustrated in Jose the Late Bloomer:
New PD2Go: Franki Sibberson’s Nonfiction Word Hunt is a fun way to fuse content and vocabulary instruction. The workshop is linked to Common Core Standard L.3.6 on grade-appropriate word learning, and includes a video, supplemental text from Franki, and a guide for using the materials in professional development settings:
That’s all for this week!