For And Against Grammar Instruction

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • May
  • 09
  • 2006

The ebb and flow of grammar instruction continues.

During a meeting today, the subject of a workshop on grammar popped up. A few years ago, my school decided that every English 1 would begin with (at least) a 2-week grammar/syntax unit. Last year, I taught that unit. Various folk in my district have suggested a standardized grammar pre- and post-test for the freshman year. The NWEA test seeks to assess freshman knowledge of various grammatical terms and patterns. The STAR tests include sections of grammar questions. I told a colleague about my lack of knowledge and concern about grammatical terms; the reply was, “I think your admission of ignorance of conjunctive adverbs is a little disconcerting.”

On my quiet stroll to the car during a windy evening in May, I thought about why we teach grammar. Many teachers, veteran and newbie alike, somehow feel that grammar instruction, in and of itself, should be done. There seems very little arguing over the matter, it’s just something that’s regularly accepted as good and considered heresy in some circles to speak against. Syntax is pushed in classrooms across the nation (world?) with the expectation that better writing will follow.

But what are the reasons to teach grammar? And what are the reasons to avoid grammar instruction? Do you feel the same thing I do, that many teachers just accept grammar practice as a natural part of teaching English? Why do you teach grammar? Why do you not?

Post what you can now because your ideas might be ones that I haven’t thought of before. Tomorrow I’ll post ideas in favor of grammar instruction; the day after will bring to light reasons against. I’ll do my best to play both sides of the fence.


1. Julia says:

[5/10/2006 - 5:48 pm]

This sounds like a good idea. Our kids certainly need it. Very interesting blog.

2. Todd says:

[5/10/2006 - 7:26 pm]

Our kids need what? Grammar instruction? I’m not so sure. Why do you feel like they need it? What have you seen grammar instruction do? Tommorrow is my entry against grammar instruction. Let me know what you think.

3. Robyn says:

[1/4/2012 - 7:56 pm]

I think that grammar is important but boring, I am trying to write a persuasive essay against grammar but I am just finding more ways why we should have grammar. I need three things against grammar… any ideas?