Friday, January 4, 2013

Goals for 2013 -- 5th Grade English

One goal for my English class this term is to incorporate lessons on grammar and mechanics into our existing Writers' Workshop. Like most of you, I shy away from worksheets and workbooks, but I felt at a loss as to how to teach punctuation, parts of speech, etc., without using some element of rote learning or long editing sessions with a red pen.  So, twice a week my students would take out their Writing Skills workbooks and spend 15 minutes on topic sentences or descriptive language. I don't even want to think of how many hours I've spent editing student work, catching every single small error without providing truly meaningful context for fixing them.

Yesterday I finally read Mechanically Inclined (which had been sitting on my shelf for months, an unknown treasure trove of teaching ideas), and I'm feeling very excited to get back to my classroom next week so I can start introducing some of author Jeff Anderson's (@writeguyjeff) strategies. It was a relief to read the early chapters of Anderson's book, in which he reassured me that workbooks are indeed a poor choice for teaching grammar, an assertion which he bases both on research and his own expertise. Workbooks are completely at odds with everything else that goes on in my PBL classroom, so I'm delighted to look for other avenues for teaching these skills. Anderson advocates teaching students how to notice and fix their own writing errors all within the parameters of an excellent Writer's Workshop model. He suggests using mentor texts not only as inspiration for writing ideas, but also as models of strong and effective grammar use. As we rely heavily on mentor texts and workshop conversations in my English classes, I'm looking forward to adding this new layer of meaning to the work my students are already doing.

English teachers, how do you incorporate lessons on grammar and mechanics into your classes?

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