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Session Details

Progressive Approaches to Grammar, Punctuation, and Usage SIG

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Session Code: FSIG.07
Area Cluster: 1-First-Year and Advanced Composition
Type of Session: SIG
Level: All
Abstract: This SIG will explore progressive approaches to grammar in the classroom: taking action by using grammar as a set of tools, not rules.
Description: Since the Braddock study in 1963 and the follow-up by Hillocks in 1986, the profession's attitude toward anything that might resemble the teaching of grammar can be summed up in the oft-quoted conclusion to Hillocks' study: "the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing." In other words, "teaching grammar" has been something scholars of composition have almost universally condemned.

In the past fifteen years, however, a growing number of articles and books has appeared suggesting that, if the "teaching of formal grammar" has had a "negligible effect," perhaps other approaches to helping students become more effective at the sentence level can have a significant effect. If traditional approaches to "teaching grammar" have been ineffective, perhaps the appropriate response is not to abandon all attempts, but to search for new pedagogies that are effective.

Martha Kolln, author of several texts, has developed an approach she calls rhetorical grammar. Rei Noguchi's NCTE book, Grammar and the Teaching of Writing, argues for a "writer's grammar" that makes use of writers' "underlying knowledge" of grammar. Robert Connors and Sharon Myers have questioned the abandonment of sentence-based pedagogies such as sentence combining, generative rhetoric, and imitation exercises. Books addressing various aspects of grammar instruction have been published by NCTE, Heinemann, and Boynton Cook. Among the better-known of these are Brock Haussamen's Grammar Alive!, Constance Weaver's Teaching Grammar in Context, David Mulroy's The War Against Grammar, James Williams's The Teacher's Grammar Book, Craig Hancock's Meaning Centered Grammar, Susan Hunter and Ray Wallace's The Place of Grammar in Writing Instruction, Amy Benjamin’s Engaging Grammar, and Edgar Schuster’s Breaking the Rules.

The Special Interest Group on the Teaching of English Grammar provides a forum for people like these: people who are interested in investigating new pedagogical approaches to the teaching of grammar, people who believe that if traditional approaches to teaching grammar have had a "negligible effect" on the quality of student writing, we want to develop approaches that will have a significant effect.

Note: We feel that this grammar SIG compliments the SIG on language and linguistics. If possible, we would prefer to be scheduled on different a evening. Many thanks.



  • Friday 4/8 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM in Hilton, Room 330, Level Three

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