Grammar Instruction

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27 thoughts on “Grammar Instruction”

  1. This is exactly what Krashen has said. Grammar is for grammarians but it’s also not evil. BVP has basically said it’s a short hand to describe something that cannot be easily described. But my question is what do we do with the grammar loving kids? I have a student who really wants verb charts and grammar instruction…

    1. Russ keep hammering the kids who want the grammar with stories. This year I turned a very large number of very staunch grammar kids into not wanting to do it at all. Even the most extreme cases get publicly castigated by the rest of the class. How? Stories stories and more stories.

      One of my big learnings here in India this year – you can imagine how conservative the fl base is here w its connection to England – was that the only way to get them to forget grammar and work sheets is to assign them jobs that command respect and importance in the classroom and that engage their imaginations.

      Yesterday after a story with my eighth graders, who have been predictably slow to get into stories, unlike the sixth graders who blasted off in the fall and have been in story orbit ever since, I was talking to a child who had been moved up to third year eighth grade French and who spent until January with a look in her eyes that I am sure you have seen as well – a look of enormous skepticism re stories.

      (And by the way we both know what a psychic burden that can be in class to see that in a kid’s eyes bc since they won’t play the game we are reduced from “narrator” to “salesman” trying to make a sale on the method. How much does that suck?) End of story, the girl wouldn’t even leave the room yesterday to go to lunch after class.

      She wanted to explain to me as if I didn’t know how it was SHE that directed the details that led to perhaps one of the best stories I have ever seen in my fifteen years of doing this – no exaggeration.

      It was like, “And I thought of the part where the beehive was on the big hand of the clock on the building and Emma then drew that but she didn’t get the time on the clock right so I had to explain that the beehive was not on the small hand and I also am the one who figured out that the big hand was going to come down and crush the beehive and all the bees in it!

      And then I said do you know what your face looked like when I told you there were two hundred thousand bees in that hive? You looked like you were almost going to cry and so I had to tell you it was only a story do you remember that now go to lunch and she said can we continue that story next time and I said maybe not go to lunch.

      And I remember remarking to myself in those little teacher moments where we stand in our suddenly empty room and stare at the carpet for a few seconds in a kind of “gathering” moment how that same girl had had all that dark doubt in her eyes for four months and how it hurt me.

      Maybe next class I’ll teach that class a class on relative pronouns. Not for them. For me. My 24 years as an AP teacher make me love grammar and now all these hippies are doing stories. Hey! What’s going on?


        1. Diane of course it depends on the kid. But I have found that since I have made some changes in what I do this year on a fairly deep level I am stronger and more able to challenge those kids.

          Thank you for pointing that out. At some point we have to own who we are in this work. I wave my freak flag in my classroom all the time now. I go into stories full on, heart open, ready to laugh, to see their genius. Satan get thee behind me.

      1. Thank you for the insight and the inspirational work you are obviously doing. I cannot wait to see you in August! When Chris and Tina said that your training would take my TPRS to new heights, I took that as high praise. I honestly never thought that I could do a lot of the things that you have been advocating: 98% TL, unscripted story telling, extending pqa for as long as it takes to engage my students as human beings, etc. but I now know I just wasn’t ready, but I am convinced that my time is now. It feels great to be this excited about being a Spanish teacher this late in the year! (language parent is my preferred term, although I did not Invent it)

        1. Your time is NOW Russ! I am so happy to have you here. Can I come visit you on April 29? Can you come see me sometime this year? We are having a blowout sale on awesome stories in my room. These kids are amazing me right now. 35 more school days left and they are rocking it out. To hear them talk brings tears to my eyes. I have not taught French in years and it is my first year of teaching Spanish…and I forgot how sweet it is to see those seeds sprouting in Spring. I would love to visit each other’s schools.

          1. If course you can come visit me on the 29th but sadly I don’t know if I can come visit you this year but maybe next year my whole dept can!

  2. I find instructional videos for those kids on YouTube and post them on our LMS. I tell those kids to watch them on their own. Most of them don’t! So, I guess, they don’t really want it all that badly after all.

    1. What they want is for the whole class to be forced to do it, so THEY can receive validation the only way they know, by feeling smarter than other kids. Making grammar optional/extra credit is really the best way to deal with these kids, since it puts the ball in their court.

      1. …what they want is for the whole class to be forced to do it, so THEY can receive validation the only way they know, by feeling smarter than other kids….

        Vintage Piazza. I’ll have three slices.

          1. Yes I had forgotten about the nicknames.

            My favorite one is about eight years old now: Robert – Le Chevalier de l’Ouest, whose current official title is Le Roi des Chevaliers de l’Ordre de Los Angeles.

            Thanks for the reminder, both you and Claire, the Future Queen of China (Diane) and the Queen of Tennessee, aka Builder of Future Bridges Between Worlds That Most People Don’t Even Know Exist (Claire).

            (Diane I will tell Linda Li when I see her in the morning that she may not know it but she is actually the current Queen of China but when she becomes an American citizen next year she will have to abdicate and you will be good to go as the new queen. It’s been very confusing for the Chinese people anyway because they wonder why their queen lives in India. Don’t feel too bad about Annick not getting it – she didn’t want it being from Taiwan and gave me a good scolding about that a few years back in Denver so that I would never forget it. So I am glad the confusion will end at your coronation in early 2017. Your first duties as head of China will be to overhaul the current state of TPRS/China relations. I just checked the almanac, by the way, and you are the first white Queen of China in about 500 years. So that is kind of cool right there.)

          2. Thank you, Ben. This is reminiscent of a 5th grader who’d looked up some Chinese history, called me Wu Zetian (empress in the Tang dynasty), and bowed at my feet a few years ago. Boy was that unexpected. I pulled him off the floor. Felt like a scene in the Book of Acts — truly, I am just a human like yourself, kiddo. He was such a ham.

            But still think it’d be cooler to be Galadriel. Darn. Eowyn would work, too. Not Arwen. I would really be happy to overhaul TPRS/China relations though! I’ll accept.

          3. Thanks, Ben. In the words of Lana Del Rey, “But you’re the king, too, so I would say, “Back at ya!”‘

            I can’t build anything; I only confuse people (even very smart people here like you). Someday those bridges will be built, though.

      2. I love that, being a recovering “I am smarter than ALL Y’ALL” grammar nerd. It is so true, these kids want to have their business-as-usual chance to be the smartest one. (But I know deep down that even though I was a big old grammar lovah, I would have EATEN UP stories and especially with a teacher who could have seen me, and helped me belong, and helped me make a contribution!) I loved my French teacher Mme Coggins so very much, so much, but how much more would I have loved that sainted woman if she had given me a job, and a voice, and honored my imagination, and helped me shine in front of my peers. My gosh, I might have literally died of joy. And I could have seen another way to shine, another way to feel love in school.

  3. I actually love all of your videos I have also loved your blog it has really helped me in my TPRS journey. I also love your cuentas conmigo videos!! Thanks for all the great content!

  4. Russ it is clear to me that your heart is kind and your mind is sharp. You bring great energy to the group just when we all need it in this tough month of April. I know that you are going to be great at this. I bow down to you. Can’t wait to meet you in Oregon.

  5. Ben,
    Well those are truly kind words but I am just trying to keep up in this sea of TPRS/CI insight, support, and community. And that is what I need in this tough month, so I thank you and all the members here. Merci beaucoup.

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