Wednesday, April 6, 2011

December 1976: Grammar

Note: For quite a while in the profession of English education, the uselessness of studying grammar to improve writing was hotly debated. As is usually the case in either/or situations, the profession has recognized that the study of grammar does have uses in polishing writing. The following article shed some light on what was wrong with teaching grammar, i.e., the study of terminology as opposed to the study of usage which had some application to writing and speaking. RayS.

Problem/Quote: “English teachers, for the most part, have long been aware of the futility of teaching formal grammar terminology. Students, almost to a person, despise it, and such study is usually what people have in mind when they express negative feelings about English class and English teachers. That the study of the terminology of formal grammar does not demonstrably affect basic language skills will be agreed upon by most professionals.” P. 37.

“No one, of course, suggests that grammar usage should be ignored. It is an essential element of a good language arts program. The emphasis, however, should be on usage rather than on terminology. Other than the very basic grammar terms, grammar terminology might be reserved for the class in linguistics.” P. 40.

Comment: A handful of grammatical terms is necessary to be able to describe problems in usage. Subject, verb, verbal, direct objects, adjective, adverbs, complex and compound sentences; coordination, subordination; dangling and misplaced modifiers; relative pronouns; demonstrative pronouns, active and passive voice, etc. The author’s contention is that this terminology should have some application to problems in usage. To teach the terminology as an end in itself is what he seems to be objecting to. And I agree. RayS.

Title: “Do We Need to Teach a Grammar Terminology?” Gary A. Sutton. English Journal (December 1976), pp. 37 – 40.

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