Online Writing Lab

Teaching Grammar

Because grammar can be complicated, some instructors are hesitant to teach and/or address grammar in their classrooms.  Some instructors also believe that grammar should be taught in a composition class, not in the classroom of a non-English discipline.  While it is certainly true that composition classes do teach grammar, students often need additional grammar practice in order to become better writers. 

Furthermore, it is important to realize that it is likely that not all students in any particular class have successfully passed an English Composition class.  Prerequisites and guidelines are often changing and, unfortunately, are not always followed.  Even if a particular composition class is supposed to be a requirement for students to enroll in your class, you cannot assume that all of your students have done so. 

Finally, keep in mind that if you expect your students to write grammatically correct, and a portion of their grade on a writing assignment is based on their ability to do so, it must be addressed in your class.  Without any form of grammar practice, it becomes hard to justify assessing a student’s ability to write grammatically correct.

Tips for Teaching Grammar

Hold 5 minute grammar Lessons:  Many instructors fail to cover grammar due to a lack of available class time.  This is a legitimate concern, but addressing a few grammar issues doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  Think about beginning class sessions with quick grammar sessions that explain one particular rule and provide a few, quick examples.   Doing this frequently will allow for sufficient grammar review without disrupting important class content.

Focus on the errors you see the most:  If, for example, students are creating far more comma splices than they should, spend a portion of the class discussing this issue and how to prevent it.   This can be done for both common errors and ones that are irritating, even if not entirely common.

Focus on the guidelines that are particularly important to your discipline:  Every discipline has different writing rules that need to be followed, and these differences across disciplines often confuse students.  Because of this, focus on the rules that are most important in your discipline and explain why.   This allows your students to better understand certain rules and why these subtle differences in different content areas exist.

Make it a part of content lessons and/or workshops:  Every time you model a full essay or a partial one (a body paragraph, for example), quickly address the grammar issues in addition to the content ones.   This can also be done as part of peer workshops, where students can help each other with grammar issues (more on peer workshops).

It is also important to keep in mind that grammar is dynamic and varies between disciplines.  Because of this, don’t teach all forms of grammar as strict rules for your students to always follow in all of their writings, but instead emphasize why the rule is important to a given discipline.