In Rei Noguchi’s “Grammar and the Teaching of Writing: Limits and Possibilities,” he explores the argument regarding the instruction of grammar in the classroom. He has a valid line of reasoning, that an over or under emphasis on traditional grammar can have a negative affect on the improvement of writing. I would agree with him; grammar has a place in the instruction of writing, but it should not be the main component.
Noguchi broke the connection between writing and grammar into three different components: grammar and content, grammar and organization, and grammar and style. The first two sections have no association with grammar. The latter, style, incorporates grammar; the way one uses grammar can determine one’s style. He explains, “because style involves both standard and nonstandard features, it covers such aspects of “mechanics” as verb tense, sentence fragments, run-ons, comma splices, and subject-verb agreement” (11). All of these are considered forms of grammar, which must be taught to students.
Although grammar is not the most important aspect of writing, it should not be disregarded all together. Yes, I would agree, the shock of receiving a paper back that you felt you had done extremely well on, with red markings all over, is quite disheartening. Teachers that focus more on the grammatical errors as opposed to the content and organization can damage students’ interest in writing in general. No student feels confident in their writing abilities with so many corrections made on a paper. Likewise, an under emphasis on grammar would be inappropriate. It would give students the authority to write in slang and ignore the rules. There is a “grammar” portion of every essay rubric for a reason. Even if the students chose to write improperly, they should still be taught the correct usage of grammar.
At the Plangere Writing Center, as tutors, we are instructed to read over students’ papers for the content and to get a feel for their organizational skills but not to be grammar critics unless there is a major reoccurring issue. This way, we can work with the students to improve the way they write papers, not silly little things like a misplaced comma. There is a time and place for grammar, but as tutors it should not be the main focus of each session. I will definitely take Noguchi’s advice on being a moderate stickler for grammar into consideration when it comes to tutoring.