In this essay, Noguchi questions whether formal grammar instruction belongs in school curriculums. I think that everyone should have both an explicit knowledge of grammar, which comes from learning formal grammar, but also an implicit knowledge of grammar, which is much harder to teach.  After reading Noguchi’s essay, I believe that the way to give students an implicit knowledge of grammar is to place a bigger emphasis on reading skills, and the best way to give students an explicit knowledge of grammar is by teaching it in conjunction with a foreign language.

Noguchi breaks grammar down into two categories; “grammar as an academic subject” and “grammar as a tool for writing improvement.” Most people agree that grammar as an academic subject is boring and tedious. At the center we work on grammar as a tool for writing improvement, and we want to encourage students to become independent writers.  In my experience, teaching students to recognize the mistakes in their own writing is the most difficult thing. Students want to rely on the tutors to point out their errors, and tell them how to fix them.  When I do point out errors, for the most part the students can fix them.  But it is getting students to recognize the errors in the first place that is the real problem.  I think that for them to do this easily, they need to have an implicit knowledge of grammar, yet it is the implicit understanding of grammar that is difficult to teach. Instead, schools should place more of an emphasis on reading in general.  Noguchi makes a distinction between “reader-based perspectives” and “writer based one[s].” If students are familiar with being a reader, they can notice errors in grammar more easily and edit them out.  If students do not have this knowledge, they cannot outgrow their grammar errors, instead their errors just become more and more difficult to correct.

I think that the way that we work with grammar in the writing center is a good one.  We remove the remoteness of formal grammar by looking directly at the mistakes in a student’s paper.  Unfortunately classrooms cannot achieve this type of individualized attention, which is part of what generally makes learning formal grammar so terrible. Though Noguchi does not address this, I think that the best way for students to explicitly learn grammar is by studying another language.  It seems strange, but learning another language has taught me more formal English grammar than I learned in any other class.  For the most part, the ESL students that I tutor have much better formal knowledge of English than native speakers, but they just lack implicit knowledge of English and therefore the ability to easily recognize their own grammar mistakes.

Kerri McCarthy

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