Grammar and the Teaching of Writing response

Nicole Vassallo
“Grammar and the Teaching of Writing” Response
From what I can remember, I absolutely hated learning grammar. When I was deciding on a major to choose at Rutgers, I stayed away from English for the longest time because I remembered my hatred for it in my middle school and high school years. I eventually became an English major, but realized I had to re-learn a lot of the grammar that I had forgotten because either I did not learn it properly or I have just lost most of it over the years. Basically, a combination of probable cause numbers 1 (formal grammar, being uninteresting or too difficult, is not adequately learned by students) and 2 (formal grammar, even if adequately learned, is not transferred to writing situations (4)) caused me to forget all I had learned about grammar and not be able to transfer it into writing.
I honestly think that if I didn’t read so many books, I would have a terrible writing form. Up until last year, I couldn’t have told you what a preposition was or used one in a sentence, but I was receiving constant “A’s” on all of my formally written papers; from where was I getting my structure? I believe I was able to write decently because I had been copying the form of scholarly articles and books and, as I put it, “making myself sound smart.” I know that I do not speak in the language I write papers in, but it makes sense and is pretty easy for me to form sentences that sound intelligent (most of the time).
One of my students was having trouble understanding the expos topic that she had to write a paper on, so we went through it together, and I found that I was also having a problem understanding his phrasing of the question. After reading it aloud a few times, it finally clicked, but I had to change the wording completely so that my student would understand. After I changed the wording, my student understood the topic, but asked me, “Why didn’t my teacher phrase it in a normal way?” I jokingly replied that her teacher just wanted to “sound smart,” but the real reasoning was because of grammar. When I told my student this, she sighed and we moved on, but thinking back on it, it was worded very strangely and could have been conveyed much clearer, especially to younger college students.
The only aspect of the anti-grammar approach that I am on the fence about is the fact that without grammar, our sentence structures would be jumbled. I can easily refute this, however, with my argument from before, which is that I learned how to write well from reading a ridiculous amount of books while I was growing up. An argument to refute that, (double refute!) is that some people may not be able to transfer sentence structures from just reading a book, or that most kids do not read as much as I did/do and would have little to base their possible observational structure off of.
With all of that said, I believe that a compromise should probably be made so that we are not wasting our time teaching students something that they are most likely not going to retain. Students should be taught loose grammar structure, and teachers can use the time that they would have spent teaching grammar to teach students a bigger list of vocabulary words. I’m not sure if I’m the only one, but I loved learning vocabulary words because of the fact that I could easily memorize 20 different facts throughout the week. (20 facts being the 20 new vocab words we were learning.) I think the sense of accomplishment I got from knowing 20 completely new words kept me excited to learn more, as opposed to learning little bits of sentence structure a time in my grammar lessons.

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