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Grammar Alivel

NCTE Editorial Board: Gwen Alexander, Elizabeth Close, Cora Lee Five, JoeJanangelo, Ray Levi, Shuaib Meacham, Jaime Armin Mejia, Carolyn Phipps,Kyoko Sato, Zarina Hock, Chair, ex officio, Kent Williamson, ex officioWe gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the following members ofthe NCTE Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar:Paul E. DonigerHelene KrauthamerJohanna E. RubbaWanda Van GoorEdith WollinATEGThe NCTE Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar aims to improvethe teaching of grammar at all levels, from elementary school through college;to promote communication and cooperation among teachers, researchers,administrators, and others interested in the teaching of grammar; to providean open forum in which advocates of all grammar theories, representing thebroad spectrum of views of grammar and its teaching, can interact. Throughits listserv, its conference, and its journal, Syntax in the Schools, ATEG offerseducators information about grammar and suggestions for better ways to teachit. (For more information, visit ATEG's Web site at

Grammar Alive!A Guide for TeachersBrock Haussamenwith Amy Benjamin, Martha Kolln, Rebecca S. Wheeler,and members of NCTE's Assembly for the Teachingof English GrammarNational Council of Teachers of English1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801-1096

Chapter 5, "Non-Native Speakers in the English Classroom," was adapted fromthe book Differentiated Instruction: A Guide for Middle and High School by AmyBenjamin. This material is used with the permission of Eye on Education,Larchmont, New York, Editor: Bonny GrahamInterior Design: Doug BurnettCover Design: Barbara Yale-ReadNCTE Stock Number: 18720-3050 2003 by the National Council of Teachers of English.All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or trans mitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including pho tocopy, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permissionfrom the copyright holder. Printed in the United States of America.It is the policy of NCTE in its journals and other publications to provide a fo rum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the con tent and the teachingof English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point ofview does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board ofDirectors, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy,where such endorsement is clearly specified.Although every attempt is made to ensure accuracy at the time of publication,NCTE cannot guarantee that all published addresses for electronic mail or Websites are current.Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataHaussamen, Brock.Grammar alive! : a guide for teachers I Brock Haussamen, with AmyBenjamin, Martha Kolin, and Rebecca Wheeler and members of NCTE'sAssembly for the Teaching of English bibliographical references and index.ISBN 0-8141-1872-01. English language-Grammar-Study and teaching. 2. English language-Study and teaching. 3. Language arts. I. Assembly for the Teaching ofEnglish Grammar. II. Title.LB1576.H3235 2003372.61-dc222003015117

vContentsPrefaceviiVignette: Language about Language: A Middle School Grammar ClassIXIntroductionxiI. Grammar in the Classroom1. Three Goals for Teaching Grammar2. Discovering Grammar310Vignette: Flossie and the Fox: Code-Switching betweenthe Languages of Home and School14Vignette: Helping High School Juniors Get Comfortablewith Shakespeare's English203. Teaching the Language of Grammar23Vignette: Teaching the Passive Voice29Vignette: Teaching Pronouns with LEGOs31Vignette: Teaching the Absolute Phrase33Vignette: Subject-Verb Agreement: Slicing the Apple344. Flexing the Students' Sentence Sense37Vignette: Grammatical Choices, Sentence Boundaries,and Rhetorical Effects38Vignette: Sentence Imitation42Vignette: Teaching English Language Learners theKnown-New Pattern475. Non-Native Speakers in the English Classroom50Vignette: Teaching English Language Learners inElementary Grades61Vignette: Helping a Ninth-Grade Student Use the64

ContentsviII. On Grammar6. Grammar Superstitions: The Never-Never Rules717. Diagramming Sentences8. An Overview of Linguistic Grammar80Conclusion95A Grammar Glossary97Sources and Resources109Index113Author and Contributors119

viPrefaceThe Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar (ATEG) wasborn in the late 1980s with Edward Vavra's newsletter Syntax inthe Schools, a forum for educators interested in the teaching ofgrammar and concerned about its neglect. The readers came togetherfor the first ATEG conference at Dr. Vavra's institution, ShenandoahCollege in Winchester, Virginia, in 1989. Martha Kolln, from Pennsyl vania State University, was elected president. In the years following,ATEG formally became an Assembly of the National Council of Teach ers of English. Its members hold an annual conference in July at differ ent institutions around the country. ATEG's goal has remained to en courage the effective teaching of grammar and to provide a forum fordiscussions about grammar teaching. The Assembly now publishes Syn tax in the Schools as a refereed journal and has a Web site at www.ateg.orgas well as an active listserv.This guide is the product of many years of ATEG members' ex citement about the possibilities for teaching grammar and their dismaythat the subject has remained so bogged down in outdated ideas andapproaches. In 1998, a committee began work on a report that evolvedinto this book.The several authors of the book have both written portions of itand helped revise one another's work, so the collaboration has been arich one. The introduction was written by Brock Haussamen, with re visions by Amy Benjamin. The three goals for the teaching of grammar,laid out in Chapter 1, were first formulated by Johanna Rubba; the dis cussions of the goals were written by Brock Haussamen. Most of thesuggestions for methods and lessons in Chapters 2, 3, and 4 were firstwritten by Amy Benjamin and Johanna Rubba. The methodology por tion of Chapter 2, "Discovering Grammar through Language Variety,"was written by Rebecca Wheeler. Chapter 5, "Non-Native Speakers inthe English Classroom," was adapted from the book Differentiated In struction: A Guide for Middle and High School by Amy Benjamin; it is usedwith the permission of the publisher, Eye on Education. I'm grateful toMiriam Moore and Christine Herron of Raritan Valley CommunityCollege for suggesting additions to this material. "Grammar Supersti tions: The Never-Never Rules," Chapter 6, was written by Amy Ben jamin. Chapter 7, "Diagramming Sentences," and the grammar glos sary were prepared by Brock Haussamen with help from Martha KolIn,

viiiPrefacebased on material from Understanding English Grammar by Martha KolInand Robert Funk. Chapter 8, "An Overview of Linguistic Grammar,"was written by Martha Kolln, who also contributed to the final edit ofthe whole manuscript. Chapters 3, 4, and the conclusion and portionsof other sections were written by Brock Haussamen, who also organizedand edited the entire book. The vignettes are signed by the authors.Additional ATEG members who commented on early drafts are PamDykstra, Loretta Gray, Edith Wollin, and Robert Yates. Finally, NCTESenior Editor Zarina Hock and several anonymous readers made manyhelpful suggestions about additions to the original manuscript as wellas improvements throughout the text.Brock HaussamenPresident, Assembly for the Teaching of English GrammarRaritan Valley Community College

VignetteVIGNETTE: LANGUAGE ABOUT LANGUAGE:A MIDDLE SCHOOL GRAMMAR CLASSThe voices of the seventh and eighth graders in Mrs. Cahill's period4 class spill out into the hall. Her students are often so boisterous thatshe feels a little chagrined: "What must people be thinking when theypass by this room sometimes during our Language Workshop?" shethinks.One thing few people would think is that Mrs. Cahill is teach ing grammar. There are no books, no exercises, no diagrams, no rulesand maxims to learn. What the students bring to the lesson is theirown language, the language they hear in their world. In today's les son, Mrs. Cahill will teach sentence completeness and the differencebetween formal and informal registers. She uses the language of streetsigns. The students call out the street signs they know, beginning withthe teacher's cues:No ParkingMerge LeftThe students burst into a torrent of street-sign language: Slip pery When Wet; Wrong Way; Go Back; Dead End; No Outlet; SurveyCrew Ahead; Last Exit Before Toll. Mrs. Cahill stops after writingtwenty sign messages on the board.Are any of these complete sentences?" she asks. "00 any haveboth a subject and a verb?" When the students agree that the streetsigns do not represent complete sentences, Mrs. Cahill asks this:"What if you were to put the words You should in front of these signs?Which ones would become complete sentences then?" The kids test"You should . " against the signs."You should merge left.""You should go back."This is the teachable moment about the understood you-sub ject of commands."What other street signs give commands?" The students add"Stop" and "Yield" to their list. Mrs. Cahill explains that in the En glish language we have a convention that makes commands soundless bossy. "How would you say 'Stop' or 'Yield' more politely?" Ofcourse, everyone says, "Please."" Are there any other ways to sound polite when making a com mand? How would you say the other signs politely?"IIix

VignettexThe kids respond with "Please do not park here" and "Pleaseturn around because you are going the wrong way."The teacher points out that although the "please" form is themost obvious, we also can sound polite (formalize our register) bysaying, "We would appreciate it if you would park elsewhere" or "Itmight be a good idea to merge left right about now." It's easy forkids to deduce that the formal register might not convey the neededimperative carried by the informal. When it comes to traffic signs,brevity is practical in more ways than one. "When you say it politely,it sounds like they don't have to do it right now," remarks one stu dent. "When you just say do it,' they obey the sign.""This is a dead end"; "This is the last exit before the tolL" Mrs.Cahill asks if these statements are polite or impolite. The kids see thatthey are neither. These iterations are neutral in tone. "How would youmake these signs dress down? How would you make them speak inan informal voice?""Wrong way, you idiot!""Wrong way . duh!""You better stop!""Hey, look at this view!"Mrs. Cahill asks the students to make columns for phrases andclauses and then for declarative sentences and commands.Mrs. Cahill's students think that her Language Workshop isfun, but they don't always see the connection between what they al ready know about language and what an English teacher cares about.So Mrs. Cahill prompts them. "What words have we used today thatgo in our Language About Language notes?" The students keep asection in their English notebook for terms such as tone, command,subject, verb, complete sentence, phrase, clause, formal, informal. Mrs.Cahill's Language Workshop has looked at advertising, slogans,movie quotations, sitcom titles, music, weather reports, dollar bills,CD jackets, and other examples of authentic language. The students'Language About Language pages continue to grow with examplesand new terminology. And they never use a grammar book!-Amy BenjaminI

x:IntroductionA Broken SubjectAt the start of this new millennium, throughout much of the K-12 En glish curriculum, grammar is a broken subject. If you find yourself justnot knowing what to do about grammar-how to teach it, how to ap ply it, how to learn what you yourself were never taught-you are notalone. Grammar is often ignored, broken off altogether from the teach ing of literature, rhetoric, drama, composition, and creative writing.Grammar is the skunk at the garden party of the language arts. Perhapsyou've set aside time for labeling parts of speech, correcting errors, andmodeling effective use of punctuation, but you may feel unmoored: youwonder whether the grammar you learned in school (what little theremay have been) is sufficient or if the methods you learned by are up to-date. And you certainly wouldn't be alone if you were embarrassedto reveal to your colleagues all that you don't know about grammar.Grammar feels like a frowning pedant reproaching you for not know ing enough about subject-verb agreement, for blithely ending sentenceswith prepositions, for splitting infinitives without even understandingwhat that means, for promiscuous use of commas and flagrant case vio lations. And, even if you speak and write with a confident tongue andwell-schooled hand, you may tremble at the thought of trying to get yourstudents to write complete sentences.You are not alone. The obstacles to revitalizing the teaching ofgrammar are several. One is that our profession has lost sight of theconnection between studying grammar and learning to read and write.As Robert J. Connors recounted in "The Erasure of the Sentence," ourinterest in analyzing sentences has faded since the 1970s. Today it is theprocess of writing, along with originality, authenticity, and personalwriting, that we value. The change has left sentence-level work-evensuch proven approaches as sentence combining-in shadow. We're notcomfortable encouraging students to be original and authentic oneminute and then assigning them exercises in sentence structure the next.Many English departments, and highly respected English teachers, ar gue forcefully that sentence-level work is mechanical, behavioristic,antihumanistic, and, most scorn-worthy of all, boring.Another obstacle to revitalizing the role of grammar is the ten sion between the traditional teaching of grammar and the varieties oflanguage that our students speak in their homes. It's understandable if

xuIntroductionyou feel on shaky ground at the thought of setting up rules about cor rect and incorrect English. After all, who are you to declare that yourbrand of English should trump anyone else's? One of the foremost goalsof the curriculum is to broaden the Western canon, fosteringmulticulturalism, not undermining it. How does living harmoniouslyin a pluralistic society square with the mandate to teach, model, andprefer the variety of English spoken easily by the dominant culture? Onthe other hand, we acknowledge our duty to equip students with thekeys they will need to open doors that might be closed to them on thebasis of their speech, not to mention their writing. English, like almostall languages, has a prestige dialect: the language of power is used forbusiness, education, and government. The opposing force is the valuethat we place on treasuring the diversity of American subcultures, andwhat is more intimate to these subcultures than their language? You maywell feel caught in the middle between these obligations, and there isno easy way to find a balance.These two tensions-between the traditional teaching of gram mar and the goals of both confident writing and the culturally inclu sive classroom--entail complex issues and valid charges. This guidefrom the Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar does not ana lyze or deny the charges. Instead it is a proposal for overcoming bothconflicts by integrating grammar into the multicultural reading/writ ing classroom. It asks and proposes answers to several questions: How can we teach grammar to support learning in all languageskills? How can we teach grammar so that students discover its rulesand principles on their own instead of hearing us impose thoserules and principles on them? How can we teach grammar so that we strengthen rather thanundermine our efforts to honor the voices and cultures of allstudents? How can we teach grammar so that the knowledge it providescan help learners feel confident about their own language andappreciate the languages of others?We must answer these questions because, despite the rejection oftraditional grammar teaching, grammar does not go away. It appearsin almost all language arts texts. Almost all schoolchildren are assignedlessons on the parts of speech and the basic rules--even if they do notunderstand them, do not remember them, and cannot apply them. Wehave a nagging sense that we may not be delivering the full packagewhen we disregard grammar. But we don't know where to begin. You

Introductionare probably reading this book because you want to teach grammar orhave been required to do so. The education courses you took, however,probably neglected grammar and linguistics, so you may feel that youhave little choice but to follow the mostly dry, mechanical treatmentsof grammar, the "no-no's" of the rules and errors, that have changedlittle in the textbooks and are the reason so many believe that grammarshould instead be shelved.Two Kinds of GrammarThe underlying reason that grammar hangs on in the curriculum is thatwe realize that knowledge about language is valuable. Actually, the termgrammar refers to two kinds of knowledge about language. One is sub conscious knowledge, the language ability that children develop at anearly age without being taught. As children begin to talk, as they be come able to form sentences, their brains are forming their "grammarcircuits" automatically. The other kind of knowledge is the consciousunderstanding of sentences and texts that can help students improvetheir reading and writing abilities by building on that subconsciousknowledge. This conscious understanding includes knowing the partsof sentences and how they work together, knowing how sentences con nect with one another to build meaning, and understanding how andwhy we use language in different ways in different social situations.In teaching grammar in school, we are not really teaching gram mar at all: children learn that automatically; rather, we are teaching stu dents about grammar, and we are hoping to bring them the added con fidence and clarity that go with any knowledge that strengthens skillsand deepens understanding. That we are "teaching about grammar" isan insight that comes to us from work in linguistics over the last cen tury. This book includes some of that work.The problem with school grammar has not been grammar itselfas much as it has been the way grammar is usually taught. Instead ofhelping students to focus on real literature or on the actual paper theyare writing, traditional grammar pedagogy requires students to diverttheir attention to the isolated and often contrived sentences in a text book. It encourages students-and teachers-to believe that the author ity for Standard English is that separate book of rules rather than lit erature and the language of those with power and prestige in the liv ing culture. It focuses on errors instead of on the understanding of lan guage. Some teachers still lament that they can teach comma rules orsubject-verb agreement at length only to find that their students con tinue to make the errors. But many other teachers do understand thatxiii

xivIntroductionwriting is an exceedingly complex cognitive and social task. The reduc tion of conventional errors takes a great deal of experience in reading,in writing, and in talking about reading and writing. Formal grammaris a tool for talking about and thinking about sentences; it is not, by it self, a tool for making errors go away (as Constance Weaver emphasizesin Teaching Grarnrnar in Context and in her other books, listed in the"Sources and Resources" section at the end of the book).Let's consider the traditions that stand behind the way formalgrammar has been taught out of the textbook. We do this to understandhow grammar education has become what it is today. Until the mod em era, the teaching of grammar rules was primarily a method for teach in

based on material from Understanding English Grammar by Martha KolIn and Robert Funk. Chapter 8, "An Overview of Linguistic Grammar," was written by Martha Kolln, who also contributed to the final edit of the whole manuscript. Chapters 3, 4, and the conclusion and portions