Grammar is one of those things that you know is always there, but you usually forget about it. I know that before this year, I sure never gave much thought to grammar. See, I’ve always been naturally good at mechanics. I own my high marks on CSAPs and the ACT to my inherent ability to correct poorly written sentences. I think that I’m pretty lucky for acquiring this skill. My sister, on the other hand, hasn’t been so lucky. She had a huge writing assignment to write for her eighth grade English class and had asked me to proof read it since I’m “the English major”. It ended up taking me almost an hour just to fix the grammar mistakes in her three page paper. Ouch. I was a bit horrified at the extent of her mechanical errors. Nearly every other sentence was either a run on sentence or an incomplete one. I asked her to go back through on her own and take out all the contractions and pronouns. Upon that request, she stared at me blankly. What are they teaching kids about grammar in school? To me it’s such a shame because my sister is an outstanding writer. She has boundless creativity and her voice always shines through. She has scored partially proficient on the writing portion of her CSAPs every year though, just because she lacks the correct conventions. I don’t really think this is fair. She has aspired to be a writer, but low scores discourage her.
So why do kids have such poor grammar? I the sentence constructions I hear coming from my friends makes me cringe. In today’s world, grammar has gone out the window. With text messaging, instant messaging, and just plain talking, grammar conventions are commonly missing in action. Correct grammar seems to only be reserved for formal writing. But kids aren’t usually doing formal writing. They are texting, messaging, and speaking a lot more often, so they aren’t getting much practice using formal conventions. Where they do get to practice it is in school. But they don’t even spend much time learning grammar their either. This semester I am taking a college course focusing on grammar and on how to teach it. In my class on Monday we read that only ten percent of time is spent teaching grammar in the average English classroom. That seems about right to me. I know I can’t recall learning specific grammar rules in school and it seems as though my sister can’t either. I’m good at fixing grammar mistakes, but I couldn’t tell you WHY it’s wrong specifically. I think that it’s important for teachers to be confident in their knowledge of grammar and to be able to explain the why rather than just marking it wrong. We, as educators, need to incorporate teaching grammar into out reading and writing lessons. Students need to be practicing correct grammar everyday in some way. Being able to write with correct mechanics can make a huge difference for student’s future.