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You Can Teach Writing

By: Linda Aragoni | June 08, 2018

Most people say good English means using:

  • Correct grammar.
  • Correct punctuation.
  • Correct usage.
  • Correct spelling (of words in written work).

However, most people would be hard-pressed to identify precisely which rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage must be followed in writing and speaking or which words must be spelled correctly for the writing to be "good English."

By: Linda Aragoni | December 22, 2017

Whatever holidays you are celebrating this month, I hope that their pronouns agree with them.

Bank window with holiday decorations. Local bank window with decorations for several holidays and a sales pitch. Best wishes, Linda Aragoni

Category: Language & literacy 

Tags: grammar 

By: Linda Aragoni | June 09, 2017

As many people have pointed out, I do a lot of really weird stuff when I teach writing. Sometimes the stuff I do becomes mainstream after a few decades: I began flipping my classroom during my first college teaching job back in 1970; I began doing backward design six years later as I wrote instructional materials General Electric's Field Engineering School.

My best weird idea

One of my best ideas is a method of attacking the written errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling that are harder to get rid of than Lady MacBeth's spots. You know the ones I mean. They are intransigent errors such as:
  • Using it's when its is called for.
  • Failing to put a comma after an introductory element in a sentence.
  • Writing unintentional fragments.
  • ...

By: Linda Aragoni | August 26, 2015

photo of vegetable products above headline about what Americans want in food and the food chain Don't just laugh. Make that headline into a learning activity about how grammar and punctuation interact to create meaning.

By: Linda Aragoni | May 07, 2015

Although it's only May, it is not too early to plan a major push to get rid of some persistent writing mechanics errors next school year. Instead of the usual test-prep methods of working on grammar, punctuation, and spelling, try drilling down into the problems students actually have when they write. Organize a contest to see which students can do the best job of eliminating habitual writing mechanics errors from their own writing. A contest can be done within a class but it's far more interesting if the competition is between classes or between grades. chart of top 20 errors in student writing with associated  resources The most-common student errors and resources for mastering them. Before the school year starts, pick a specific number of errors that all contestants will attempt to eliminate by a spe...

By: Linda Aragoni | April 09, 2015

The number of serious mechanical errors most students make routinely is small. Even students who seem to make all sorts of errors can profit from learning to focus on eliminating a handful of them. Serious mechanical problems often result from misunderstanding some concept that underlies several rules. If they can master one grammar concept, students can often solve several mechanical errors. If students can be induced to master a small number of serious errors and to edit their own writing to eliminate those errors, students' work will appear more polished. Even when eliminating habitual errors produces only modest improvement to students' written output, the psychological benefit to students of mastering a few of their routine errors ...

By: Linda Aragoni | December 05, 2014

The Cambridge University posts online  a free one-page glossary of literary and grammar terms its English faculty use in their online classes. The first section of the glossary is terms used in the analysis of verse, which are less familiar to students than terms used other literary genres,  The second section explains grammar terms. English and composition teachers could list the resource in a syllabus or on a course/department website for their students. The list is short enough that it won't overwhelm. Hyperlinks expand the brief entries.

By: Linda Aragoni | November 15, 2014

Linguistics, the study of language, is a a neglected but vital part of English language arts. It's also an area that excites many students. Teachers ought to expand their linguistic knowledge for that reason, if for no other.Snip from web page of linguistics glossary Like other sciences, linguistics has its own vocabulary. If you don't know a morpheme from a motor bike, the LinguaLinks glossary of linguistic terms is a good place to find definitions of those specialized terms. The glossary is available free to anyone, no registration needed. LinguaLinks  is not a site for K-12 students. Use it for your professional development. If your grammar terminology is shaky, you can get help understanding terms like clause or verbal noun from LinguaLinks. The glossary is also use...

By: Linda Aragoni | March 01, 2014

The only memory I have of sixth grade is of playing "My grandmother went to Europe," a traditional memory game. In the game, the first player (the one closest to the teacher's desk, if I remember correctly) says, "My grandmother went to Europe and in her trunk she took…" The first player names some object. The second player repeats the sentence adding a second object. Play continues with each player repeating the list and adding an object not already named until a player makes a memory error. The game requires no real talent, but it has just enough challenge to keep a class from getting out of hand. An English teacher with a grain of creativity could modify the game to add a bit of oral grammar drill — and possibly dr...

By: Linda Aragoni | June 12, 2011

Jason Renshaw, who teaches English literacy in a vocational program for students 16-18 in Australia, blogged recently that his students have given up using punctuation:
Evidently, the apostrophe is obsolete to my learners, as are capital letters for proper nouns (though, curiously, they do occasionally capitalise the starts of other words for what appears to be something along the lines of emphasis). At sentence level, commas are very infrequently used and even full stops are sporadic at best (and almost never followed up with a capital letter to signify a new sentence). Question and exclamation marks are seldom employed; colons, semi-colons, dashes and brackets are quite positively extinct.
Jason discusses the reasons students g...
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