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More Views on Grammar and Writing (The Council Chronicle, March 04)

From Grammar Alive! A Guide for Teachers by Brock Haussamen with Amy Benjamin, Martha Kolln, Rebecca S. Wheeler, and members of NCTE's Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar (NCTE, 2003):

"The problem with school grammar has not been grammar itself as much as it has been the way grammar is usually taught. Instead of helping students to focus on real literature or on the actual paper they are writing, traditional grammar pedagogy requires students to divert their attention to the isolated and often contrived sentences in a textbook. It encourages students--and teachers--to believe that the authority for Standard English is that separate book of rules rather than literature and the language of those with power and prestige in the living culture. It focuses on errors instead of on the understanding of language. . . ."

From Guide to Home Language Repair by Dennis Baron (NCTE, 1994):

"My advice is: Use your ear. If it sounds good, it probably is good. . . .

"But you also have to use your audience's ear. I mean if your listener or reader is puzzled, annoyed, or not paying attention, then no matter how good your language sounds to you, it isn't getting across, and everybody's time is being wasted. . . .

"Contrary to most people's school experience, correctness in language is not an absolute. Ideas of what is right change, maybe not from day to day but certainly from time to time."

From Grammar and the Teaching of Writing: Limits and Possibilities by Rei R. Noguchi (NCTE, 1991):

"I believe the hard-line anti-grammar teachers with their reluctance to address such errors in a systematic way are just as misguided and self-defeating as the hard-line pro-grammar teachers who address them with overexuberance. What seems lost in these internecine battles is the middle ground. For example, mechanical errors cannot be as trivial as the hard-line anti-grammar teachers make them out to be. Though certainly surface errors, these unconventional features ought not to be deemed simply 'unimportant' (and, therefore, best ignored), since many readers, particularly in business and other professional settings, perceive them as prime indicators of poor writing. . . . At the same time, however, we should avoid the other extreme--the obsessive focus on error hunting. . . . What is needed are not extreme positions but rather a middle ground where students can learn about the detection, consequences, and elimination of unconventional features without diminishing the desire to write and improve."

From Grammar for Teachers: Perspectives and Definitions by Constance Weaver (NCTE, 1979):

"The message seems clear. Students do need to develop a good intuitive sense of grammar, but they can do this best through indirect rather than direct instruction. Instead of formally teaching them grammar, we need to give them plenty of structured and unstructured opportunities to deal with language directly. If we want them to improve their reading, they must read; if we want them to improve their writing, they must write. This does not mean, of course, that grammar is of no use whatsoever, or that grammatical terminology should be entirely avoided. Rather, it means that teachers need not teach grammar so much as use their own knowledge of grammar in helping students understand and use language more effectively."

See also: http://www.ncte.org/pubs/chron/feat/115620.htm.

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