Grammar Errors and Ownership

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It’s that time of the year when I find myself knee deep in red ink with fists raised to the heavens shouting, “Why don’t they know this? I know I taught it! I know they learned it in elementary! Why, God? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” 

What do you do (or drink) when you see a certain error in abundance? 

I’m reminded of the proverb, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Ahhhh, that’s better.

After my calming breaths, I consider these questions from Jeff Anderson in Mechanically Inclined. Before I go on a tirade about your and you’re, I stop and reflect. Yes, seventh grade writers should know that one by now. But if the majority are still using it incorrectly, I must take ownership of teaching it.  

The error stops with me! 

Ask yourself the following:

  • What have I done to teach this grammar or mechanics pattern? 
  • Have I immersed students in correct models? Visually and orally?
  • Did I post an example?
  • Have I demonstrated how to use the mechanics pattern in a piece of my own writing?
  • Have I modeled correcting this type of error in focused edits?
  • Have I given students ample practice in editing this particular type of error?
  • Is the item on the class’s editor’s checklist?
  • Have I directed the students to edit their own writing for this type of error on multiple occasions?
  • Is this mechanical error important enough to warrant doing all of the aforementioned work to teach it?

(Anderson, 2005, p.11)

As you can tell, Anderson doesn’t let us get away with, “Well, that one time on a DOL we talked about it,” or “It was on their 5th grade writing test, and we reviewed it at the beginning of the year.” That won’t cut it. May these questions guide you to deeper instruction and support for your writers.

PDF of Questions

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