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Professor and Former Novelist Argues for Increased Focus on Grammar Instruction in K-12

Professor and Former Novelist Argues for Increased Focus on Grammar Instruction in K-12

Michael Laser is a fiction novelist who teaches expository writing through a Freshman Year Writing program at the university he works for.

Despite admitting in a post for the Hechinger Report that he frequently favors creative thinking over "mind-numbing grammar lessons," he started to change his mind after noticing that his students were having significant trouble constructing basic sentences.

Laser became haunted by the routinely poorly-constructed sentences he was reading time and again.

"How will my students’ future professors judge their work? Will the students struggle to find jobs because of their cover letters? Their writing may improve with practice as they make their way through college — but they’ve already been practicing for twelve years!"

In other words, Laser has become yet another expert who has serious doubt about whether or not students entering higher education have been adequately prepared.

After spending time teaching his students the difference between correct and incorrect sentence structure, he was disappointed when his students' end-of-the-year essays revealed only subtle improvement.

"The prevailing opinion seems to be right: brief lessons don’t accomplish much," Laser lamented.

"Many of the writing instructors I spoke with shared my frustration. No one enjoys reading final papers that are just as awkwardly written as the first work of the semester. But none of them said what I’ve come to believe: that we should offer more help to students who reach for eloquence, only to trip over their own contorted clauses."

Laser suggests that instead of steering away from grammar instruction completely: K-12 teachers should be focusing on fixing the awkward writing students are currently producing.

"I’m not saying the current focus on constructing competent arguments is wrong. But many students arrive at college unable to write grammatically correct sentences, and we need to teach them that skill, too."

Read Laser's full post here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

10/15/2015

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