Beating my head against a brick wall made of homophones and dangling participles…

I love teaching young writers.  I love nudging them along, building their confidence, and reading their words.  I love teaching them to freewrite, to try different genres, to embrace revision as opportunity rather than obligation.  And I do okay at all of that.  But when it comes down to teaching the mechanics of writing, I struggle.  I have tried Daily Oral Language, and I’ve seen little transfer to student writing.  I’ve tried embedding grammar, usage, and punctuation focus lessons into my writers workshops, and this just hasn’t felt deliberate enough, with the scope and sequence to really help my students build understanding of language mechanics.  A couple of years ago I started using Story Grammar for Elementary School and Sentence Composing for Elementary School by Don and Jenny Killgallon– this really fit the bill for sentence composition, and I have seen some reasonable transfer in terms of students electing to correctly use phrases and clauses and build richer sentences.  But there are many points of grammar and mechanics that are not addressed in that work.  If only I could find someone who had done similar work to the Killgallons, gathering great sentences from children’s literature to use as models for inquiry and modelling of things like subject-verb agreement, semicolon usage, and distinguishing between its and it’s.  /sigh

Why did it take me so long to read Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson?  I wish I had an answer, because I’ve been hearing about this book for years.  It’s not everything I could want, because I cannot just lazily follow a daily plan already outlined for me (okay, so I wouldn’t do that anyway, because that stuff never works in the real classroom).  But Anderson does have a lot of lesson ideas, and his sequence of explaining, using easy explanations, showing common usage errors, providing correct usage examples with great mentor text and suggesting anchor charts and activities to help reinforce ideas is pretty darn good.  I agree with his focus on correct and powerful use of language, instead of the error finding and correcting that is commonly and (in my opinion) ineffectively used in many classrooms.  I can see myself adapting bellwork and focus lessons in writers workshop, blending Anderson’s basic template for mechanics instruction with the Killgallons’ work, and finding a much more engaging and transferable learning experience for my students in the process.


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