Teaching or Not Teaching Grammar

By John Focht

Unfortunately I do not recall my initial introduction into grammar.  If I had to guess though, I would think the seventh grade was probably about the time grammar was fully introduced and taught to me.

My seventh-grade English teacher, Sister Nancy, seemed to spend hours-upon-hours that year having the students in class diagram sentences on the chalkboard.  This repetitive teaching in the classroom instilled a behavior that I still follow to this day in reviewing my own grammar and sentence structure, or in editing others work.  It was a very prescriptive and explicit instruction into grammar and its proper usage.  I’d say the methods were a success as I find myself mentally diagraming sentences in my head to this day.

The teachings I received in seventh-grade were clearly examples of prescriptive and explicit grammar instructions.  An early age, like seventh-grade, it is important to instill the basic framework of the language in our youth.  A prescriptive instruction at that age is very important in the learning process.  Dialects, regions, and cultural diversities need to be respected, however, there should be a basic framework instilled in grammar.  With each passing generation, the teaching instructions and methods will evolve as the language itself continues to evolve.  Whether the methods of good old Sister Nancy and her torcher-chamber of diagramed sentences still need to be applied is another story.