How can I teach my child grammar? What books do you recommend? What tools are best for educators to use when teaching grammar? Over and over again I’m asked how to teach grammar. I would love to teach writing courses, I think that might be my dream job, but as soon as I ask any parents or homeschoolers or educators about teaching writing, they immediately jump to grammar. Their focus is like a razor on the big G word, yet, they are also saying how these kids hate writing. So how can we teach grammar without crushing love of the written word?
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I’m a writer.
If I had to pick one word that describes me, through all the career changes and adventures in my life, writer would be the one consistent label. As a child I wrote stories and poems. I can still remember the excitement when I won my first poetry competition at the local library. In my adult life I worked in communications. My job was to take ideas and write them in a way that made people pay attention, that helped them understand complex issues. I even wrote speeches. That was always fun, hearing my words delivered by a powerful speaker. Now I spend my days writing novels and articles, when I’m not working as an editor.
Writing is what I do. Words are my passion and obsession. My greatest desire is to encourage a love of writing and reading in all children. There is a power in words that is profound. Stories can alter our emotions, change our perceptions, and provide us with great knowledge.
Stories and words are powerful.
I want to equip all children with the ability to embrace that power. So when I hear adults going on about how to teach grammar, I cringe.
Words are the trees, flowers, grasses and even the animals in our forest. Walking through the forest I can appreciate the beauty of the flowers, enjoy the singing of the birds. I can immerse myself in the beauty of nature as it surrounds me.
I don’t need to know the name of every flower, the type of trees that cast their shadows across the path, or the species of every bird that sings. Is that information interesting? Sure, sometimes. But my appreciation for the beauty of the forest doesn’t come from knowing those things.
The beauty of my hike comes from immersing myself in the forest. Not picking apart the pieces.
When I’m teaching writing, I’m not interested in teaching grammar. See, the thing is, a well read person automatically has a wonderful understanding of grammar. They hear the music of words as they string together creating a beautiful harmony. They can hear if a note is sour and needs adjusting. Like tuning a fine instrument.
A great story is like music.
By forcing kids to focus on terminology and labeling words within a sentence, it takes away their ability to hear the harmonies, to hear the musicality of a sentence, to be caught up in the rhythm of a story.
In our quest to teach grammar we are robbing kids of their love of words.
Face it, labeling the parts of a sentence is also boring. Do kids need to learn it. Sure. Yes. A little. Maybe not. Really, at the end of the day, does it really matter if an adult can label adjectives in their daily lives? For most people the answer is no.
Does it matter if they can pen a beautiful letter to someone they love?
That they can craft an email that is logical and clear?
Should they be able to write a paper on a subject that matters to them?
Or write a Facebook post that isn’t littered with errors?
Yes! These things matter. In our world, that is increasingly filled with communication using written words, the ability to write fluidly and effectively is key.
So how do we teach this?
It’s simple. We get kids reading well written materials. It doesn’t matter what genre. It doesn’t matter if it is fiction or non-fiction. What matters is that they are reading well-edited, quality writings that have a wonderful musicality. That they are getting lost in stories that take them on wonderful adventures. We want children to enjoy the power of the written word.
Words that are crafted using proper grammar.
The first step is reading. Find what your children love reading, then encourage that passion. Talk to them about their favorite stories. Read stories they recommend and love so you can share in the journey. Be part of the literary adventures with them.
Stretch their abilities by reading stories out loud that are a bit more advanced than they can currently read on their own. Let the music of the words come across as you read to them.
Don’t worry about grammar. Stop stressing about how to teach grammar. Grammar is easy once you understand good writing. Instead teach them to love stories. That love unleashes the power of writing that will empower a child for the rest of their lives.