Not Quite the Five W’s

The Inspiration

A few weeks ago, my principal showed us a list of factors that affected high school achievement. At the top of that list was acceleration–to make sure that students are learning something that pushes them or has them at the edge of their learning. It makes sense for the engagement of eager or over-achieving students, but one of my worries has always been what do I do with the other 25 or 30 who don’t seem to be invested while staying under the speed limit of what we’re doing in class?

The Setup

I decided about a month ago to do random grammar spot checks to see what areas or deficiencies I could help tune up before the final in June. I knew that the results wouldn’t be spectacular for our weekly grammar quiz, but I didn’t expect them to be so average either. Instead of waffling on what I started or going back to fundamental grammar points, I decided to focus a Friday lesson on a specific area targeted to augment their writing styles.

The Execution

For the first style lesson, I chose parallel structure. While creating the lesson, I doubted myself a bit because I have been having a few behaviour issues with the class, and how exactly was a boring old grammar lecture going to curb that? As I put up the first slide to explain what parallelism is, there were a couple of students tuning out already. A few were dutifully jotting down the definition, but nobody was on the edge of their seats. As my slides progressed into examples and fill in the blank responses about noun and adjective forms, more heads popped up, and even more notebooks were opened to scribble notes. When I went on to maintaining the same phrases in a list, students were volunteering more than one example for each of the scenarios for prepositional and gerund phrases. Just before I hit clauses, a few students asked, how will all this help in our essays? A little grin crept on my face because I knew my next slides were going to show exactly how they can use parallel structure in their upcoming Lord of the Flies essay. A few light-bulbs turned up their wattage. Moreover, for those twenty-five minutes of grammar, I had a few students express their frustration why they never knew about this before, and I could tell that a few others were turning over ideas in their head about how to utilize this style in the future.

The Reflection

I never considered grammar to be a topic to engage a class because I had grammar drilled into me while I was a student, but one student made a very valid point towards the end of the lesson that no one cares or has to use grammar anymore because of spell & grammar checks online or in apps. This seems so strange to me because I’ve been trying so hard this term to engage them in different ways and push them to be more responsible and accountable for what we do in class. I’ve spent hours trying to come up with creative and interesting projects, but not much has worked. However, a brief lesson on grammar kept their attention, so I guess sometimes you have to go back to the well to think outside of the box. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for next week’s grammar tune up about active & passive voice with a few countable nouns thrown in for good measure.