Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Connecting Grammar and Writing: Parallel Structure

In this post, we are continuing our series on strategies for helping students connect grammar and writing. This week's focus is parallel structure.

In order for students to understand parallel structure, it's important for them to see the parallel parts of a sentence. 

Start by compiling a list of non-parallel sentences from student essays and providing each student with a copy.  (Sentences from parallel structure worksheets will work also, but student-generated sentences are more authentic and usually more complex.) 

Give students the following list of “parallel structure signal words”:
  • signal words for coordinate ideas: and, but, or, neither, nor
  • signal words for comparison and contrast: than, as well as, as much as
  • signal words for correlative constructions: neither/nor, either/or, not only/but also
 Have students circle or highlight these signal words in their sentences.  Then ask them to underline the elements that are being compared or connected.  (Color-coding helps, too.) Example:

Not Parallel: Creon is a hypocritical character who is more concerned with his reputation and power than making the right decision. 
Parallel: Creon is a hypocritical character who is more concerned with his reputation and power than with making the right decision.

Making these marks will help students to see the parts that are supposed to be parallel.  As a class, correct the sentences to make them parallel.  Point out that with correlative constructions, sentences can often be corrected simply by moving one of the signal word pairs.  Example:

Not Parallel: This symbolism not only shows the care Karla has for the relationship but also for its broken fragments. 
Parallel: This symbolism shows the care Karla has not only for the relationship but also for its broken fragments.

As an added challenge, you can ask students to diagram one of the “not parallel” sentences and its corresponding “parallel” sentence to help them visualize the structure.

Finally, have students look through their drafts of a current writing assignment and focus on parallel structure. They should follow the same process as in the practice exercise above so that they can correct problems with parallel structure or provide evidence that they don’t have such errors. This type of annotation will show you without question which students understand and which ones still need more practice.

Tune in next time for another specific strategy for connecting grammar and writing in your classroom!

(This strategy comes from Burnette Writing Process, available from DGP Publishing, Inc.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GA DOE Statement on Grammar Warm-ups--What Do You Think?

I recently received the following email from a teacher in Georgia (and have posted it here with her permission). I'd love to hear your thoughts on either side!

Ms. Burnette,

I'm writing you today to share an e-mail I recently sent the GA DOE concerning its recent ELA Newsletter, which lambasted DGP and other daily grammar warm-ups as being out-of-date and old-fashioned. I've used DGP for years, and I've never found (in my teaching experience) anything that works better. See my e-mail below:

Ms. Waters,

I was very disappointed to see in the latest ELA newsletter the following lines:

"For example, the use of Daily Oral Language (DOL) or Daily Grammar Practice (DGP) does not support the CCGPS language standards. Grammar out of context is a thing of the past."

Students must have a basis for understanding grammar, its rules and language, before a teacher can assist with grammar within the context of writing. For example, it would be difficult for me to teach my high school students about the comma splices I see in their Beowulf essays if they couldn't identify an independent clause. Daily Oral Language, M.U.G. Shots, and Daily Grammar Practice give students a short, daily exposure to grammar that takes up less than five minutes of class time, while making sure they are versant in the basic concepts of grammar.  This they will need in order to understand the more intricate rules of our language and improve their writing.

My use of DGP does not indicate that I will bombard my students with grammar worksheets, nor will I spend two weeks covering the parts of speech, then two weeks on sentence parts--I recognize THIS style of grammar instruction to be outdated and out of context. However, a short, daily exposure to grammar basics (as DGP, MUG, and DOL offer) is a necessity for students to be able to apply more complicated concepts. As Mrs. Burnette states in her work,

"Daily Grammar Practice is a unique, highly successful, research-based approach to helping students understand, apply, and actually remember grammar concepts. The program is thorough and effective, yet surprisingly simple to implement. Daily Grammar Practice is not "fluffy," and it's not a "quick fix." It is a simple, logical process that actually moves grammar concepts to long-term memory so that students can apply the concepts to their writing."

Although the CCGPS does not support "grammar out of context," it does not explicitly deny teachers any one tool in their toolboxes for achieving the goal of grammar-in-context, either. As Ms. Burnette states in her introduction to DGP, such daily grammar warmups actually AID students in writing improvement.

I will continue to use DGP in my classroom, and I hope that the writers of the ELA Newsletter will keep in mind that ANY tool can be effective in the hands of a good teacher who knows how to use it to meet her students' needs.


Micki Byrnes