WMU News

Web site makes teaching grammar easy, period

March 20, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Remember diagramming sentences in middle school English class?

Research has shown there's a better way to teach grammar, and a new Web site put together by faculty and students at Western Michigan University shows how it can be done.

"We took a more productive stance that grammar is a tool you can use to become a better writer," says Dr. Jonathan Bush, a WMU assistant professor of English, who led the grammar Web site initiative. "We look at grammar as a way of enhancing writing."

The more modern approach to teaching grammar has been pioneered at WMU by Dr. Constance Weaver, professor of English and an internationally known expert in reading education and authority on teaching grammar in the context of reading and writing.

"The best way to teach grammar is to first get them writing and then conduct mini lessons on grammar and give them the skills they need to take their writing to a higher level," Bush says. "Grammar is alive and well, but the way to teach it is different from when we were in school."

The effort was a class project for a teaching writing class, English 574, last fall. The class was composed of both graduate and undergraduate students and included five current teachers. Most of the students were in secondary education, but a few were in elementary education.

Response to the new Web site has been good, Bush says. All teachers have to do is go to <homepages.wmich.edu/~jbush/grammar> to learn more effective ways to teach the ins and outs of periods, hyphens, commas, verbs, adjectives and past participles.

"We've gotten a lot of teachers e-mailing back, saying that it's been a good resource for what they're doing in their classes," Bush says.

The Web site gives some good tips on how to teach grammar without resorting to sentence diagramming, says Paula Fox, a Spanish teacher at Plainwell (Mich.) High School who assisted with the project.

"I really like the site," Fox says. "It puts quite a bit of useful knowledge at your fingertips, something that is essential for young grammar teachers just starting out and for us old folks who are hoping that we don't have to reinvent the wheel."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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