Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Monday! I'm Reading Books about Grammar Instruction

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

I have had a somewhat nerdy weekend and have spent time reading several of the books that I have either recently purchased or found in my professional bookshelf about grammar. The Language Standards of the Common Core are my next big challenge. In our district, we are working hard to figure out the balance of meaningful grammar and conventions instruction with drill and kill saturation. I have to say, there are some really good books and I am sharing my weekend sampling.

Mary Ehrenworth and Vicki Vinton wrote The Power of Grammar in 2005, and the lessons still align with the Common Core. They envision a workshop based series of units with integrated teaching points about specific convention and grammar skills. For example, "writers make choices about ending punctuation" would be a lesson during a narrative unit, while comma usage and verb agreement would be lessons that would occur in later units. 
Their message that "grammar is intimately linked with power" (p. 4) resonates throughout the entire book. I love the idea of emphasizing power to children when teaching grammar!

The Common Core Grammar Toolkit by Sean Ruday is full of lessons and specific mentor texts for teaching explicit standards and skills. This book is divided into grade-specific sections, focusing on the skills that students are expected to master. With many examples of charts, teaching points, inquiries, and classroom snapshots, this book could inspire experienced and novice teachers with ways to integrate grammar instruction into a writing workshop. 

Constance Weaver's The Grammar Planbook has many, many pages to mark and use as references. One of my favorite quotes in her book is "when it comes to grammar and mechanics, we can't teach it all without deluging students with so much information they remember nothing." (p. 31-32) On these same pages, there is a list of the twenty errors most commonly marked by college teachers, including several comma usage errors, several pronoun-related errors, and several sentencing issues. With mentor texts and explicit lessons, this book is an excellent resource for teaching grammar and conventions in the upper elementary grades and up. 

I am looking forward to exploring Grammar Matters by Lynne Dorfman and Diane Dougherty, as well as some of the work of Janet Angelillo. 

I did read several picture books this week, as well, but those I will share next week. If anyone out there has favorite grammar books or resources, please share!

Happy reading!


  1. I always struggled with how to best teach grammar. I loved THE POWER OF GRAMMAR, and the lessons I used from it resonated with my middle school students as well. Anchoring lessons in the context of their writing made things click with some of them. Of course, some still found it too much effort to hold the shift key to capitalize. I also highly recommend Harvey Noden's Image Grammar. It focuses more on grammatical structures rather than conventions, but shows how writers use different grammatical structures to create meaning and effects in their writing. Check out what I've been reading here.

  2. I continue to struggle with teaching grammar too. I've got most of the books you mention but haven't really delved into them much. I keep reading about the power of sentence combining but haven't done much with that yet either. It's one of my teaching goals for next year--to read a couple of these books and try to incorporate some lessons into my intro to writing courses.

  3. The Power of Grammar is such a brilliant book - I have Weaver's book too, and you remind me that it's time to dig it out, Melanie.

  4. I just bought the Grammar Plan Book and haven't opened it yet, yikes! But I thought since I had this class, I should look at some new ways to integrate some grammar. Thanks so much for your ideas about these books, too, Melanie.

  5. Melanie,
    I have the Common Core Grammar Toolkit for grades 3-5 and 6-8 and LOVE the subtitle "Using Mentor Text to Teach the Language Standards" - the examples are ones that should be included in either reading or writing workshop for those grades so access for students should not be an issue.

    Wow. . .At least 20 years ago, I taught a "Spelling and Grammar" class . . . thinking about other resources as well as the ones that I own. (now I'm wishing my books were in a Database!)

  6. Oh wow, these books look really interesting - and it seems like they are able to discuss a dry subject in an interesting way. Will check these out. Thanks for sharing.