WARNING: THIS IS A HEAVILY GRAMMAR ORIENTED POST!
We have a grammar assignment coming up where we are divided into groups and assigned chapters to read from”The only grammar book you will ever need”. (Susan Thurman ; Edited By Larry Shea. Adams Media 2003).
Me and my group were assigned the chapter Writing better sentences. We will read and ponder what challenges we face with the phenomena of the chapter ourselves in our academic essays. Then we will prepare for explaining the topic to the rest of the group. The goal is to provide tips on how to improve our writing, using our own essays as examples.
Reading the chapter about how to write better sentences I found loads of useful material on the internet that cover topics described in the book:
- Misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers
- Parallelism in writing
- Writing logically (paying attention to faulty predication, faulty coordination, absolute adjectives, faulty comparison, sweeping generalisations, non sequiturs, omitting necessary words in comparisons, false dilemmas, the red herring, circular reasoning)
- Sentence fragments
- Run-on sentences
- Transitional words and phrases (words like: after, in fact, however, also, as a result, first)
Many of the topics are familiar to me, but I also learned a few things. I had for instance never heard the expression red herring. I realise many people dislike grammar – maybe because it’s sometimes associated with something very dull and laborious. That’s a challenge for any grammar teacher. Having the students present different grammatical phenomena to peers will make it impossible not to learn ( I think!). Having to teach a topic, you really need to know it inside out.
Risks in using the student centric teaching methods and peer teaching:
- You can’t avoid traditional lecturing if students decide to use lecturing to teach their peers
- Students may only get a deeper understanding of the topic that they were assigned to read and present themselves
- If a group or groups don’t do their homework well enough to teach the rest, then what?
As a teacher (or student) you would have to make sure to have a plan B to fill in the gaps. After all you need to make sure that the required learning objectives, for example “to discuss structures of English and English grammar from different theoretical perspectives” (like on my basic English philology 25 ECTS course) are achieved.
It remains to be seen if the book I mentioned will be the only grammar book I’ll ever need, especially if I ever get to teach younger students who speak Finnish as their native tongue. I’ve still found my old Lukion Englannin Kielioppi by Irja & Mikko Mattila useful as it contains grammatical terminology in Finnish. Now that book is useful for someone who doesn’t understand what an auxiliary verb or helping verb means and needs a translation.