I attended Mary Ehrenworth’s choice session on Grammar! Demonstrations, Inquiries, and Extravaganzas. This session was packed and the energy was high. I know, right? High energy around grammar?! I think we were all excited and anticipating some words of wisdom from Mary, as she invests herself in this topic and has written about it.
The session began by Mary sharing with us some recent research around the Stages of Grammar Acquisition.
Stages of Grammar Acquisition
- Recognition: very unlikely students will do things in writing they have not said orally or seen in text
- Spoken, lots of power in our spoken languguage especially if it mirrors academic language as this builds academic capital. Think about the words you are using in your oral interactions with students.
- Read aloud, literary language is very complex, and the way to boost this in our kids is to read aloud.
- 80% of the words you know are learned by the time you are 6
- Social Language is very simple. It lacks sentence structure
- Independent Reading
- Sometimes a grammar acquisition deficit is really a reading problem
- Ss will be in this stage the entire time they are with you. This is a new concept to me, as I think I am always looking for mastery.
- This is where students will be doing “it” with support.
- Embrace this (ex. 1st graders use end punctuation in narrative, but not in information because that got hard). This also aligned with what Cornelious Minor told us about kids using technology. Their cognitive load is focused on learning the technology, therefore, some writing moves may slide.
- Sometimes we fix this with damaging fixes. Ouch!
- You will know by looking at their on-demand writing. Simulates high stakes writing.
- What are they beginning to master more? Look for this as your students continue to grow and move out of approximations.
- Process of learning and unlearning happening at the same time. What? This actually happens.
- Code Switching
- For example, 5th graders unlearn how to see “i” is not capitalized. The code for capitalizing I has been rewritten.
Some more about slippage and code switching...
Encoding: This is how we spell. It is the patterning in our brain, as our brain remembers the thousands of times we have seen a word. It cycles through these times and then retrieves what it believes to be the correct spelling.
Where this can be a problem is when you show students two examples of something as they learn, but only one is right. Now there brain encodes this. (think DOL). Now think of this in math. Would we do this as students begin to learn multiplication? Circle which is right: 2 x 4 = 8 or 2 x 4 = 10. Now both are encoded in those students’ brains.
Fragmentation: You unlearn it. Wow. I had no idea.
For example, by 3rd grade, students have sight words spelled right. The knowledge of sight word spelling goes down after that. Students unlearn them. Mary suggests that you have students reprogram their phones to not allow “bcc”, make sure it is “because”. Have their phone automatically make the “i” capital.
Next she moved into spelling.
Types of Spelling Work
- High Frequency Words
- Said, their, because (use word instead of gdocs, because it is proprietary)
- Spelling patterns
- Words their way, initial consonants, final consonants, short vowel, lack of transfer when they don’t find those words in their reading and writing
- Technical Vocabulary (Iroquois, Constitution, Photosynthesis)
Mary said that spelling is important, but it is not correlated to intelligence.
Lastly Mary asked us to consider our attitudes towards grammar. Then shared some methods.
- Demonstration: Do this with any grammar that is worth a writing workshop lesson.
- Inquiry: This is for things that are interesting, but not good for a writing lesson.
- Do this in revision stage, in the same genre they are writing in.
- Use mentor texts, for example where dialogue tags go.
- Frog & Toad, Invisible Stanley, anything by Cynthia Rylant
- Inquiry Center: use real books, don’t photocopy, as Ss need to see they can find them on their own
- Do this for 20 min, then have Ss look in their own writing and try it out.
- Interludes & Extravaganzas
- Grammar boot camp, maybe with 2-3 days left before a break
- Ss choose something they want to study, they make teaching tools for other kids.
Mary had a group of kids study this video as a mentor for how they wanted to teach homophone.
Don't worry about teaching the technology, the students will figure this out. It can be a highly motivating way for students to be in charge of their own grammar learning.
She encouraged us to think about grammar minilessons, and also think about the ways we would teach those grammar lessons with our colleagues. You could use this as your guide, or rearrange it, or add or delete items. This is important work to do with your teams.
This session was so full of amazing information. Mary moved through it so fast, as she tried to give us as much as she could in the short amount of time we had. I hope my reflection did it justice.