Teaching grammar in context: nouns, pronouns and noun groups

Following on from yesterday’s post, here are some practical ideas for teaching grammar in context.

  • Use picture books to teach nouns and noun groups. A very useful annotated collection, with examples suitable for all year levels, can be found at http://www.the-best-childrens-books.org/teaching-nouns.html
  • Demonstrate for students how the choice of noun in a narrative can convey extra information and create a fuller picture for the reader. For example, what is the impact if a character, a very large man, has a chihuahua as a pet rather than a German shepherd? Or the dog next door that I’m frightened of is a rottweiler rather than a labrador?
  •  Develop vocabulary by asking students to suggest alternative, more specific, nouns for ones that are more general. For example, how many more specific nouns can you find for the words ’man’, ‘house’, ‘tree’, ‘car’? How does the more specific noun create a more detailed picture?
  • Select an appropriate narrative text and ask students to change the nouns and/or noun groups to make a different story. Discuss the effect of their choice of substitute nouns and/or noun groups.
  • Annotate excerpts from a text onscreen using arrows to indicate the relationships between the nouns and the pronouns.
  • Design questions about a text which specifically require an understanding of the pronoun references. Be explicit with students about how an understanding of pronoun references helps them to understand the text.
  • Select a descriptive passage from a text that students are reading and remove all of the noun groups. Read the passage with students, ask questions to ensure that they understand it, and then ask them to visualise what is described. Have them describe what they ‘see’. Then provide them with the original text, with noun groups intact, and ask them to visualise and discuss once again, making comparisons with the first version and commenting on relative effectiveness.
  •  Have students work in pairs on Googledocs or similar to add noun groups to each other’s writing and share the revised writing with another pair for their feedback.
  •  When revising shared writing, look for opportunities to compress the text by nominalising verbs and adjectives and be explicit about the process.

Do you have other ideas to share?

OTISA and Grammar

The approach to the teaching of grammar that we have adopted in this resource reflects a current pedagogical approach.

We start from the premise that the purpose of grammar is to facilitate effective communication with others.  For this reason, a knowledge of grammar rules on their own is not sufficient.  Rather, students need to know how the grammar looks and behaves in context and to understand the grammatical choices made by writers and the intended purpose and effect of those choices.

Moreover, if grammar is taught in the context of students’ own reading and writing, the learning is more likely to be both relevant and engaging.

However, we also need to be sure that students are assisted to transfer their learning from one context to another.

For this reason the OTISA resource offers opportunities for students to consolidate the learning that has occurred in their classroom, and then to apply it in other situations.  The instructional introductions that occur in each element are intended to remind students of their prior learning and to reinforce the metalanguage that becomes the basis of the dialogue between teachers and their students.

We are currently developing Professional Learning modules that explain the grammar basics for teachers and suggest ways in which these can be taught in context in the classroom. The modules will be ready for the 2013 school year.