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TeacherLore

Online book for teaching writing mechanics

Jeff Anderson’s book on teaching grammar and usage in the context of student writing, Mechanically Inclined, is available online fulltext from Stenhouse Publishers. A print copy can also be ordered. The publisher’s note describes it thus:

Mechanically Inclined is the culmination of years of experimentation that merges the best of writer’s workshop elements with relevant theory about how and why skills should be taught. It connects theory about using grammar in context with practical instructional strategies, explains why kids often don’t understand or apply grammar and mechanics correctly, focuses on attending to the “high payoff,” or most common errors in student writing, and shows how to carefully construct a workshop environment that can best support grammar and mechanics concepts. Jeff emphasizes four key elements in his teaching:

* short daily instruction in grammar and mechanics within writer’s workshop;
* using high-quality mentor texts to teach grammar and mechanics in context;
* visual scaffolds, including wall charts, and visual cues that can be pasted into writer’s notebooks;
* regular, short routines, like “express-lane edits,” that help students spot and correct errors automatically.

Comprising an overview of the research-based context for grammar instruction, a series of over thirty detailed lessons, and an appendix of helpful forms and instructional tools, Mechanically Inclined is a boon to teachers regardless of their level of grammar-phobia. It shifts the negative, rule-plagued emphasis of much grammar instruction into one which celebrates the power and beauty these tools have in shaping all forms of writing.

Chapter 2 begins with an epigraph from John R. Trimble: “As writers, we learn most of what we know just by watching the pros, don’t we?” Using this insight, Anderson uses “mentor texts” to illustrate the moves good writers make:

Are you weary of being a rule rattler, a constant corrector, an error eradicator? Do you poop out at parties? Relax. Let examples do your work. Telling kids about grammar and mechanics translates to students as Peanuts-teacher talk--the equivalent of blah, blah, blah. My lips are moving but nobody’s listening. What do I do instead? I use a text as a mentor. A mentor text is any text that can teach a writer about any aspect of writer’s craft, from sentence structure to quotation marks to “show don’t tell.” I let Gary Paulsen show my students about active verbs and short sentences. I let Partricia MacLachan show my students how to make phrases tumble off the ends of their sentences. I let newspapers, magazines, or any piece of literature make grammar and mechanics points for me.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 10/24 at 03:27 PM

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