By Danielle Turner
February 21, 2013
One thing that I can remember clearly from middle school English classes was how much practice my fellow students and I received when it came to grammar. I remember doing whole pages of sentence diagrams, and it must have helped me because I’ve noticed that I still have a good memory of grammatical concepts. However, I’ve recently come to realize that this is not true for all students.
As a writing tutor, I see many different writing styles and ability levels, and the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the difference in students’ grammar abilities. I have seen health science majors with impeccable writing skills, and postgraduate students with no knowledge of what a run-on sentence is.
This problem extends past college freshmen into postgraduates! I realize that this is rarely the students’ fault, but the lack of knowledge of simple grammar concepts astounds me nonetheless.
As a future English teacher, the reasons for these inconsistencies interests me. When discussing the problem with other potential English educators, I was told that one reason may be that there is no test for grammar in the PSSAs, which is what most teachers base their curriculum on. Therefore, there is no standard grammar curriculum in any Pennsylvania high schools. I’ve recently heard that on the PSSA Reading test, proper grammar is not something that is assessed or expected. This means that the students can spell incorrectly, use incomplete sentences, and minimal correct punctuation, all while achieving a perfect score on their response.
Another reason for this problem is that grammar is usually taught at only the middle school level. Therefore, high school students are receiving minimal, if any, grammar teaching or practice. This means that students only have a maximum of three years of grammar practice. Furthermore, because these lessons are not emphasized in high school, the students will most likely forget what they have learned by the time they enter college.
There are a few solutions to this problem. One would be to simply include some basic grammar concepts into the curriculum for each grade level after middle school. Even a knowledge of a few basic concepts could help students’ writing abilities. Also, if students have these concepts emphasized throughout high school, they are more likely to continue using them once they graduate. Another solution would be to increase the grammar education at a state level, through PSSA testing. Because the concepts tested for in the PSSAs are what most schools base their curriculum on, this would ensure grammar education in many, if not all, grade levels in schools throughout Pennsylvania.
Grammar education is important because proper grammar is the basis for good writing, and good writing is a skill that is used in all disciplines. Perhaps better grammar education would help our country’s unemployment rate, or maybe it would help just one person get a better job. Big or small, grammar is important everywhere for everyone.
Danielle Turner is a junior majoring in Secondary Education English and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.