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December, 2010

Dear Literacy Place for the Early Years Teacher,

This month's teaching tip answers a question sent from a primary division that has implemented Literacy Place for the Early Years over the last few months: How does LPEY help me teach my students about grammatical elements?

When teaching students about grammatical elements, we need to remember that grammar should not be taught in isolation. Grammar usage as well as punctuation, spelling, and capitalization fall under the 'conventions' of writing; one of seven traits of good writing. Young students need to understand why grammar is important—it is all about the reader. We use conventional standards to make our writing as clear as possible to a reader. Therefore, lessons on grammar should be done in the context of Shared Reading or in Modelled and Shared Writing experiences.

In LPEY, there are lessons and extensions for various grade-appropriate grammar topics in the Working with Words Guide. For example, at the Grade 2 level, there are lessons on nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives; whereas at the Grade 3 level, students learn to identify nouns, verbs, possessive pronouns, comparative adjectives, and adverbs.

The lessons use Shared Reading texts to promote discussion about the grammatical element and students reread texts to find other examples. A chart is created to list examples found during reading and students are encouraged to use what they have learned in their writing. For example, students learning about how to use pronouns may reread the text 'Invitations' in Let's Celebrate, and an explanation is provided of how we use a word such as 'it' instead of using a noun. Students realize that pronouns can be used in their writing to avoid repetition. There are also suggestions for Independent Practice within the Working with Words Guide.

In the Writing Guide, there are also grammar lessons that can be conducted in whole-class or small-group guided writing sessions as students are editing their work. These mini-lessons can be found in the 'Craft and Convention Lessons' section (e.g., subject and verb agreement).

If you require more information about teaching grammar to K–3 students, you might want to check out Ruth Culham's, 6+1 Traits of Writing (available through Scholastic). There are two books, one for K–2 and one for Grades 3 and up. In the section on the trait of conventions, Ruth discusses assessing students' work to find out what they need to learn, how to handle parent concerns about conventions, and she provides fun ideas about how to teach grammar and help students understand.

Happy teaching,
Sue Jackson signature
Sue Jackson
National Literacy Consultant
Scholastic Education Canada