Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Beauty of Grammar and the Short Lesson

Day 26~

We didn't always do a bit of grammar in Morning Time but it has become one of my favorite sections of MT in the last couple of years.

I am not a grammarian. I want to be and I have tried to be but it has been a slow road. I noticed it was a slow road for the children too. We could study, fill out worksheets, and take tests but if I randomly asked someone what part of speech a word was they invariably got it wrong. Sometimes they could not remember the most basic words.  This led me have a deep mistrust of programs which taught grammar over and over and over again.   It also led me to realize that Charlotte Mason was right about grammar being best taught in context through narration and dictation and in short lessons. 

A few years ago I began reading aloud The Mother Tongue, an OOP grammar series which was recommended to me by people who knew grammar.  This reading worked well in MT. We would read a tiny section and discuss it. I still had trouble holding concepts in my head but I was making progress and as I did the kids did.  

(Note: This book has recently been updated for modern students with an answer key and student workbook. These are very well done.The Mother Tongue: Adapted for Modern Students (The Mother Tongue Set)  

After we finished reading aloud those books I was looking for another way to incorporate grammar into MT. I have every grammar resource known to man around my house.  I throw money at weak areas. If money could make me a grammarian I would be teaching English in a university.  As the boys were becoming familiar with diagramming sentences in a series of books they were using for more formal grammar study, I decided to use the companion book Digging into Diagramming to enhance that study.  

At the same time, I had purchased a pile of Michael Clay Thompson books but was having trouble fitting them into our days.  

Last year we began diagramming one sentence a day in MT. This went very well. Then this year I added studying one sentence a day using MCT's Practice books.  MCT breaks down each sentence four ways. This simple idea has gone a long way in untangling grammar for me.  First you break down each word into its part of speech. Secondly, you find out what job the words or phrases are performing such as: subject, predicate or direct object.  Then you look for phrases and clauses. Finally you discuss the poetics of the sentence.  We are now doing this one sentence at a time and loving it. Best of all grammar is starting to make sense.  For this type of group study of the MCT books you only need the teacher's edition.

Diagramming one sentence and breaking down another sentence takes less than 5 minutes a day usually. Very doable and so rewarding.This way of teaching grammar in very short lessons, with much discussion and application, works.  

I use a whiteboard. First I read a small section of the diagramming book and then I put up a sample sentence. The next day I let one of the boys diagram a similar sentence from the book and then the next day the other boy does it. Then if all is well, we move to the next type.

For the MCT sentence, I write the sentence of the day on the white board. Then we write under each word the part of speech it is, we add parenthesis to prepositional phrases or infinitives and discuss subject and verb followed by any other things such as direct objects or indirect objects. Finally, discuss whether it is dependent or independent and end with any confusing vocabulary words.  We don't always stick to the script sometimes we go ahead and discuss the vocabulary first.  

We do all this right before we read aloud so it is almost like a break and we all enjoy it.  I hope to work through many of these practice books in this way.

The boys do have other grammar workbooks they use during their own school time but I also keep those short. Without this MT grammar time, I would expect far less fruit from their other studies and of course, they each must complete one written narration a day which I read and discuss with them, although I do not deal with every mistake, every time.

Alex uses Growing With Grammar and Andrew is working through Stewart English Program: Principles Plus.

Suggestion of the Day for Morning Time Memory:

Bill of Rights Amendment1

The First Amendment contains 5 rights. Can you find them?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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