Grammar is one of those subjects that people either love or hate. Like math, it can intimidate parents who doubt their own grasp of the subject, let alone their ability to teach it to their children. We’ve been drilled on “THE RULES” for years and most of us have very little to show for it. How can we possibly teach our kids?
While not all of us can solve for x, or use the point-slope formula to find the equation for a line (what?), we all know grammar. If you speak a language, you know the grammar of that language, or at least some approximation of grammar. You know at least some of the rules.
Don’t believe me? Read these sentences:
• Dad ate pizza.
• Ate pizza Dad.
• Pizza ate Dad.
These three sentences contain the same three words, but they mean very different things. In the first sentence, Dad had a satisfying dinner. Good for Dad! The second is gibberish and doesn’t make any sense. And as for the third, even very young children can tell you that the idea of the pizza eating Dad is funny and silly! That’s grammar. That’s knowing the difference between a subject and a direct object, even if you don’t have the words to communicate what you know.
Why is Grammar Important?
Why is grammar important, then? We are a social species. To communicate with other English speakers in an effective way, we must have a sense of “the rules,” even if we only use them as guidelines. It’s like riding a bicycle. Once we’ve learned how to ride a bike, we don’t continuously think about balance, steering, pedaling and – most importantly – how to brake, but we have a sense of what we need to do to get to our destination, whether around the corner or to the other side of the continent. Like riding a bike, once we have mastered the parts of speech and their jobs, grammar comes naturally.
Did you know that there are only nine parts of speech? What?! But we learned grammar over and over and over for literally years! There must be more! Nope, honest. Only nine. Once you know those nine, you know all of them. These parts of speech, like people, can have different jobs in a sentence, or they may always do the same one. For instance, a noun can be a subject, a direct or indirect object, or the object of a preposition; however, an article only has one job: being an article. Many grammar programs overcomplicate instruction by providing extraneous information that doesn’t immediately provide a benefit to the student in their writing and understanding.
Grammar Shouldn’t Be Complicated
We believe that grammar shouldn’t be complicated. Nine parts of speech that we use regularly in the same patterns and combinations: that’s English. The first part of Analytical Grammar identifies these parts of speech and their common roles. The second section gets a little more fancy, explaining phrases and clauses and how they can take your writing up a notch.
Once we have a handle on parts of speech and their jobs, the third and final part of Analytical Grammar layers on some punctuation guidelines. Think of punctuation as road signs to guide your readers along, so they know when to pause, to get excited, or to wonder with you.
Now that you know the parts of speech, their jobs, and how they function in phrases and clauses, punctuation is a piece of cake. Once these three sections are completed, a student will know everything they need to know to effectively use and understand written English. By occasionally reviewing what they have learned with the help of supplementary Reinforcement and Review workbooks, they can retain their skills to become better communicators in their higher education and future careers.
Much like Demme Learning’s Math-U-See has empowered parents for almost 30 years to teach math all the way through high school, Analytical Grammar strips down grammar to usable, understandable pieces, then gives instructors and students the language and tools necessary to build a strong foundation for the future.
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Skip Robinson says
One of the biggest obstacles in ‘teaching grammar’ is failure to distinguish between catastrophic errors that render a sentence unintelligible vs. matters of style that reflect taste more correctness. And then there are bogus ‘rules’ concocted ages ago by writers looking to make a name for themselves. Native speakers can get help from linguistic instinct. Language learners are at sea.
Would you please weigh in on the following sentence as to which of the words are count and non-count nouns?
Autumn is a great time of the year!
The words in question are: Autumn, time, and year.
This was a sentence written by a beginning ESL student. She was to write a sentence using both count nouns and non-count nouns. I have had four different responses from colleagues as to the correct answers.
Joseph Demme says
Autumn and year are count nouns. (You could say three autumns ago or two years from now.)
Time is a noncount noun. (You wouldn’t say four times ago unless you were using it to designate something like turns in a game. Regardless of that exception, in this use it’s a noncount noun.) – Aimee