The other night, I graded my last paper of the semester and cracked open the bottle of wine that had been calling out to me all week. As I sipped my single glass of victory, I reflected on the state of my students’ writing.
I couldn’t help but long for them to enter my classes with a better foundation in grammar and syntax, so I came up with a wish list I would like elementary and secondary school teachers to try and fulfill.
- Properly teach comma use. I want to put a thumbtack,point up, on the chair of every teacher who takes the lazy way out and proclaims, “Put a comma in whenever you pause or take a breath.” They set their students up for a lifetime of comma confusion.
- Teach other punctuation. I know K-12 teachers are doing this, but I’d appreciate it if they explained that exclamation points shouldn’t end every sentence and question marks should only show up at the end of direct questions. (Oh, and please explain that colons and semicolons are not interchangeable with each other or commas.)
- Ditch the absolute prohibition of beginning sentences with “because” and replace it with “being that.” Yes, I understand students often end up with sentence fragments if they start sentences with “because.” However, this should not become a lifelong ban. Why not prohibit “being that” instead? Honestly, I can’t think of any good reason for it.
- Help end creative capitalization. I understand that, in an age of texting and microblogging (Tweeting for the uninitiated), this could be tough. Trying to convince adult learners that the pronoun “I” should always be capitalized is frustrating. Modern texting apps may automatically capitalize it, but students don’t notice. The concept of proper nouns versus common nouns seems to escape them, too.
- Show students how parts of speech are building blocks to proper sentences. Like parts of an engine or rooms in a building, each part of speech has a role to play to build solid, effective sentences.
The good news, at least for me and my future students, is that the Common Core Standards being implemented in states across America cover these things.
It gives me hope that good grammar, unlike cursive writing, will not follow the path of the dodo.
5 thoughts on “An End-of-Semester Wish List”
I really enjoyed this–and couldn’t agree more with your list–so I’m sharing on my blog, ProofPerfectly.com.
What a wonderful wish list. I wish my students would learn to stop using (not just avoid) my Pet Peeves list that I give them on the first day of class.
I have been trying for years to get people to stop with “and also.” Grrrrr. Oh, well. It’s summer and I don’t have to think about it again for a couple of months. 🙂
te, Will this get through to you? I agree with all your desires AND I would add that we need to improve the texts we find in our current newspapers — yes, even books. It is difficult to have teachers do instructions on grammar, sentence structure, etc when the teachers themselves have such poor foundations.
When I was hiring I was always interested in a person’s high school. Good writing should really start before then.
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I get a little depressed when I have students tell me they didn’t have to write essays or papers in high school. It actually does them a disservice not to prepare them. I understand not everyone thinks as I do, that grammar can be fun.