Today I had the sudden realization that my Juniors don’t know what a noun, adjective, verb, or adverb is. We were working with new vocabulary words and I was trying to have them transform a word from one part of speech to another when all I saw was a sea of blank faces. It wasn’t the vacant stare of those who don’t care; it was the stare of impassive faces who can’t admit they have no idea what a noun does. At least the guy in the cartoon got past the basics!
We then spent the next 20 minutes reviewing using a simple chart I drew on the board, and they did eventually get it when I drew arrows (adjectives with arrows pointing to what is described and adverbs pointing to verbs and so on). They color-coded the chart and arrows, and they submitted an exit ticket with sentences of their own creation with the parts correctly labeled. They got it.
However, why don’t they really have it?
They’ve been taught this multiple times over the years since elementary school. One of my colleagues believes kids don’t master grammar because they aren’t ever really held accountable for knowing it. Another colleague thinks it’s a standard easily discarded for another more important one. One other colleague thinks it’s not taught because many of the teachers don’t know it well enough (and, sadly, I’ve seen some errors on the chalkboards in my neighbors’ classrooms).
But, what if it’s simply that students don’t care about grammar?
It’s not fun. It’s frustrating for many. It’s tedious. It’s really a set of rules that have to be memorized because there are so many exceptions.
I think my students put up with me teaching it because they like me, but I’m not sure how much they will recall once they leave my class and go on to the next one. Maybe this is what happens in many teachers’ rooms. I don’t know. What I do know is that my students dread grammar no matter how I teach it (poems, games, manipulatives, etc.), and every year I have to teach the basics again and again.