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When preparing to teach English grammar at the middle-school level, choosing which concepts to cover and in what order to cover them is extremely complex.
If one simply decides to work through a grammar textbook or handbook, one would be hard pressed to squeeze in much of anything else, like literature and writing, for most grammar texts seem to have been compiled with one single thought in mind: What is there to know about grammar?
While English teachers agree that grammar instruction is important, they battle to find time for grammar as it competes with literature, writing, and vocabulary for valuable instructional time.
If one tries to cover bits and pieces from a grammar textbook, where does one begin? What can afford to be cut out and what should not? In what order should concepts be taught? If you skip chapter three, for instance, will students be able to digest the important concepts in chapter five?
Also, what is most practical for students to know? Yes, the 6th grade grammar book might have a chapter on subordinate clauses, but is this an area my 6th graders are ready to digest? Is it relevant to where they actually are in the development of their writing skills?
As a result, grammar instruction is often sporadic and piece-meal, and students' understanding is therefore shallow and fleeting. Some teachers even give up teaching grammar completely!
Richbaub's Introduction to Middle School Grammar goes beyond the thought of “What is there to know about grammar?” because such an approach is simply not practical in today's literature and writing-focused approach to teaching English.
In developing Richbaub's Introduction to Middle School Grammar, the three most-heavily weighed considerations were:
1. What can students at the middle school level actually digest when it comes to grammar? i.e. What is developmentally appropriate?
2. What grammar, in regards to middle school writing, is most practical for middle school students to know?
3. How much time can and should a middle school teacher devote to teaching grammar in a class which also covers literature, writing, and vocabulary?
A more developmentally-appropriate and more realistic scope
The scope of knowledge covered is not exhaustive and not overwhelming. Concepts have been selected based on what is practical and digestible for the middle school mind in the context of today’s English classroom.
Approximately 40 minutes of classroom time + a homework assignment per week with Richbaub's IMSG will result in students' completing the entire course. This leaves a comfortable 80% of classroom time for literature, writing, and vocabulary programs.
A more developmentally-appropriate sequencing
The sequencing of Richbaub's IMSG pays close attention to where middle school students are developmentally as well as where they are in their knowledge of grammar.
Concepts have been ordered with an eye on what makes sense to the middle school mind, not on what makes sense to the mind of a sophisticated grammarian.
In short, Richbaub's Introduction to Middle School Grammar...
- works for students because it's specifically designed for their developmental level, and
- it works for teachers because it's designed not to dominate their instructional time, but rather to easily fit beside the literature, vocabulary, and writing instruction within today's English curricula.