Grammar usage and English grammar test instruction

Grammar and effective word usage are important to writing well. There have been many studies on teaching grammar successfully and learning to write properly.

Ace your research papers by using proper grammar. (Credit: Huffington Post)

Ace your research papers by using proper grammar. (Credit: Huffington Post)

Here are some interesting research paper topics on grammar lessons, letting students write instead of memorizing grammar rules, Britain’s new English grammar test that is challenging teachers, and persuasive professional writing with creative word usage.

Better ways to teach grammar

A good topic for a research paper is to discuss various ways to teach grammar. Many educators agree that the current method of memorizing parts of speech and diagramming sentences is not working and does not capture children’s attention. One study even showed that students learning grammar had a strong antipathy to English learning, compared to a control group who had no formal grammar study, just more literature and creative writing study.

Writing in “The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar,” teacher Michelle Navarre Cleary commented in The Atlantic, February 25, 2014, that too many children edit themselves when they try to write, worrying about “the rules.” Cleary said, “These students are victims of the mistaken belief that grammar lessons must come before writing, rather than grammar being something that is best learned through writing.” She advocates for just letting kids write first and learn the rules later. “Once students get ideas they care about onto the page, they are ready for instruction—including grammar instruction—that will help communicate those ideas,” said Cleary.

Teachers need to know grammar

For your term paper, consider writing about the need for teachers to be properly trained in teaching grammar. It’s vitally important to teach grammar and spelling to children in primary school for their proper lifelong usage of their primary language. However, as England’s Education Department institutes new National Curriculum tests in English grammar for 2016, many primary school teachers and teaching students are ill equipped to teach basic English grammar. From the 1960s, curriculum in grammar in school were discarded, so teachers today and college students studying to be teachers are ignorant of such things as parts of speech, such as conjunctions and adjectives.

University College of London is offering crash courses for teachers in basic English grammar so they can teach their young students. “A special course has been developed …to bolster teachers’ grasp of the subject as so few were properly taught grammar when they themselves were at school,” reported Jonathan Petre in “Grammar Lessons. for the Teachers,” posted in London’s The Mail on Sunday October 25, 2015. A sample question on the new National Curriculum test is: “Rewrite the following sentence so that it is written in the passive voice: The pouring rain drenched us.”

Word usage depends on context

Discussions on proper writing should contain information on word usage and context. A dictionary definition of a word will not always suffice when deciding which word to use. Context plays an important role in determining the right word that corresponds to your intended meaning. Many good writers spend time on selecting just the right word to convey specific meaning.

The Ask Betty: Grammar for College Writers column at the University of Washington offers some tips for word selection:

  • Consider what might be the right word(s) in a given context by evaluating your audience, their needs, and their understanding of your subject matter.
  • Whenever possible, avoid clichés and empty words. These kinds of words are overused expressions that end up having little actual meaning.
  • Find the clearest and most direct way to articulate ideas. Simplicity, rather than verbosity, provides a bigger punch when expressing ideas. You don’t want to confuse your audience.

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Grammar. 

Do you think it’s important to learn grammar first, then writing, or the other way around?

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