What English Teachers Should Know About Formal Grammar


Before the foundation is laid for what it is that teachers should know about formal grammar, perhaps it is best to describe some of the assumptions about formal grammar as presented by Constance Weaver, which are: humans learn easily, simply by being exposed; grammar exercises will help students correct themselves automatically; knowledge acquired, will automatically transfer to writing; people will master the socially prestigious conventions of spoken or written usage and that the study of grammar will help people master another language more readily.

Once these assumptions are understood or agreed upon, we then have to take a look at the research that has been conducted upon these topics of grammatical discourse.  According to the research conducted by different institutions (i.e. Curriculum Commission of the National Council of Teachers of English), the traditional way of teaching grammar does not hold up to the standards to which are bestowed upon them; meaning, that all of the assumptions as listed above, are not entirely true, in fact, some of them are not true at all.lifestyle-photography-teacher-01

So if “research apparently gave no support to the idea that teaching grammar would help students develop mental discipline, master another language or become better users of their native language,” then what are some alternative routes to implanting a strategy that will work?

Here it is: what teachers need to know is that the traditional method of teaching grammar is not as effective as it is thought to be, therefore, teachers should incorporate a more useful methodology in their class room.  Other styles that teachers can use are structural and transformational grammar.


Transformational grammar emphasizes how surface structures can be generated from hypothesized deep, underlying structures, and how underlying structures can be transformed into different stylistic variants.  This method utilizes relationships between stylistic variants and offers students a more malleable approach to learning grammar.  Teachers can also combine the use of stylistic variants with sentence combining to provide more fluidity in language usage: O’Hare’s research suggests that sentence combining practice alone can enhance syntactic maturity and writing quality, without grammatical terminology or the study of grammar.

Overall, the research has shown that even though the use of transformational grammar or sentence combining does not increase efficiency by much, they do produce more growth in grammatical knowledge than the traditional verse of formal grammar.

detentionIf teachers wish to truly enhance their students’ knowledge about grammar, then they should definitely consider mixing the different styles of teaching grammar in order to provide a lucid learning environment for the multitude of minds in the classroom; we all learn different.  Therefore, it would be who of you, to switch up your teaching method.

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Willy Martinez

Willy Martinez is a creative writer, Integrated Marketing Specialist, and Boxing coach. Since being honorably discharged from the Marines in 2004, he has pursued his passion for telling stories, whether they be through film, graphic design, and writing for digital art.

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