Grammar Improves Students’ Reading
I’ve been thinking about grammar lately. Not just how grammar guides writing and speaking, but how it informs reading.
Teachers constantly encounter students who don’t have the basics of grammar. Possessives and even plurals are formed incorrectly. Teachers who read student writing constantly try to dicipher meaning. We wonder if the students will remember our corrections. How many grammatical mistakes should we mark without losing focus on style and substance? Besides, we shrug, since they have grammar check, kids are used to having their mistakes disappear without their knowledge. Grammatical rules exist behind the interface of software programming.
But here is another reason to care about grammar. Imagine what it would be like to read without rules. When we see an apostrophe and “s” attached to a noun, we know that the noun will possess the noun near it. We don’t have to read the words – we already know meaning, based on one tiny mark. We know to look for another noun nearby. We also identify the beginnings of sentences by scanning a paragraph for capital letters.
Grammar saves time and energy. Think about listening to someone speak English who has not studied it for long. How tiring it is to figure out what they mean! Even if the words are correct, if the grammar is wrong, we are fatigued trying to follow meaning. Likewise, if we read in another language, we work extremely hard not only to know the definitions of words but the meaning behind how they are used.
Kids who don’t know grammar are missing shortcuts to meaning. If students don’t know the rules, they can’t use the rules to aid their understanding of text. Instead students must glean all information from words themselves. If students already read slowly, lack of grammatical knowledge will make meaning even slower. If we want to increase fluency, we should spend more time teaching students to use the shortcuts which already exist: grammatical rules.
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