Give me that Old Time

The words “Give me that Old Time Religion that is good enough for me” could be changed to “Give me that Old Time Grammar, that is good enough for me”. I kind of miss the day of drill and practice. Yes, it was boring, but it was also easy and I learned the concept.  Now, it seems like more and more students are struggling with their writing and also grammar.  We need to find a way to fix it.  I get it, we don’t want to teach grammar outside of context anymore as that is boring and not engaging to the student but are we doing a better job of teaching grammar now?  I think in some cases they know the rules, but they aren’t applying them to their everyday writing or outside of English class.  Somehow, we need to get students to see the need to apply the rules all of the time.

At the beginning of the school year, I inform, remind, tell, attempt to pound it into my students that using certain words incorrectly will cost them points.  My favorite set of incorrectly used words are there, their, and they’re.  When I give the students practice or check to see if they know the difference, yes they are almost 100% accurate at all times.  But then when I want them to apply this knowledge to the real world and their writing, I hear things like, “I know the difference, but it is just easier to always use there, ”  and “I don’t how it matters  which one I use, they are basically the same word.”  For me, this is like running fingernails down the old chalkboard.  Oh, how I hated that sound.

When writing research papers or other more formal papers and I remind my students that they can’t use personal pronouns and that they need to keep it formal, they look at me like I have just sprouted two more heads.  What are personal pronouns they ask?  As I try explaining a personal pronoun to them, I realize that the problem is deeper than I thought, they actually don’t know pronouns and many seem to have never heard of the word.  What, how did you get out of early elementary school without knowing the parts of speech, I wonder and shake my head in sadness.

What are some of your grammar pet peeves?  Do you have a better solution for teaching grammar? If so, please share as I am open to any new ideas I can garner.  Thanks


Diagramming Sentences

One of the reasons I chose the blog name “Musings of an old English Teacher” is because I consider myself to be a bit old fashioned when it comes to teaching.  There are several methods, concepts, etc. that have gone away and are no longer taught, but I believe that they actually were a good thing and we are missing out on them.  One of those is diagramming sentences.


I loved diagramming sentences and looked forward to any day that we were able to do this in class.  No this wasn’t hard, in fact, I found it more like a puzzle or a logic puzzle. As long as you knew the parts of speech and a sentence you would have no problem putting this together.  I do believe that diagramming a sentence was a visual activity for those students that needed a picture instead of just reading it.  This helped you to see what words were what part and to put everything together.  When you learned to diagram sentences your sentences made sense.

Now instead we complain that people can’t write a coherent sentence. Maybe if we spent more time in the upper elementary and middle school years diagramming sentences we wouldn’t have this problem.

Does anyone else miss this as much as I do?  If there is something that you miss from the previous time periods what is it?  Why do you miss it?