Too many young people complete 12 years of school confused about English grammar.
The fault is not theirs.
The fault is ineffective grammar teaching. Too many concepts are presented at one time with insufficient practice and reinforcement.
Part of the problem is the practice of having a new grammar textbook for every grade. Students acquire the idea that there’s no end to what’s to be learned. A better practice would be to have one basic text that can be used by students at every grade level until the material in it has been mastered.
The Key to Mastery
All children can master basic grammar if it is presented in an easy-to-grasp order, and if plenty of practice is provided.
Formal grammar is best taught in increments.
It’s not necessary, for example, to teach everything about nouns all at once. Terms like singular, plural, possessive, and collective can wait until the child can identify a noun. Likewise terms like tense, agreement, participle and transitive can be introduced after the child can pick out the verb in a sentence with confidence.
An understanding of grammar results from learning the parts of speech and the parts of the sentence.
The Sequence for teaching the Parts of Speech
There are eight traditional parts of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, conjunction, interjection, and preposition.
The first terms to teach are noun and verb. First graders can easily learn the concept of “naming words” and “doing words.”
Give children plenty of practice with nouns and verbs before going on to another part of speech.
NOTE: As the children master the parts of speech, introduce them to the parts of the sentence. As they learn to identify nouns and verbs, they can learn to analyze sentences into their two main parts: Subject and Predicate.
analyze v. “divide the sentence into its parts” (The noun is analysis.)
Once the child has mastered the concept of noun and verb, introduce the adjective. This is the time to introduce the definite and indefinite articles. Nowadays the fashion is to call these words “determiners,” but teach the traditional terms. Children will need to know them when they come to the study of a foreign language.
As the adjective is introduced, the child learns that the Subject of a sentence may contain words in addition to the noun. Now is the time to introduce the terms simple subject and complete subject.
When the child understands the function of the adjective, introduce the adverb.
By now the child is ready to be introduced to parsing.
parse: v. “identify each word in a sentence according to its part of speech” (The noun is parsing.)
After the adverb, introduce the pronoun. Teach only the subject forms of the personal pronouns to begin with: I, you, she, he, it, we, you, and they. The object forms can wait until you are ready to introduce prepositions.
After the personal pronouns, introduce conjunctions. Tell the child that there are many kinds of conjunction, but that you’ll begin with the most common: and and or. More information about conjunctions is not needed at this point.
Only two parts of speech remain to be introduced: interjection and preposition.
The interjection is an easy concept to grasp. It takes very little explanation.
The preposition is best presented last. In introducing the preposition, the teacher must introduce the concept of the phrase because prepositions function only as part of a phrase. Now is the time to introduce the object forms of the personal pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, us, you, and them.
Many children have difficulty in grasping the function of the preposition. Lots of examples and plenty of practice are needed to establish mastery. Until the student has mastered these concepts, it is counterproductive to introduce more advanced information about the parts of speech and the parts of the sentence.
Parents can start monitoring grammar learning as early as first grade.