Slice of Life: Gadzooks — It’s Parts of Speech

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

This is a rant as much as  a slice, but there I was, working with my students on Interjections and Conjunctions and trying to make it as exciting as I could (such as, encouraging them to use that word “Thunderation!”  or maybe “Gadzooks!” from our worksheet when they are in math class and see how Mr. M reacts). But every year, I have the same thought: This unit that dissects words in a sentence does not do one iota of good in helping my students grow as writers.

Am I right or wrong on this?

Still, it is in our curriculum and it is even its own item on our new standards-based report cards. So, Parts of Speech it is. But to say my heart is in it as we move into Adverbs and Pronouns and then Prepositions …. that would be a stretch. I’ll make it as fun as I can but in the end, they are going to be staring at sentences and picking them apart like vultures on a dead body, but at least the vultures get some nourishment.

I’m not sure what my students get out of it.

Peace (in the parts),

  1. Love it! (For the record, I am aware that I just ended my incomplete thought with a preposition. Also for the record, I agree that it doesn’t help our writers, not even one iota.)

  2. I am smiling today as I read the article in the NY Times by Diane Ravitch who made an interesting UTurn in her thinking about standards and Charter Schools and High Stakes Testing, so my friend, be patient. We have to be optimistic that reason will one day prevail.
    Teaching writing in abstract pieces can fill in a hole but it can’t create passion. That comes from your passion for writing and your deep thinking on how to engage kids. Just keep doing what you are doing with a smile…

    You rock,

  3. Have you heard of the book “Mechanically Inclined”? I believe I purchased this through Stenhouse, and it opened my grammar teaching world up so much! P.S. The author is Jeff Anderson

  4. I came upon Jeff Anderson’s “Mechanically Inclined” (Stenhouse) some time ago and use it to frame many of my grammar lessons. Much more fun than those sentence diagrams I suffered through!

  5. I, for one, wish I had gotten a more solid education in parts of speech. After all, you have to know the rules in order to break them and I do think my writing would be better (and maybe easier to do) if I had more to go on than just my instincts about “what sounds right.” Also, as a teacher, it would be handy to be able to say exactly why something can’t be written a certain way instead of something vague like “just because.” LOL

  6. Hi Kevin,
    I am also working with schools at present on cohesive ties (including conjunctions) and to make it meaningful and intersting I encourage teachers to get their students to work as text detectives and go in search of examples in their ‘just right’ texts. So we undertake an inquiry to gather evidence of how other writers use connectives to enhance writing. We noticed that in their own writing kids usually use a limited range of conjunctions with ‘then’ and ‘and’ over represented. We then chart their findings from the literature search. It’s contextual and far more engaging. The findings are discussed and evaluated. We try writing in the style of the writers we have collected. We then inform them that we will be looking for evidence of these new conjunctions being used in the writing they do going forward.
    Worksheet exercises don’t cut it. As I heard Mem Fox say on one occasion. ‘We should do all we can to avoid sacrificing students on the altar of the worksheet!’
    I understand your frustration

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *