Monday, March 05, 2007

Teaching Grammar and Conventions: An Interview With Jeff Anderson



Last week, Jeff Anderson was one of the speakers at the Dublin Literacy Conference. It was a great day and Jeff's sessions got rave reviews. Jeff is the author of MECHANICALLY INCLINED--a must have for Language Arts teacher in grades 4-8. He's answered so many of my concerns and questions about teaching grammar and mechanics in the context of real reading and writing. He seems to have figured it out so that kids actually transfer what they learn to their writing. It is a great book. He also has a video series coming out with Stenhouse this spring that will show some of the things in action. I can't wait!

We interviewed Jeff about his book and his work.

A Year of Reading: What inspired you to write Mechanically Inclined?

Jeff Anderson: Teaching grammar and editing skills in the context of reading is what I have found to be effective. That's why I do it. When I taught skills in isolation--they kids seemed to know the material, but they couldn't or didn't apply it to their writing. Plain and simple, grammar and editing skill are part of the writing process. When grammar and editing are taught as separate activities, kids don't necessarily apply it to the writing. So the more we can connect and integrate skills within the process, the more the kids remember. It's about using grammar and editing as tools to shape the messages they want to write. In reading it's about how the ideas, structures, and patterns work together. It's not that we can't break a skill down to its smallest chunk of meaning. I like to call that zooming in, but the point is we need to make it about meaning and how everything fits together.

A Year of Reading: What is the most effective thing that you do that helps your students
understand the skills you are teaching.

Jeff Anderson: First we can't minimize the importance of how kids feel about grammar and editing. We need to invite kids in with positive examples from professional and student writers. It needs to be about how effective things are rather than an "error hunt" (Weaver, 1996). Students get excited when they look at a sentence from Flush or The Invention of Hugo Cabret. They get pulled in--and they have fun imitating and playing with patterns, seeing what effect they have. Using models or mentor text to help kids find their power. That's been the number one thing that has made my teaching of grammar and editing more effect.

A Year of Reading: What are the most common questions do you get from teachers about your work?

Jeff Anderson: How do you replace DOL (Daily Oral Language?) How do you come up with the sentences you do? I have a dirty little secret. I find an incredible amount of powerful texts in the first lines or first paragraphs of novels. That's where the authors put in a lot of work and the sentence often end up inspiring kids to write more.

A Year of Reading: Are you working on any new projects?

Jeff Anderson: The DVD that was filmed in my classroom in January is coming out in May at IRA. It's called The Craft of Grammar.

I am also working on a book of daily invitations to edit. I hope to create a sound alternative to DOL, that is systematic and authentic that invites students into the world of editing and the power of all those little marks we call punctuation.



If you love this interview so much that you'd love to read more, you can visit Jeff at his website

1 comment:

  1. That book sounds great. I'll have to find it. Thanks for the interview!

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