As Laura R. Micchiche states, grammar makes people anxious. This statement is probably even more so in English 109/110, where many of our students have either endured rote skills building classes which decontextualize grammar from the writing process, or more likely, have had few explicit grammar instruction and feel underprepared for college level writing. Many of the students may feel that if grammar is not taught in discrete, distinct "chunks," it is not being taught at all. For this reason, we suggest the explicit teaching of grammar as part of the writing and revision process.

You can decide what type of grammar instruction you feel most comfortable with.

· Some instructors dedicate one or two "mini-lessons" to grammar each week.

· Some instructors teach grammar in conjunction with close reading assignments, to illustrate the    ways writers employ grammar as part of their argument and part of their rhetorical position

· Some instructors bring in examples from sample student essays to discuss how they can reorganize their sentences to make their language more persuasive.

· Some instructors teach grammar as an integral part of rhetoric. For instance, discuss with your     students the rhetorical weight of active voice vs. passive voice. How is power differently situated with each choice? Or, how does the writer sound more or less emphatic using nouns versus pronouns?

You may encounter students who see grammar as the most important part of the writing process and their desire to master its conventions as the ultimate goal of their writing instruction. We don't suggest turning English 109/110 into a grammar skills class. However, given both student and teacher anxiety, the teaching of grammar should be part of the writing process rather than an independent, discrete skill.

The English 109/110 Writing Program has required They Say, I Say as a mandatory text for all English 109/110 classes to introduce students to the language of academic discourse. In order to supplement this text, we have included sample activities and handouts that focus on grammar.

As of Fall 2012 all TAs should have access to the new online writer's handbook Writer's Help.

We also suggest referring to reference sources such as:





Grammar Requirements and Recommendations


ENGL 109 should include the following grammar topics:

·           Basic comma, semi-colon, and colon usage; including

o    Complex and compound sentences,

o    Adverbial/adjectival phrases and clauses,

o    Parenthetical phrases and clauses, and

o   Appositives;

·           MLA format for titles of works (underlines and quotation marks);

·           Parallel construction;

·           Misplaced modifiers and their mobility;

·           Pronoun and noun phrase referents; and

·           MLA format (including what counts as plagiarism).

You can of course address as many other grammar issues as you like (your pet peeves for example), but we would like everyone to cover at least this list so that student have a somewhat uniform skill base when entering ENGL 110.

In ENGL 110, you should be prepared to address these same issues again individually, but you should be able to move on at the group level to a more rhetoric-focused approach.


There are a lot of ways to teach grammar. We'll offer a few suggestions here and appreciate you sharing any other methods that have worked for you in the past. We suggest that you set aside one regular day every other week to address grammar issues. Many students in 104-105 are eager to have grammar instruction and will feel comforted to know that it has a stable place in the syllabus.

One key piece of advice, however, is that grammar instruction via worksheets have not been proven to translate into a student's own writing. It is important that you stress to your students that they are most likely to catch their grammar mistakes during proofreading than while they are writing.


1. Student Presentations:

            a. Technique: Students are assigned to present on various grammar topics

            b. Benefits: Students learn to figure out grammar rules for themselves using a 

                handbook; students offer creative lessons; all students are more engaged because

                those presenting are teaching and those listening want others to pay attention when 

                they present.

            c. Warnings: You have to design the lessons with the student, and sometimes they wait 

                until the last minute; you may want to "un-do" some lessons if students have not 

                consulted enough with you or add something they haven't talked with you about.

2. Improvisational Grammar Workshop:

            a. Technique: Students are assigned to bring 2-3 grammar questions to class for the 

                instructor to answer.

            b. Benefits: You have the change to dispel myths; it can be entertaining; students are 

                more engaged because you are addressing their questions.

            c. Warnings: You have to come up with the sentences for example on the spur of the 

                moment; sometimes you have to say "I'll have to look that up."

            d. Modification: You could have students turn in questions to you ahead of time and 

                then have time to prepare. You can also just answer two or three questions per period 

                and have students work in groups or alone to try to think of examples to share after 

                you've taught a mini grammar lesson.

3. Student Paper Cullings:

             a. Technique: While reading student essays, pull out sample run-ons, fragments,

                 etc. Make a handout and/or overhead with several examples of one problem.

                 Show how to fix a few, then, have students take turns fixing the remaining examples.

             b. Benefits: You don't have to make up examples; sometimes you are able to provide 

                 more context for the grammar issue; there's more potential for student participation; 

                 grammar is tied directly to the students' own writing.

             c. Warnings: Some students don't like having their errors pointed out publicly even if

                  it is anonymous; you can use up your copy allotment quickly.

4. Handbook-Based Assignment:

             a. Technique: Students are assigned exercises in their own papers based on and 

                using sections of the Brief Holt Handbook  or The Everyday Writer.

             b. Benefits: Provides familiarity with and encourages use of the handbook, which 

                students wouldn't touch or know how to use otherwise; students spend 


                time practicing editing/proofreading.

             c. Warnings: It's a little more time-consuming to check different essays than the same 

                essay or sentences for grammar.

5. The Osterizer:

            a. Technique: Blend the above techniques to taste.

            b. Benefits: A variety of approaches can appeal to a broader range or learning styles/

                preferences and prevent boredom for you and your students.

            c. Warnings: Sometimes students prefer a more predictable structure.