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Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop [Paperback]

by Jeff Anderson, Vicki Spandel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1, 2005 1571104127 978-1571104120

Some teachers love grammar and some hate it, but nearly all struggle to find ways of making the mechanics of English meaningful to kids. As a middle school teacher, Jeff Anderson also discovered that his students were not grasping the basics, and that it was preventing them from reaching their potential as writers. Jeff readily admits, “I am not a grammarian, nor am I punctilious about anything,” so he began researching and testing the ideas of scores of grammar experts in his classroom, gradually finding successful ways of integrating grammar instruction into writer's workshop.

Mechanically Inclined is the culmination of years of experimentation that merges the best of writer's workshop elements with relevant theory about how and why skills should be taught. It connects theory about using grammar in context with practical instructional strategies, explains why kids often don't understand or apply grammar and mechanics correctly, focuses on attending to the “high payoff,” or most common errors in student writing, and shows how to carefully construct a workshop environment that can best support grammar and mechanics concepts. Jeff emphasizes four key elements in his teaching:

  • short daily instruction in grammar and mechanics within writer's workshop;
  • using high-quality mentor texts to teach grammar and mechanics in context;
  • visual scaffolds, including wall charts, and visual cues that can be pasted into writer's notebooks;
  • regular, short routines, like “express-lane edits,” that help students spot and correct errors automatically.

Comprising an overview of the research-based context for grammar instruction, a series of over thirty detailed lessons, and an appendix of helpful forms and instructional tools, Mechanically Inclined is a boon to teachers regardless of their level of grammar-phobia. It shifts the negative, rule-plagued emphasis of much grammar instruction into one which celebrates the power and beauty these tools have in shaping all forms of writing.

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Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop + Everyday Editing + Ten Things Every Writer Needs to Know
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571104127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571104120
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in the Golden Triangle in southeast Texas. I was never that interested in grammar, and I understood why kids hated it. I loved to write and teach writing though, and eventually I realized that was what grammar was for--to make our writing better. When I started merging grammar with writer's craft instruction, a revolution began. My books, Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing, are designed to help teachers and students find joy where grammar meets writing. Currently, I am working on my third book, 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know, which will be available in October of 2011.

Find me on the web:
Check out my facebook page:
Twitter ID: @writeguyjeff

I live in San Antonio, Texas with my partner and my dog, and my dream is to get my middle-grade novel series published.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where "Grammar" and "Editing" Are NOT Dirty Words December 15, 2007
In MECHANICALLY INCLINED, Jeff Anderson tackles the issue of grammarphobia and edit-phobia head on. You know the diseases. They are endemic in English classrooms everywhere.

Anderson advocates using "mentor" sentences and paragraphs taken from books that interest students. He also details how to set up a writer's notebook where kids can write freely without fear of the Red Pen (which, to them, is like an invader from the Red Planet, as narrated by Orson Welles). The notebook includes sections for creativity, exploration, modeling, and copying well-written sentences and paragraphs.

I especially like Anderson's idea for the Editing Checkout, where students "scan" work looking for specific skills, then create a "receipt" of their findings. NATIONAL ENQUIRERS are not necessary for this activity. The kids will get a kick out of it and (not too loud, now) will learn something about editing (with one pen, two pens, red pens, or blue pens) while they're at it. What more could a teacher ask for? (OK, don't answer that...)
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I absolutely adore this book! It's incredibly user friendly, and I didn't feel stupid about grammar while reading it. The first half of the book sets up the lessons. The second half is the lessons. It's obvious Jeff uses a writer's notebook and writer's workshop. He truly makes 'grammar in context' a meaningful and attainable way to teach. I have used several of the lessons with my fourth graders and they love it. I think only a book like this, and Jeff himself, could get someone like me to yell AUWWBIS like a farmer's pig call. It's fun and effective - get this book!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific resource August 4, 2006
Anderson explains how to show students the practicality of grammar and how to teach it in context rather than isolation in a way that middle school students will not only understand but also enjoy. He provides lists, lessons, examples, and everything needed to take this approach and immediately implement it in the classroom. This is one of the best-written and most helpful books I have read in years.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical & Useful! March 22, 2006
By M. Dove
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book provides strategies to help teachers "merge grammar and mechanics with craft in the context of meaningful writing", and it does exactly that! It outlines how to use mentor texts to teach students how to write well-written sentences. paragraphs and essays.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turn your students into "sentence stalkers" November 9, 2006
By Becky
This is a must read for any pre-service English teacher or, for that matter, any English teacher. No more correct-alls and sentence diagramming. Anderson's unique and energetic approach to teaching grammar and mechanics will inspire you and get your students to engage in text as if it were play!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Buy November 17, 2008
I'm a glutton for books on education, and I can comfortably say that this is hands-down the most practical, entertaining, and useful book I read in 2008. While I was still reading the book I was able to implement some of Anderson's ideas in my own classroom. He's a middle school teacher but I adapt many of his lesson ideas for my third grade class. He answered every question and eased my discomfort about teaching structure in a fluidly structured environment like writer's workshop. Well done in striking the balance between squelching student ideas and squeaking by with any old slop.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mechanically Inclined September 9, 2008
As the forward of this text suggested, this book IS engaging enough to read far into the night, despite it being about grammar and usage! It is packed with usable information, visuals, examples and stimulating ideas for writing teachers. I highly recommend it, for teachers and writers of all ages (middle school to college).
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book that is worth the money! July 12, 2007
I first came across this book at the library and found that I was constently writing down ideas from the book. I returned the book and decided to buy my own copy! Great resource book for Language Arts teachers! I highly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars How to help students write well
Easily applied to all teaching situations , well crafted by a realistic practioner with a passion for writing and helping students to write as well .
Published 19 days ago by M. E. Mistlberger
5.0 out of 5 stars Mechanically Inclined
Great in providing different types of examples on how students can learn to write better, grammatically. Was well organized, easy to use, and teacher friendly :)
Published 26 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Change Everything.
This is my first year teaching language arts to middle school students. I could tell that they were already bored with grammar, but during the last few weeks, I too was about to go... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jennifer Rosario
5.0 out of 5 stars What an eye opener!
This concept will be implemented as soon as school re-opens. I'm setting up daily quick writes and will use Anderson's ideas to help students actually master one problem at a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Miz J
4.0 out of 5 stars Textbook purchase.
Decent book, breaks down various aspects of writing for various ages, though it's mostly geared towards elementary aged students. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Liz C
1.0 out of 5 stars If you want to increase your kid's test score, yes buy this one
I do not understand the five-stars this book gets over here. Maybe it is the pressure of teachers having to have their students score high on a standardized test that boosts the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Wanqing Li
5.0 out of 5 stars Mechanically Inclined
REALLY, REALLY good book on teaching grammar! I am implementing skills as soon as I read them, and those skills are having a powerful effect!
Published 6 months ago by LorettaLynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reference book
It has many practical ideas and lessons that connect the craft of writing to the mechanics using literature. I am using it in my fourth grade classroom with a great deal of success
Published 6 months ago by Joan Mulholland
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for writing teachers
This makes my top 5 list of must-have books for writing teachers! Practical units based on research that you can put to work TODAY in your classrooom
Published 7 months ago by Susan O. Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Love this guy! Book is fun and easy to read. I'm not a "textbook" reader but this book kept my attention.
Published 7 months ago by Christine Simon
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