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The Power of Grammar: Unconventional Approaches to the Conventions of Language

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0325006888
ISBN-10: 0325006881
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mary Ehrenworth is coauthor of Pathways to the Common Core (with Lucy Calkins and Christopher Lehman). She is Deputy Director of Middle Schools at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Columbia University. She studied history and literature at Harvard and then curriculum theory and adolescent literacy at Columbia, where she received her doctorate - and then has been lucky to work with three subjects she loves - books, children, and teachers. In addition to Pathways, Mary has authored and co-authored numerous books, including: The Power of Grammar; Teaching Reading Through Fantasy Novels; Constructing Curriculum and Tackling Complex Texts from Units of Study in Reading; and Looking to Write: Teaching Writing Through the Visual Arts. Mary is also offering support to educators with the Common Core Standards through an online course entitled Harnessing the Common Core Standards to Achieve Higher Levels of Reading and Writing in Your Classroom and School offered through our new Digital Campus.

Vicki Vinton is a literacy consultant and writer who has worked in the New York City public schools and in districts around the country for over fifteen years. With her fellow literacy consultant Dorothy Barnhouse, she is the author of What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making (Heinemann, 2012), which has been called "the best book...about reading in the age of the Common Core" (Kim Yaris of Literacy Builders) and a book that helps "think through the Common Core talk about close reading and text complexity" (Franki Sibberson of the National Council of Teachers of English). Her other books include The Power of Grammar: Unconventional Approaches to the Conventions of Language (Heinemann, 2005), co-authored with Mary Ehrenworth of the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project, and the novel The Jungle Law (MacAdam/Cage, 2005). She is also the voice behind literacy blog To Make a Prairie (http://tomakeaprairie.wordpress.com), where she regularly shares resources, new ideas and work she has done in schools around the country.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Heinemann (February 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0325006881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0325006888
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Prescott on July 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Excluding the tiny cohort of grammar sticklers, most of us find the subject drab, obtuse, and mind-numbing.

As a freelance writer, journalist, and teacher, I particularly find the traditional study of grammar to be hardly worth the effort (and test scores would indicate the approach is ineffective for the large majority of students.)

Writers do not worry whether they're using a comparative or superlative adjective when they write. They write to convey meaning and emotion.

In short, we need a teaching method for grammar that focuses more on applicability than classification. This book provides just that.

It contains wonderful sample lessons, a clear instructional calendar, and tips on how to teach grammar quickly and in meaningful ways. In short: use the writer's workshop method (also called conferencing) to teach grammar. Teachers hook their students by sharing compelling, risky personal narratives from their own lives.

Teachers intentionally write these narratives down in grammatically incorrect ways. They then guide their students through correcting the mistakes and improving the writing until it pops off the page.

Why this approach? The authors finds sharing stories hooks the students. They also discovers students feel less pressure when they practice on their teacher's faulty writing first. It shows that even seasoned writers don't expect perfection from the first draft.

My only complaint is the book is not very user friendly. You have to read it cover to cover with a high level of engagement to extract all its meaning and well-honed advice.
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For anyone who teaches writing, this book provides a context for instruction and a series of methods for introducing grammar as an important part of message. The book will be especially useful to teachers implementing the writing workshop model; the author has contributed to the development of that model extensively.

While this book is primarily about grammar, the author recommends practices that will work equally well for teaching other aspects of writing craft. Her recommendation that points of grammar be taught first in the later stages of the writing process, to be revisited on subsequent cycles at earlier stages, in order to help students understand how to incorporate grammar as a "habit of mind," provides a practical avenue for helping writers. Equally powerful is her recommendation that grammar be studied not just through direct instruction but also through inquiry and apprenticeship (imitating admired writing styles to see how a message can be delivered more powerfully).
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Format: Paperback
I acquired this book because of the title: "The Power of Grammar." The list from which I was choosing left off the subtitle, "Unconventional Approaches to Conventions of Language."

That would have been a clue that basically the authors, who claim a love for grammar, actually see conventions of "received" or "standard" English as restrictive to voice.

Some conventions they decry are the standard "do nots" like do not begin a sentence with a conjunction, do not split an infinitive, and do not end a sentence with a preposition. They model their contempt for such convention. On two pages, four sentences and one paragraph began with conjunctions. (As a side note, the same two pages saw a simple series punctuated inexplicably with semicolon and a faulty use of parallelism with compound sentence later. Also on the next page, an introductory adverbial clause was left unadorned by comma.) Okay, I'm probably just being picky. The book addresses fanatics such as myself and notes that we are "erroneous" in our views.

I find it interesting that the authors and myself have read the same texts on achievement gap but have come to radically different viewpoints. I believe that we must maintain an achievable standard of English grammar so that it might be mastered by all, and the ruling class cannot simply change the rules to maintain a barrier of social mobility. The authors seem to understand that viewpoint as they give voice to the concept, but then they disregard those conventions in favor of individual voice, which is important I grant. However, I'd have entitled the book to reflect that emphasis.
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From an old school grammar fanatic, this book offers some great approaches for integrating grammar lessons into Reading/Writing Workshops.
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When you already have the basics of teaching writer's workshop, a la Lucy Calkins/Teacher's College, read this is do it better. Well written with tons of ideas and a format that allows for troubleshooting specific conventions, like punctuation, whatever your students may find challenging.
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