Furnishing the Mind with Grammar

Mar 04, 2024 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

This year at IEW, we are focusing on furnishing the mind. Just as we arrange furniture in our homes to create a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing environment, the mind too requires intentional furnishing. This blog explores the importance of grammar in shaping students’ linguistic foundations and offers practical tips on how to effectively furnish their minds with the building blocks of language. 

Grammar is a set of rules that govern the formation of sentences in a language. However, grammar is not just about rules. It involves understanding the structure and organization of language. All too often, grammar education is fixated on rote memorization of word lists, which stifles students’ appreciation for the living, breathing nature of language. With this narrow approach to grammar, students may complete endless workbook exercises and still fail to understand the purpose of grammar

Grammar extends beyond isolated rules; it is the art of constructing meaning, fostering clarity, and promoting expressive fluency. When students are introduced to the patterns and structures of language, they will sharpen their analytical and problem-solving skills. The most effective approach to teaching grammar involves integrating it into the context of writing and editing.  

Formal Instruction
Because grammar should be learned and applied in practice, it is best taught in upper elementary school or middle school after students have developed fluent reading and reasoning skills. When students are ready to reason, they not only comprehend the meaning of a sentence, but they can understand that a word can perform a different function in different sentences. 

Light is a verb in The fireworks light the sky. 
Light is a noun in We need more light. 
Light is an adjective in It is a light load.

Although young children may be able to chant lists of prepositions, pronouns, and conjunctions, they do not typically acquire a mindset conducive to reasoning and decision-making until they grow older.  

Fix It! Grammar
Fix It! Grammar uses ongoing stories to teach students how to critically analyze grammatical and structural patterns by searching for and fixing embedded errors. Beginning in Level 1 Nose Tree, students identify the structure of a sentence. Being able to differentiate between main clauses and dependent clauses aids in writing clear sentences. In this mastery-based system, students work from the known to the unknown in a systematic way. For example, students initially learn to recognize the who/which clause because it is a word group that begins with who or which and contains a subject and a verb. They learn that it must follow the noun it describes and it needs commas. Later, they learn that some who/which clauses are essential to the meaning of the sentence and do not require commas. In time, they learn a who/which clause is grammatically called an adjectival clause and begins with a relative pronoun.   

Fix It! Grammar not only teaches students the eight parts of speech, but it also furnishes students with questions to locate words. For example, adjectives, which describe nouns and pronouns, answer the questions which one, what kind, how many, and whose. When students memorize these questions, they not only learn to mark adjectives in their grammar workbooks, but they also learn the questions to ask to add quality adjectives to their writing. I’m writing about a ship. What kind of ship was it? As they answer the question, they select words that add strong images and feelings to their sentences.

Fix It! Grammar likewise furnishes students with a list of reliable comma rules, empowering them to punctuate sentences correctly. No longer must students resort to fickle reasoning such as I want to pause. When students learn the coordinating conjunctions (cc), they learn to ask what is the cc connecting? The answer informs the student if a comma is necessary. As students learn to identify the structure of a sentence, they learn how to correctly punctuate sentences. For the reader, the ability to recognize clauses and phrases results in greater comprehension. For the writer, the ability to organize clauses and phrases results in clearer communication. 

There are many other concepts covered in Fix It! Grammar, but ultimately the beauty of the program is that it builds a practical linguistic foundation for students that is easily carried into their own compositions. It is not a curriculum that encourages just memorizing rules that are only applied on an isolated workbook page. With Fix It! Grammar the students’ minds have been furnished with grammar knowledge that is valuable and practical for their written communication. 

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