This was a great week, for a few reasons. First, Shane’s grammar program, Shurley Grammar, moved him from the more banal ‘learning to classify stuff’ to actual grammar. Second, we finally started to settle in to a rhythm. Third, I just like to be back home after any trip! The first reason for this week being a success is the most interesting…
Shurley Grammar is a course that teaches how to classify or diagram sentences, (among other things.) It reveals to growing minds how language is organized, with categories and jobs for all the words and even jobs for each sentence in an essay. Remember what a subject is? Can you define ‘dangling participle?’ Well, I must admit that although I excelled in grammar in – uh- grammar school, I can’t for the life of me remember what a dangling participle is! But I am saved, now, by Shurley. Surely, she will teach me!
Last week and the previous ones, Shane and I spent all of our grammar time cutting out pictures of things, in magazines, for instance, and sorting them into categories, in various ways. Pasting them, piling them, putting them in folders. This week, for the first time, we read sentences and determined the subject noun and the verb in each sentence. Shurely has handy little jingles, to help you remember what’s what in grammar. Sung to the tune of “This Old Man,” “This little noun, floating around…” defines a noun as a person, place, or thing.
Shane and I began…
“Dog, subject noun.”
At this point, Shane labeled Dog with SN, for subject noun. Next, we labeled the verb in the sentence.
Sorry – let me get to the good part. The next day, Daddy was going to run an errand and asked if the boys wanted to come with him. (I’m fine with that, as long as they understand that homework is still due. And they love to goof off – or do anything, really – with Daddy.) Shane, standing next to me in my office, said, “Mommy, I don’t want to go with Daddy. Can we do some more of that ‘s-n-v’ stuff, like yesterday?”
Okay, where did that just come from? I was astounded. “You bet we can do some more of that!” So, for the next four days, we did not only the three sentences in the book, he made me come up with extra ones for him on the fly! (“Braeden farts.” Got a big response! “Farts: verb.”)
The intrinsic value in this agenda is that once the student appreciates and learns organization of language, they can apply that approach elsewhere, making it easier for them to get familiar with and comprehend other subjects. I don’t care if Shane, like me, doesn’t know what a dangling participle is when he is in his – uh – thirties, but his mind needs to understand that language, learning, and life, all have an underlying organization. Teaching him this organization is giving him a tool he can use to break down and comprehend bigger and more complicated things later on.
Some people never learn to do this, to their own detriment. Have you ever heard someone fight for a point, get it validly refuted, only to hear him return to the same line of reasoning a moment later? This is because they cannot organize the simple elements of their argument into their proper classifications, like “invalid.”
Braeden is also doing this kind of grammar, although two years advanced on Shane’s. His book lays third grade’s more intricate lessons out very clearly. It includes nicely worded teaching scripts that can be read directly to students, be they one or many. It has five lessons per unit, which equates to one unit per week. As anal as I am, I admit that keeps me from missing a day, because I want Monday to be day one of the unit so badly!
Four days a week he learns parts of speech and usage. Thursdays are test days for Braeden. Fridays are for writing practice, meaning expository paragraphs. Those are taught step by step in the book as well. I remember the template Braeden was given for book reports in school, with questions to describe the plot, or what happened in each chapter. It was a layman’s method to teaching analysis, and not very effective, since Braeden often tried to simply copy the first and the last sentence of each chapter directly out of the book, as his summary of events. Now, instead of spending my time reviewing the book with him and trying to teach him how to word the summary to encompass the events in the chapter, I am teaching him the three-point paragraph, a fundamental building block for mounting a convincing argument, an organizational tool he’ll use for the rest of his life.
And at the same time, Shurley may actually be improving my writing, or at least my dangling participles.