For many years, when middle and high school English teachers would ask me to recommend a good book for teaching grammar, I'd direct them to Constance Weaver's Teaching Grammar in Context (Heinemann, 1996). Based on sound research and extensive road testing, Weaver's book views grammar as a positive activity for making meaning, not just an exercise in tracking down errors or labeling parts of speech.
But I've stopped recommending Teaching Grammar in Context, though it's still in print. Now I encourage teachers to pick up a copy of Weaver's more recent book, Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing (Heinemann, 2008). Assisted by her colleague Jonathan Bush, Dr. Weaver does more than simply rework the concepts introduced in her earlier study. She delivers on her promise to offer a text that's "more comprehensive, more reader friendly, and more concretely focused on teachers' practical needs."
The fastest way to help you decide whether you'd get along with Dr. Weaver, theoretically speaking, is to reprint her 12 principles "for teaching grammar to enrich and enhance writing"--principles that underlie all the varied activities in her book.
- Teaching grammar divorced from writing doesn't strengthen writing and therefore wastes time.
- Few grammatical terms are actually needed to discuss writing.
- Sophisticated grammar is fostered in literacy-rich and language-rich environments.
- Grammar instruction for writing should build upon students' developmental readiness.
- Grammar options are best expanded through reading and in conjunction with writing.
- Grammar conventions taught in isolation seldom transfer to writing.
- Marking "corrections" on students' papers does little good.
- Grammar conventions are applied most readily when taught in conjunction with editing.
- Instruction in conventional editing is important for all students but must honor their home language or dialect.
- Progress may involve new kinds of errors as students try to apply new writing skills.
- Grammar instruction should be included during various phases of writing.
- More research is needed on effective ways of teaching grammar to strengthen writing.
To learn more about Constance Weaver's Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing (and to read a sample chapter), visit the Heinemann website.