Thursday, June 24, 2010

The fundamental things apply.

Three years ago on Crimespace, Thrilling Detective contributor-turned-middle school teacher Dave White started a discussion arguing that meaning was more important than grammar.

Today on Do Some Damage, he resurrected the discussion, adding the side question, "[A]t what age do you stop teaching [grammar] and expect kids to know it?"

I commented:

To me, grammar is vitally important to clear thought. It's easy to jump on the bandwagon that the meaning behind a sentence is more important than how the sentence is structured, but grammar helps to teach meaning in the first place. If a person doesn't get that, he will have a more difficult time communicating his ideas—his meaning—later.

It's also easy to say that grammar isn't as important in fiction, but I think the grammar for fiction is simply different depending on the world you're writing about; it's no less important for your writing to be well structured.

I think everyone should know the parts of speech by seventh grade, but as a teacher I didn't see that. So I don't think we can have an age by which grammar is no longer taught, but then learning grammar is learning to communicate, something we continue all our lives.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I think you can have it both ways, especially with young writers. That's what revision is for, right? You can get everything down for meaning and then revise for clarity and correctness. I teach writing (both comp & creative) at the college level. Students usually seem to enjoy knowing, or being reminded of, ways to make their meaning clearer at the sentence level, which makes the piece stronger at every level. I suppose it also depends on what you see as the purpose of the piece of writing.