I’m not sure what to do. I’m convinced the problem has three parts:
- I’m good at identifying grammar problems but not good at teaching grammar so that students improve their skills,
- My students don’t spend enough time proofreading, and when they do, their approach is not meticulous enough,
- Despite my efforts, my students haven’t built a network of peers and adults to help them proofread.
My problem is not that students struggle with grammar. After all, I understand that learning is a process. But it’s worrisome that there are so many errors that don’t seem to go away.
Right now, in a short, five-paragraph essay, my students average 20-30 errors. That’s after a week of revision and proofreading. Many of these errors fall into these popular categories: possessive apostrophes, tenses, run-ons, subject-verb agreement, and commas after introductory clauses.
But then there are the bizarre errors: double periods, quotation marks that go the wrong way, misspelled names from the prompt, titles that are italicized and underlined, and uncapitalized names of characters.
When I read my students’ essays, I have an otherworldly experience. A few reactions emerge simultaneously.
- Did they even proofread this?
- They know this grammar rule. Why isn’t it automatic yet?
- What am I supposed to do about this?
Really, I’m at a loss. All students have an online writing mentor who offers comments every week. I look at their essays every week and teach a grammar lesson based on patterns I see. Then each student has a peer reviewer. I even make them listen to Grammar Girl. Finally, 10 students have in-person grammar coaches, and eight other students have completed Grammar Camp, a small-group intervention I lead during Lunch.