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Gearing up for Grammar Camp!

 I’m reading AP essays tonight, and I’m impressed by my students’ thinking and their growth as writers.

At the same time, I’m becoming alarmed by their grammar and how it’s not improving quickly enough.

The majority of my students learned English as their second language. This means their essays contain many grammar errors. This also means there’s a huge gap between their level of analysis, which is getting better, and their ability to convey their thinking without distraction.

If we don’t figure out grammar, there’s no way my students will pass the AP exam in May.

Unfortunately, grammar errors are stickier than bad organization, general thesis statements, and unclear topic sentences. Grammar errors are very difficult to eradicate.

What to do?

Already, my students — along with their online writing mentors — are identifying patterns in their grammar mistakes. And there is good news: Some students have progressed. Still, the errors are so many, and so egregious, that I’m concerned.

I know it’ll take time, but we don’t have that much time.

Therefore, I’m launching Grammar Camp next week, where small groups of four students will meet with me after school to work intensively on their individual grammar concerns. My hope is that with some targeted practice, my students will move through some of their grammar stumbling blocks.

This effort, however, will not be enough. After all, there are 23 students, each with unique and significant grammar challenges. Sure, I could send my students to the Purdue Online Writing Lab or to Grammar Girl, both excellent resources. But to deal substantively with grammar, my students need in-person, one-on-one support — likely for 20-30 minutes a week.

In short, I need to find grammar coaches for each of my students.

This is a big project. But I think it’s crucial. There’s no way that I can devote 30 minutes a week per student, but perhaps I can find people who are willing to make that commitment.

Unlike the writing mentors, whom I found all in one week, securing grammar coaches will take time. I’m hoping City College or SF State might send over some volunteers. However I figure it out, it has to happen. Let me know if you have ideas! 


    • Mark Isero

      Hi Sarah! Thanks for the idea, but 826 Valencia said they can’t help. I could send my students there, but that works only if my students live in the area and if they’re OK with having different grammar coaches every week. 826 Valencia won’t send tutors to our school unless it’s part of a project, like a book.

  1. tony

    Here is a quick thought:
    Since they are writing an essay each week, you have a lot of writing to use as fodder for this:
    In the spirit of Dia de Los Muertos and Halloween – what about having a RIP to Grammar Errors class or two. Maybe you can create a half sheet for each common error, an example of the error from their own writing, and then engage is some sort of ritualistic purging activity with the half sheet. Feed it to a zombie – burn it and dress as a devil – create a coffin with all the half sheets in it and then bury it – put them all on a small toy boat and give them a burial at sea? Next, you can post them around the room in some type of ghostly form, or as headstones.
    Man, I miss teaching ap.

Please share your brilliant insights!