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How I’m making grammar more personal

 It’s becoming clear that if my students are to pass the AP test in May, they’ll need to improve a lot on their grammar.

After all, on the exam, students must write three essays in two hours. And the essays can’t have errors. Right now, my students’ essays average 10-20 errors after a week of revision.

It’s becoming clear that grammar is their nemesis.

For my students, they’ve dealt with grammar all their lives. It’s like a parasite they’d like to forget about. One student says that grammar problems “pop up” in her writing, maybe like measles. My students can find mistakes in others’ essays but have trouble finding them in their own. Grammar mistakes are invisible until someone else spots them.

It’s time for my students to feel urgency about grammar. Grammar can’t be something out there that is plaguing them. My students must be in control.

That’s why I’m making grammar more personal this year. Here are some ways I’m doing that:

1. Online writing mentors are vigorously identifying grammar patterns. I’ve told the mentors to push, to be ruthless, to identify grammar problems and not to let them go until students demonstrate improvement.

2. Students are logging their growth in grammar and their next steps. Instead of just fixing their mistakes, students reflect on which grammar issues they’re improving and which ones still remain.

3. Grammar Camp begins this week! Groups of four students will participate in a month-long intensive camp with me that focuses on grammar discipline. The outcomes are to eradicate students’ most pressing grammar problems but also to heighten students’ urgency and precision toward grammar.

4. Grammar coaches begin their work this week! Students who need additional help will be teamed up with grammar coaches for one-on-one help, once a week, until May. This is a huge commitment, and it’s telling the student, “You’d better improve quickly. Your grammar coach demands it.”

This is a lot. I’d like to thank my friends — Tony, Michele, Jonathan, Elisa — for their help on this effort. It’s great to see so much interest in this project. 


  1. John at TestSoup

    I like your ideas, and I totally agree that poor grammar is one of the biggest turn-offs from a reader’s perspective. This gets to be quite an issue when that reader is a potential employer or client!

    I think one of the best ways to promote good grammar, punctuation, and capitalization usage is to encourage students to write properly even when exchanging texts, talking on Facebook, and sending emails. It’s these places that we practice our writing most, although most people don’t look at it that way.

    The key is to not separate our writing into two categories: casual and “correct.” This makes writing correctly an alien exercise, and a difficult one.

  2. Julie

    I’m curious what happens when students attend your grammar camp. Will future posts give more detail? Always looking for new ideas to “borrow” and you know I like to borrow yours and Ben’s the most!

Please share your brilliant insights!