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Thread: Teaching Literature or Grammar

  1. #1
    Seeker of Knowledge Shannanigan's Avatar
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    Teaching Literature or Grammar

    I've noticed a lot more often lately that while I know an awful lot about literature, that I seem to have missed out on all the terminology concerning English grammar. Students come for help at the Writing Center saying that their professors have noted problems in compound this or subjective that...and I have to go look it all up, because I haven't heard of it.

    Makes me feel inadequate, it does...

    I've been trying to catch up on it all, so that if I wind up teaching a class and I'm expected to teach grammar, I'll be able to...but my degree only requires writing, literature, and researching courses...no basic grammar courses. How did I miss this in school? Has anyone else experienced this fluency in literature but lack of knowledge regarding grammar terminology? I'm not saying that I can't spot bad grammar...I'm just saying that I can't put a name to what is wrong somethimes...

    a professor of mine once said that there seems to be a battle every 5 years or so, causing schools to focus on grammar, then literature, then grammar, then literature...but, I don't know...did I get caught in a lit cycle? (not that I'm complaining )
    You learn more about a road by travelling it than by consulting all of the maps in the world.

  2. #2

    ahhh grammar

    I've had to brush up on my grammar as of late myself. I did take a "descriptive grammar" course in college which I absolutely hated and felt like I learned nothing from, and needless to say that didn't help me when I had to start teaching the 8 parts of speech to 8th graders a few years ago! Unfortunately, with all of the standardized tests we are expected to prepare students for now, those terms and usage are upon us again. Don't feel inadequate. It's just like a foreign language - use it or lose it! Once you get into the swing of it, it becomes second nature. You'll pick it up quickly and become a pro in no time. Anything in particular you're working with or just all of it? I have to teach gerunds and participals next year to 9th graders so I too, have to brush up again on those!

  3. #3
    Seeker of Knowledge Shannanigan's Avatar
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    Yeah...I just need a general knowledge so that when a professor sends in a student saying "go to the Writing Center and have them explain gerunds to you," I know what they hell they are talking about...

    God I hope that this turns out to be easy...
    You learn more about a road by travelling it than by consulting all of the maps in the world.

  4. #4
    mind your back chasestalling's Avatar
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    why not give your students a dose of shakespeare?

    i can think of a dozen examples offhand that'll refute standard english grammar as inviolable.

  5. #5
    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    we did lots of grammar in school but i slept through it. my course includes grammer
    check out the "Longman student grammar of spoken and written English" by Douglas Biber, Susan Conrad and Geoffrey Leech (very famous linguist, Geoffrey Leech I mean). As far as I can tell it's based on the terminology employed by CGEL, one of the most influential descriptive grammars of modern English. So you can't go wrong there

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    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shannanigan View Post
    Yeah...I just need a general knowledge so that when a professor sends in a student saying "go to the Writing Center and have them explain gerunds to you," I know what they hell they are talking about...

    God I hope that this turns out to be easy...
    hehe, there is no gerund in English if you give me till Thursday (when I have my grammar class) I can explain it in breathtaking, mind-boggling detail

    if you've got problems of the "I don't think I'd say that, but I'm not sure why"- variety, check the BNC. If you don't know how to use it to this to SleepyWitch or ask her to explain it

  7. #7
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shannanigan View Post
    I've noticed a lot more often lately that while I know an awful lot about literature, that I seem to have missed out on all the terminology concerning English grammar. Students come for help at the Writing Center saying that their professors have noted problems in compound this or subjective that...and I have to go look it all up, because I haven't heard of it.

    Makes me feel inadequate, it does...

    I've been trying to catch up on it all, so that if I wind up teaching a class and I'm expected to teach grammar, I'll be able to...but my degree only requires writing, literature, and researching courses...no basic grammar courses. How did I miss this in school? Has anyone else experienced this fluency in literature but lack of knowledge regarding grammar terminology? I'm not saying that I can't spot bad grammar...I'm just saying that I can't put a name to what is wrong somethimes...

    a professor of mine once said that there seems to be a battle every 5 years or so, causing schools to focus on grammar, then literature, then grammar, then literature...but, I don't know...did I get caught in a lit cycle? (not that I'm complaining )
    Frankly Shan the english classes in the US in elementary and high schools do a terrible job in teaching grammar. When I got to college, I had to learn it on my own. I recommend you get a couple of good grammar books and study them. If you don't know what a gerund is, there are probably all sorts of holes in your understanding of english grammar. I had the same problem at your age. I've googled "grammar" which can help. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=grammar But I think several good books that are always close at hand will help. I also eventually put every grammar term on an index card with examples. This helped too.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  8. #8
    X (or) Y=X and Y=-X Jean-Baptiste's Avatar
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    I've been concerned about this very thing lately. I feel like I missed something in my earlier education. It seems to me that I understand how to do things that I have no name for, and therefore cannot explain. I did well in the small grammar sections of my first year composition course in college, but it was supposed to be review, so I felt like I didn't learn all that much. I hate finding that I've skipped the learning and gone straight to review. It worries me most, as Shannanigan pointed out, to think of being in a position to teach grammar and not having a firm grasp on how to explain it, or even what terminology to use. I try to think that surely teachers are getting this indepth acquaintance with grammar in some college grammar series, but then, I can't recall ever seeing such a series in a university catalogue.

    These are good suggestions. Thanks, Sleepy and Virgil. I was coming to a similar plan of becoming familiar with my grammar books on my own, and you make it seem that easy. I wonder if anyone knows of a generally offered university course that would treat grammar directly. I was thinking that perhaps linguistic classes would do so, but I doubt it.

    How are you feeling about this now, Shannanigan? Have you had time to gain confidence since July?
    These fragments I have shored against my ruins

    James Joyce, the pirate. Why don't you write books people can read? -Nora Barnacle

    Insupportable claim: Reading my stories will make you a better person. Do your best to prove me right. http://www.online-literature.com/for...ad.php?t=20367

  9. #9
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jean-Baptiste View Post
    These are good suggestions. Thanks, Sleepy and Virgil. I was coming to a similar plan of becoming familiar with my grammar books on my own, and you make it seem that easy. I wonder if anyone knows of a generally offered university course that would treat grammar directly. I was thinking that perhaps linguistic classes would do so, but I doubt it.
    I do not know of any grammar specific college classes. You are supposed to know grammar as an entry student. What also helped me was a foreign language translation class. I don't mean a typical class in a foreign language, but a class devoted to taking a text in that language and translating it to english. Now that I think of it, that was in Grad school, not undergrad.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  10. #10
    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    Jean, linguistics is more like "meta-grammar".. it's more concerned with "how to best anaylse and describe grammar" if you know what I mean? the study of linguistics can and does result in grammar books, but they are too academic(?)/too detailed for your purposes...
    E.g. CGEL (Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Ian Svartvik I know this by heart, the title and author's not the whole book ) is about 1500 pages!!! CG (Cambridge Grammar of English) is about the same length.

    So I'd really recommend either
    - the Longman Student's Grammar wich uses the same terminonlogy as CGEL or
    - A student's grammar of the English language, by Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum
    - A university grammar of English, by Randolph Quirk
    - A reference grammar for students of English by R.A. Close

    most school text books are based either on Latin grammar (BAAAAAD! explain about it later if anyone's interested ) or on CGEL. I think all of the books I listed are based on the CGEL framework.

    Virgil, there is no gerund in English If you talk about a gerund again, I'll put you in detention!
    I'll explain about it on Thurday we happen to be doing the non-existent gerund in our grammar course

  11. #11
    X (or) Y=X and Y=-X Jean-Baptiste's Avatar
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    Hey, Virgil, that is a great idea. I'll have to keep my eyes open for such a class as an undergrad. I can really see how that would be beneficial.

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    You are supposed to know grammar as an entry student.
    Yes, I scored very well on my entrance exams, but I don't believe it's nearly enough. I'm sure that part of the responsibility is mine, and not entirely the education system. Perhaps I thought that grammar was easy, and didn't pay enough attention to the details in school. I think I could say that I've learned more about grammar and usage from reading novels than actually being taught the specifics in school.
    These fragments I have shored against my ruins

    James Joyce, the pirate. Why don't you write books people can read? -Nora Barnacle

    Insupportable claim: Reading my stories will make you a better person. Do your best to prove me right. http://www.online-literature.com/for...ad.php?t=20367

  12. #12
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SleepyWitch View Post
    Virgil, there is no gerund in English If you talk about a gerund again, I'll put you in detention!
    I'll explain about it on Thurday we happen to be doing the non-existent gerund in our grammar course
    What? Where did that come from?

    Here: http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/gerund.htm
    The Gerund

    Recognize a gerund when you see one.

    Every gerund, without exception, ends in -ing. Gerunds are not, however, all that easy to pick out. The problem is that all present participles also end in -ing. What is the difference?
    Gerunds function as nouns. Thus, gerunds will be subjects, subject complements, direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions. Present participles, on the other hand, complete progressive verbs or act as modifiers. Read these examples:

    Since Francisco was five years old, swimming has been his passion.
    Swimming = subject of the verb has been

    Francisco's first love is swimming.

    Swimming = subject complement of the verb is

    Francisco enjoys swimming more than spending time with his girlfriend Diana.

    Swimming = direct object of the verb enjoys

    Francisco gives swimming all of his energy and time.

    Swimming = indirect object of the verb gives

    When Franciso wore dive fins to class, everyone knew that he was devoted to swimming.

    Swimming = object of the preposition to

    One day last summer, Francisco and his coach were swimming at Daytona Beach.

    Swimming = present participle completing the past progressive verb were swimming

    A great white shark ate Franciso's swimming coach.

    Swimming = present participle modifying coach

    Now Francisco practices his sport in safe swimming pools.

    Swimming = present participle modifying pools
    A gerund is quite powerful. It takes a verb and makes it a noun. But it's almost like an active noun.


    Hey this was my 7000th post!!!
    Last edited by Virgil; 12-18-2006 at 11:18 AM.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  13. #13
    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    cool examples will explain about it on Thursday when I've got all the details
    for a start it's enough to say that there is a mix-up of form and function here:
    Every gerund, without exception, ends in -ing. Gerunds are not, however, all that easy to pick out. The problem is that all present participles also end in -ing. What is the difference?
    in terms of form, the difference is nil, which makes the term 'gerund' redundant where it refers to a formal category (i.e. the way the word looks).
    in Latin, the gerund and the participle actually differ in form (puer loquens - the speaking boy, ars loquendi - the art of public speaking, don't ask me which is which ), but in English they look the same.
    I'll tell you more about the function side of the problem after that class
    Last edited by SleepyWitch; 12-18-2006 at 11:29 AM.

  14. #14
    X (or) Y=X and Y=-X Jean-Baptiste's Avatar
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    It takes a verb and makes it a noun.
    But how do a make a noun, like say "kitten," into a verb? "The poor sot was kittened to death."

    Congratulation on 7,000!
    These fragments I have shored against my ruins

    James Joyce, the pirate. Why don't you write books people can read? -Nora Barnacle

    Insupportable claim: Reading my stories will make you a better person. Do your best to prove me right. http://www.online-literature.com/for...ad.php?t=20367

  15. #15
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jean-Baptiste View Post
    But how do a make a noun, like say "kitten," into a verb? "The poor sot was kittened to death."

    Congratulation on 7,000!
    Well, kittened hasn't gained a verb meaning. But dog has.

    The poor sot was dogged to death.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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