Language Conventions Progression: Grammar and Mechanics
Students’ development as writers is a complex process that is not necessarily linear. Therefore, we believe that grammatical concepts should be explored in-depth and reinforced through multiple strategies over time. As teachers, we’ve organized our grammar scope and sequence into three columns: Exposure (concepts and ideas students are exposed to without explicit instruction), Introduction (skills and concepts that are introduced), and Independence (skills that are expected to be used independently as an integral part of a student’s writing process).
Specific Language Standards target grammar and mechanics. Most Language Standards are integrated into the writing units, but research shows that students also need explicit teaching. The committee examined the CCSS Language Standards and thoughtfully placed standards for each grade into one of three columns. Grade-specific teachers focus on the Introduction and the Independence columns to design lessons and curriculum. The Exposure column indicates what skills are to be modeled in the classroom and later scaffolded in a student’s learning. Language Standards 1 and 2 (Conventions of English Language) are carefully detailed in the Winnetka K-8 Grammar and Mechanics Scope and Sequence.
Exposure Column (We talk about it...)
Teachers show or expose students to a skill or concept without explicitly teaching the terms or definitions. Teachers are not designing lessons around that concept or skill. For example, in first grade one standard states: "Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future." To expose students to this skill, the teacher might model appropriate verb tense in a shared reading or writing activity. In fifth grade the same standard states: Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense. To provide exposure to this skill, a teacher may guide a student in a writing conference to use correct verb tense if the student is attempting a flashback or flashforward in his/her narrative writing.
Introduction Column (There’s a lesson about it... )
Teachers explicitly teach a concept or skill and provide authentic context and opportunity for practice. For example, in first grade one grammar standard states: "Use frequently occurring adjectives." To introduce this skill, the teacher may give a whole-class lesson on how authors use adjectives to make writing more descriptive. In fifth grade the same standard states: "Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections, in general, and their functions in sentences." In different lessons or units, when appropriate, fifth grade teachers will introduce this skill by explicitly teaching the terms, provide examples of how they function from authentic mentor texts and expect that students can identify and use them appropriately in writing.
Independence Column (It’s an expectation…)
Students are expected to use this concept or skill independently. Students may need to be reminded or resources should be provided by the teacher. Since many of the language standards are introduced in first grade, we don’t have an expectation that any skills would be mastered before entering the first-grade level. The skills that students are expected to master independently begin in second grade. In fifth grade one grammar standard states: "Produce complete sentences, correcting fragments and run-ons." Given that students begin writing complete, simple sentences in first grade and start expanding sentences into compound sentences in fourth grade, it is an expectation that students should enter fifth grade knowing how to identify and correct fragments and run-on sentences. Teachers may provide resources or hints as reminders, but there should not have to be a full-class lesson on this skill.
Grammar-at-a- Glance with Standards included
The Language Arts Committee reviewed instructional materials for teaching grammar. This involved the examination of primary and secondary materials that would provide explicit instruction of skills at each grade level. The selection of instructional and student materials was based on current research. Patterns of Power by Jeff Anderson is the designated instructional resource for grades 2-5. Mechanically Inclined, also by Jeff Anderson, is the instructional resource for grades 6-8. Students in grades 3-5 explore some grammar concepts through their spelling and vocabulary program, Words their Way. Students in grades 5-8 will have access to the IXL platform for independent grammar and vocabulary review and practice. In addition, the Teachers College Units for Teaching Writing K-8 integrate grammar and mechanics skills into teaching sessions.