Teaching grammar doesn’t have to be difficult.
The actual rules of grammar are simple enough for sixth graders to figure out. What’s hard about grammar is making it seem both relevant and interesting.
It’s hard to make grammar seem relevant because it’s tough for a student to figure out how knowing the definition of a direct object (for instance) will make her a better writer. And it’s hard to make it seem interesting because, let’s face it – can anyone really work up much enthusiasm for reading sentences about John and Mary going to the store, underlining all the adjectives, and circling all the adverbs?
When I surveyed the grammar books currently on the market, they all seemed to ask students to leave something important behind as the price of admission: their imagination. Why was that? My guess is that more kids have learned what an adjective is from playing Mad Libs than from all the textbooks ever written. In my college classes, we’ve always known that the best way for students to become better writers is for them to WRITE. Wouldn’t writing help younger students learn grammar as well? There is a huge gap between being able to circle an adverb in a sentence and knowing how to write a sentence with an adverb, and this book intends to fill that gap.
There’s no reason that grammar needs to be boring! Nouns make up the vast, beautiful universe that we live in; verbs sing and dance; adjectives and adverbs give shape and color to existence; conjunctions tie everything together. And any writer can tell you that the act of writing itself can be tons of fun. Where else can you make up an entire world, people it with allies and enemies, and create adventures that only you can solve?
Of course, any kid can tell you that there’s one other place that can give you almost the same sense of achievement as writing, and that’s playing a video game. That’s why my book, The Kingdom of Grammatica, attempts to combine three books into one: it’s a grammar textbook, a do-it-yourself novel, and a role-playing game, all at the same time.
My name is Bruce Glassco, Ph.D. In addition to being a college composition teacher since 1991, I’m also the designer of the best-selling board games Betrayal at House on the Hill and Fantasy Realms, as well as many roleplaying games. I’ve had over a dozen fantasy short stories published in magazines and anthologies. My background, bibliography and ludography can be found at bruceglassco.net.
Here’s the idea of Kingdom of Grammatica: you, the reader/co-author, are going to create a character, just like in a tabletop pen-and-paper roleplaying game or a video game. Then I, the gamemaster, am going to throw traps and challenges at you, and you are going to have to write your way out of them. There will be specific goals that you’ll need to achieve as you write, many of which will involve the parts of speech; for most of them, though, you will need to be a good storyteller as well. If you do well enough (self graded), you’ll award yourself experience points that you can use to buy equipment and abilities to meet tougher and tougher challenges. And if you manage to write your way through the entire quest, it is my sincere hope that at the end of it, you’ll be a better writer – both in the sense of understanding the nuts and bolts of writing and how sentences are supposed to fit together, and also in terms of gaining confidence in your own imagination and narrative voice – your power to write any kind of story you can make up.
So this is a grammar book with no quizzes. You’re welcome. The incentive for learning about the parts of speech is that you’ll be able to use them to tell your own story that you make up.
The book is written at a 6th-9th grade level. This could be published as a stand-alone book, or the writing sections could be available online. Perhaps student writers could put up their own writing for their friends and family to see.
The book would work better with some form of illustration. This is not my strong suit.
If I can find a publisher for this volume covering the parts of speech, I will write a second volume covering phrases, clauses, and punctuation.