Dr. Troy Hicks & Jeremy Hyler – Literacy Webinar

From Texting to Teaching: Teaching Grammar Beyond the Screen

Tuesday, February 7, 2017  7-8pm EST


Create.Compose.ConnectGrammar instruction continues to be more important than ever when we look at the digital landscape our students belong to today. Experts Constance Weaver and Jeff Anderson offer us wonderful ways to infuse grammar into our everyday writing lessons. However, as educators, we need to address how students write in digital spaces. We need to teach them to differentiate between the writing they do in their digital spaces and their non-digital spaces. In this interactive session, teachers and educators will learn effective strategies using Google Slides along with social media, that can help students to differentiate between formal and informal writing while learning new grammar skills.

Recommended Reading:

Dr. Troy Hicks, an associate professor at Central Michigan University, teaches pre-service writing methods classes and facilitates professional development on the teaching of writing, writing across the curriculum, and writing with technology. In his research, he collaborates with K-16 teachers and explores how they implement newer literacies in their classrooms.  He also serves as the Director of the Chippewa River Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project at CMU. His publications include The Digital Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2009) and Because Digital Writing Matters (Jossey-Bass, 2010). Twitter ID:@hickstro

JeremyHylerJeremy Hyler is a 7th/8th grade English teacher at Fulton Middle School in Middleton, Michigan. In addition, he is a co-director for the Chippewa River Writing Project. He co-authored Create, Compose, Connect: Reading, Writing, and Learning with Digital Tools. He is also a contributing author to Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely. He is currently working on his second book about teaching grammar in the digital age. Jeremy has presented both statewide and nationally on the importance of integrating technology effectively and with purpose into the language arts classroom. He is always interested in helping teachers find new, productive and meaningful ways to implement technology into their classrooms. Jeremy can be found on Twitter @jeremybballer and his website is jeremyhyler.wikispaces.com.


Dr. Jonathan Bush – Literacy Webinar

Grammar in Theory; Grammar in Practice: Language Use in Culture, Society, and Our Classrooms

Thursday, December 8, 2016  7-8pm EST


grammar to enrich and enhance writingThis session will explore the ways grammar is positioned in contemporary and historical language use, consider how such grammars can be discussed, implemented, and assessed in student writing instruction, and how such grammatical stances can enrich current writing projects and inspire new ones. Drawing on the work of Constance Weaver, and incorporating the lessons learned from Grammar Alive (Haussamen et al), and other contemporary grammar and language practitioners and theorists, this session will provide tools for teachers of all levels to enrich their discussions of genre, language use, writing, and revision in their classrooms.

Recommended Reading: 

Dr. Jonathan Bush is a professor of English at Western Michigan University, where he teaches courses in English education, writing pedagogy, and rhetoric and writing studies. He also directs the Third Coast Writing Project and coordinates the developmental writing program. He is the co-developer of the first-year writing intensive initiative, a program that remediates failing first-year students and gives them additional opportunities to success.

Dr. Tim Shanahan – Literacy Webinar

Complex Texts, Complex Sentences: Grammar and Comprehension in the Time of Common Core

Thursday, October 27, 2016  7-8pm EST


Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 12.00.40 PMBecause words are important, teachers teach vocabulary as well as trying to provide students with tools for figuring out the meanings of unknown words (e.g., context, reference tools). No similar attention is accorded to making sense of sentences. Students either can interpret the meanings of the sentences that they read or they cannot, but little effort is made to show them how to untangle the complexity of sentences. This is unfortunate since Michigan educational standards require that students learn to read complex text, and one of the major aspects of text complexity is the grammatical complexity of the sentences and the cohesive links that connect the ideas within and across sentences. This presentation will provide explicit guidance in how to scaffold students’ interactions with grammar and cohesion.

Recommended Reading: Shanahan on Literacy – Dr. Tim Shanahan’s blog

Dr. Timothy Shanahan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chi­cago where he is Founding Di­rector of the UIC Center for Literacy. He has also served as Visiting Research Professor at Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and was director of reading for the Chicago Public Schools. He is author/editor of more than 200 publications including the books, Teaching with the Common Core Standards for the English Language Arts, Early Childhood Literacy, and Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners. His research emphasizes the connections between learning to read and learning to write, literacy in the disciplines, and improvement of reading achievement. Professor Shanahan is past president of the International Literacy Association and received a presidential appointment to the Advisory Board of the National Institute for Literacy. He served on the National Reading Panel and helped write the Common Core State Standards. He was inducted to the Reading Hall of Fame in 2007, and is a former primary grade teacher. For more information, visit his blog: www.shanahanonliteracy.com

Word Study

Executive Summary:
Helping Students Own Language Through
Word Study, Vocabulary, and Grammar Instruction


White Paper:
Helping Students Own Language Through
Word Study, Vocabulary, and Grammar Instruction


Members of the Word Study Work Group

Members of the Word Study Work Group

Welcome to the word study resource page! We hope you find these materials helpful. If you have word study materials that are teacher tested and approved that you would like to share, please email one of the consultants (email addresses to the right).

-Delia DeCourcy, Michele Farah, Diane Katakowski, Susan Koceski

Recommended Resources

District-provided Resources
Doug Fisher Resources
Mini Book Talk Books
Other Online Resources

The Grammar Ambush, Part 2

Notes from the Classroom

shutterstock_196198283Three months ago, I wrote about being ambushed by a neighbor at a Halloween party. She wanted me—an English teacher—to answer for what she believed to be horrific shortcomings in grammar instruction at the local middle school. The incident left me inspired to rethink my own grammar instruction. I even put “figure out grammar mess” on my to-do list for the Thanksgiving break.

Spoiler alert: grammar instruction is still a bit of a mess in my classroom. But, three months later, I’m in a much different place with my understanding of grammar instruction and my goals for it.  

I ended my last post committing to trying grammar mini-lessons. So December 1, we took off. I took some sample sentences from students’ essays that had problematic punctuation, and I started class with a quick punctuation lesson. We practiced, we did exit slips, and I started keeping a little chart of who was getting it and who needed extra practice.

I was feeling pretty smug about the whole thing until I collected their next essays.  Same mistakes. They had applied exactly nothing to their own writing. Luckily, that depressing revelation coincided nicely with winter break, so I had some time to regroup and come up with a new strategy.

Not Just Rules

Over winter break, I did some more digging online and stumbled across this excellent blog post, which helped me rethink how I was framing grammar instruction for my students. Writer and teacher Allison Marchetti explains that Most students would say that grammar is a set of rules, so we have to work hard to undo this restrictive thinking and help them see grammar as a series of possibilities rather than limitations. 

My wheels started spinning. It’s not just “most students” who think of grammar as rules—I think of it as rules, too. I’d never really thought of grammar as a possibility. I see writing as a series of possibilities, but grammar? I had been thinking of them as two separate things.

41tKTfGYXdL._SX395_BO1,204,203,200_Next, I read Constance Weaver’s Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing. I found a passage that took this idea of possibilities even further. She quotes an article by writer Philip Pullman in which he explains that we must teach students to be playful with language. Weaver agrees and suggests that we “rediscover this playfulness, this attitude that language and grammar are to be played with, toyed with, bent, expanded, crafted, enjoyed.” Her book digs into the nitty-gritty of parts of speech and uses all of the terminology that I remember drilling back in seventh grade English. By the third chapter I was knee deep in adjectival modifiers. My ambushing neighbor would be beside herself with joy.

But Weaver is quick to point out that it doesn’t really matter if kids can name or identify the tool they’re using. Yes! Agree! They can if they want to, or they can just play with the structures, experiment with language, and work on becoming more interesting, natural, confident writers.

Learning by Imitation

I’m starting to see a way forward, and this has become my new focus with grammar instruction. I’m not even using that term. Instead, we’re talking about craft and developing a confident, genuine voice. We’re talking about structuring sentences to give a little extra punch, or moving phrases to call attention to different ideas.

I’ve done this before as a writing teacher, but never with the frame of grammar in the back of my mind. I’m sprinkling in terms when they are appropriate, but using them as a way to explain how students can mimic a cool sentence they find in a piece of writing.

Last week, we read a piece by pop-culture writer Chuck Klosterman and examined the moves he makes as a writer. He’s an incredibly funny, inventive, and natural writer, so it worked well as a mentor text. We mimicked some, we practiced a little, and then I asked them to apply it to their writing. It was a tiny little lesson, but I’m already seeing results—certainly more results than my ill-fated punctuation mini-lessons.

I need to do more, and I want to be a little more systematic in my approach. I still have lots to think about:

  • Which craft moves do I introduce to my students?
  • How do I frame those within the context of grammar?
  • How do I continue to weave it into our writing workshop so that it feels connected and relevant?
  • How and when do I unleash this playful grammar on my tenth graders? My AP students are my willing, eager guinea pigs; my tenth graders will be a harder sell.

I’ll keep plugging along, I’ll keep researching, and I’ll keep experimenting. I’d love to hear what works with your students or any suggestions you have for me. How do you help your students think about the moves they make as writers? Tweet me your suggestions @TeacherHattie and join me in learning more on Thursday, April 14, for Constance Weaver’s webinar about her book! Click here for details and to register.

Hattie profileHattie Maguire is an English teacher and Content Area Leader at Novi High School. She is spending her fifteenth year in the classroom teaching AP English Language and Composition and English 10. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who earned her BS in English and MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University.

The Grammar Ambush

Notes from the Classroom Research & Theory

shutterstock_201882445It happens to my husband all the time. He is a police officer, and it is rare that he can make it through a party without someone asking him how to get out of a recent ticket. It almost always starts the same way.

“Oh, you’re a police officer? Well, let me ask you this . . .”

I’ve seen it happen so many times that I should have realized when it was happening to me at the neighborhood Halloween party.

“Oh, you’re an English teacher? Well, let me ask you this. When is my son going to start learning grammar? This is ridiculous. The garbage they’re sending home from his school is unbelievable! He doesn’t even know parts of speech!”

I quickly scanned the room for exits. It was a Friday night. I was exhausted. I really didn’t want to try to defend the English curriculum of a school where I don’t teach, in a class taught by a teacher I don’t know. However, this was my well-meaning neighbor who is really just a concerned parent, and who wants to make sure her child is prepared to be a good writer. And besides—for all I knew, some poor teacher from another district was defending my curriculum at a Halloween party in Novi.

I did my best to explain the concept of teaching grammar in context. I talked about all the research that shows kids don’t retain much when we teach them abstract terms and expect them to memorize constructions outside of their own writing. Then I tried to push the conversation toward reading. I explained that her son should be reading, reading, and then reading some more so that he can see what good writing looks like.

I’m still thinking about the conversation. Many parents want to see the traditional type of grammar instruction that they grew up with. And who can blame them? They did it that way and they turned out just fine. They’re concerned that their kids aren’t going to know how to communicate professionally.

Teaching Grammar in Context

Unfortunately, the problem with isolated grammar instruction is that it doesn’t work. Research since 1960 has shown us that “relatively few students learn grammar well, fewer retain it, and still fewer transfer the grammar they have learned to improving or editing their writing.”

So what do we do instead? Thumb through some teaching books or do a quick Google search, and you’ll find “mini-lessons” hailed as answers. Start writing workshops with quick bursts of targeted instruction, the lessons say.

But that’s tough. If I want to teach my kids a quick lesson about correctly punctuating clauses, they first need to know what clauses are. They need to know what subjects and verbs are, and they need to know what conjunctions are—both coordinating and subordinating. Say any of those terms in a tenth-grade classroom only if you’re into watching eyes glaze over. I’m not into glazed-over eyes, so my grammar mini-lessons have always been haphazard at best.

shutterstock_302927471After Thanksgiving, my AP Language students and my ELA 10 students are starting new writing assignments. Now is the time, I think, to deliberately use grammar mini-lessons.

I’ll use their independent novels for samples of grammar in context. I will also hold them accountable to show me they can write with these grammatical concepts in mind.

And, I can’t forget about the other part of this grammar issue: communication. The Halloween ambush reminded me that I am not doing a good job of communicating the message to my students or parents. I need to be explicit about the expectations I have for my students’ grammar, and I need to let their parents know that grammar instruction is a valued, consistent part of my curriculum.

My students’ next major writing assignments will be submitted and graded by the end of December. Look for part two of this experiment in explicit grammar instruction. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hattie profileHattie Maguire is an English teacher and Content Area Leader at Novi High School. She is spending her fifteenth year in the classroom teaching AP English Language and Composition and English 10. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who earned her BS in English and MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University.

Dr. Constance Weaver – Literacy Webinar

Revising Sentences by Adding “Juicy Details”

Thursday, April 14, 2016   7-9pm EST (optional discussion 8-9pm)
Google Drive folder with resources & activities

GrammartoEnrichandEnhanceWritingDo your students’ sentences drip with juicy details, engaging and enticing the reader? Or do they plod along, a repository for just the most basic information? When you ask students to add details, do they pile up adjectives before nouns? Or add sentences, each sentence basic in structure, adding just one detail per sentence, creating paragraphs that lumber along–thump, thump, thump–instead of demonstrating variety and flowing gracefully? Then this workshop if for you! Decades ago, I learned from the writings of Francis Christensen how to write sentences that subordinate details to a main statement, using grammatical options that most students seldom employ unless they are avid readers, in love with richly written texts.  Paradoxically, perhaps, playing with form can help writers generate content—those “juicy” details that we find call to us as readers.

In this webinar, I’ll use examples from Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing (2008), my most recent book on the subject; share some student examples; work with you to expand some sentences with these grammatical options; and finally turn to student paragraphs to see where we might guide writers to discover more within themselves, encouraging and scaffolding them to expand upon their meaning by adding details in grammatical options. Am I always able to do this? No! But we can discuss other alternatives to try.

Digital handouts will be available through Google docs a week in advance of the webinar.

Recommended Reading: Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing

Connie Weaver 2014[1] copyConstance (Connie) Weaver is happily retired from many years teaching English Education courses in the Department of English at Western Michigan University, and from Miami University in Ohio, where she held an endowed chair in reading and language arts (Teacher Education) for the last five years of her educational career.  Her best-known publication in the field of reading was Reading Process (1988), now in a third edition as Reading Process and Practice.  She developed a unique stance on the teaching of grammar, beginning with Grammar for Teachers (1979), her “classic” Grammar in Context (1996) plus an edited book, finally culminating in The Grammar Plan Book (2007) and Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing (with Jon Bush, 2008).  Through all these books on grammar and writing, it has been her passion to help teachers learn to teach a minimum of grammar in conjunction with writing; that is, to maximize the effects of grammar instruction on writing while minimizing the instructional time required. About ten years ago,  Connie played a significant role in revising, for the MDE, a scope and sequence for teaching grammar, but she advocates teaching grammatical elements as the need arises.  She lives in Portage, MI with her cat Sweetie.