agency · conventions · grammar

Grammar Notebooks

  • “They have no memory of learning parts of speech.”
  • “Every year we have to start at the very basics.”
  • “If only they’d have grammar in earlier years.”

These are some of the comments that inspired me to push for grammar notebooks in our district. Additionally, when used well, these student-owned resources can be resources that build independence and agency when it comes to that nebulous topic of grammar.

Before getting too much further into this post, I’ll offer a simple definition of grammar. For me, it’s a system of rules and guidelines that help me structure sentences. Therefore, it includes aspects of the English language such as parts of speech, parts and types of sentences, and ways to punctuate. To an extent, the Common Core Language Standards follow my thinking with standards around parts of speech, sentence structures, and conventions. In a recent podcast, Stacey and I talked at length about grammar, discussing the definition, interpretations, and ways to inspire appreciation for grammar-related craft moves in both what students read and what they write.

I think it’s also important to consider that, while there are some standardized expectations such as subject-verb agreement, pronoun antecedent agreement, tense consistency, and word ordering, there are also opportunities within grammar to craft powerful messages within writing. Repetition involves grammar. Sentence variety involves grammar. Word choice and order? Those can also relate to grammar. (See what I did there?) In case you haven’t already gleamed from this post, I have a deep appreciation for words and grammar, and anytime I have a chance to inspire students to have some appreciation for grammar, I take it.

And, since I am our district’s writing coordinator and since appreciation and knowledge are reciprocal processes, I have thought and worked hard to build both. Grammar notebooks have become an important element of our grammar curriculum.

Grammar notebooks start in third-grade. At that time, students receive a composition notebook or a digital slides version. In either case, those notebooks are the students’ property throughout elementary school which, in our district, is through sixth grade. If teachers choose to use composition books, they pass those along to the students’ next teachers at the end of the school year. Each year, students add to their pages as their lessons about grammar build on previous ones. To make the learning visible and organized for students, we have structured grammar units to focus mainly on three elements:

  • Categories of words and parts of speech
  • Sentence structure
  • Conventions

These units coordinate with writing units, although the lessons emphasize the transferability of all grammar elements regardless of writing genre. Additionally, there are some concepts, such as quotation marks which dovetail with narrative writing units so go along with parts of speech.

I am sharing the templates for both a third-grade digital notebook and a fifth-grade digital notebook. You will notice that the different colors represent grades 3 and 4 instruction. That way, the notebook serves as a reference for teachers to remind students of previous instruction and for students to refer to for their own review.

Grammar notebooks are not the cure-all for the persistent refrains about retention and transfer. However, they do support agency and accountability as students build their understanding and appreciation of words and language.

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