Why Teach Grammar?

There is no doubt about it: The use or misuse of grammar in speaking and in writing affects the images we have of ourselves and of others. Good grammar helps people communicate more effectively and can translate into doing better in school, getting the jobs we seek, and clarifying our points of view. Good grammar teaches thinking skills and encourages logical thinking. It increases our vocabularies. And many feel strongly that learning grammar has a positive influence on the quality of our writing.

The essential mission of Voyages in English, a multiyear Language Arts program published by Loyola Press since 1942, is to enable students to find their place as full literate and valued contributors to society. The teaching of grammar is key to accomplishing that goal.

Standing the Test of Time

In 1942 a handful of experienced teachers set out to develop a curriculum for teaching English to immigrant children. Their efforts culminated in the publication of Voyages in English. For almost seven decades, the series has focused on helping students become polished, articulate, and intelligent communicators with the teaching of grammar and writing at the core. Neither skill is taught in a vacuum; rather, there is a well-designed movement between the two disciplines so that students see the value of good grammar in writing well and in communicating clearly.

Using Good Grammar

Many college instructors express frustration that their students often cannot write a complete sentence. They have to reteach basic grammar skills before turning their efforts to teaching higher-level skills. Results from the 2003 and subsequent National Curriculum Surveys conducted by ACT, a widely used college entrance exam, confirm that grammar and usage skills are considered by college professors as the most important for entering college students to have. Yet a significant number of first-year college students need remedial help with their writing skills. For years the trend had been to undervalue the importance of teaching grammar and writing; the oversight has taken its toll.

Yet those elementary and middle school teachers who use Voyages in English know that every part of language instruction has a purpose and that being able to use correct grammar makes students better explainers and better persuaders.

Success in Today’s World

The use of bad grammar can be annoying; to some, it is egregious. Grammatical errors on everything from letters to Web sites, from e-mails to interviews often make a poor impression and can cause the speaker or writer to lose a job opportunity, fail a test, be put in remedial classes, or be judged either as poorly educated or careless.

In her surprise best seller Eats, Shoots & Leaves, author Lynne Truss lobbies for a grammar makeover. Her lively selection about people who cannot construct a sentence or work out whether there’s an apostrophe in its dramatizes a sad but true fact: Too many people can read very widely and well but cannot or do not translate that experience into correct grammar usage.
Voyages in English provides teachers in Grades 3–8 an excellent resource for preparing students to avoid the pitfalls of poor grammar and gives them the tools necessary to succeed in a competitive world. Students become capable communicators who can share their ideas and opinions verbally and in a full range of genres.