May 2016 - Ideas By Jivey: For the Classroom
Ideas by Jivey reviews research-based reasons why grammar in isolation doesn't work. Teach grammar in context using mentor sentences and students will become better writers!

One of the questions I get asked the most about using mentor sentences is, "Don't you review all the grammar concepts before starting mentor sentences?"

And my answer is always, "Nope!"

Now, I am not "one of those" telling you to stop teaching grammar. Understanding grammar is beneficial to proper communication. Instead, grammar should be taught in context- not in isolation.

Ideas by Jivey reviews research-based reasons why grammar in isolation doesn't work. Teach grammar in context using mentor sentences and students will become better writers!
  • Expecting students to "find" errors in a sentence that they've never seen before isn't going to help students learn grammar or become better writers.
  • Simply telling students what an adverb, adjective, or preposition is and having them "find" those parts of speech in random lists doesn't help them utilize it in their own writing.
  • Diagramming or labeling a sentence just for the sake of labeling doesn't help students write more effectively.

Ideas by Jivey reviews research-based reasons why grammar in isolation doesn't work. Teach grammar in context using mentor sentences and students will become better writers!
  • Showing students well-written sentences and discussing why these sentences are excellent will help them know what to do in their own writing. Using the same sentence the students have studied and discussed to later practice editing skills (alter a few things about the sentence for students to identify) will help them apply those skills in their own writing.
  • Explaining parts of speech when seeing/identifying them in context will help students understand them. Practicing with those parts of speech in writing and speaking will help the skill "stick" and usage is more likely in writing later.
  • Labeling the sentence to discuss how parts of speech are used in context will help students see how the words work together to form an awesome sentence that they can imitate in their own writing. 
**note the difference from the isolated labeling: students are discussing why and how they know the parts of speech they are labeling vs. just diagramming and moving on.**

I know what you're thinking... "At the beginning of the year, how can we expect students to find everything we want them to find about the weekly mentor sentence?"

Simple answer: You don't!

Students will begin to "soak up" the language and the skills as you consistently use mentor sentences. I promise! It will take some time and a few weeks of modeling the expectations.

And as for "finding everything" - not in the beginning! When you start, take baby steps and work up to "everything." Will they all understand all the skills at the same time? Of course not- just like everything else you teach, students are going to be all over the map when it comes to understanding... but the GREAT thing about using mentor sentences is the spiral of the basic skills every week!

Their mentor sentence notebook also becomes a resource and reference tool for their writing!

Do you own any of my mentor sentence products? You can check them out in my store!

They are perfect for all levels of learners- from ELL and students with disabilities all the way to gifted students! Mariane R. says about using the mentor sentences products in my store: This has to be my absolute favorite. The lessons are easy to follow and use and my students have been getting a lot out of each week's lessons. I teach in a special education classroom for students with hearing loss. A lot of resources and products they cannot understand or access but they have really gotten in to these lessons and I have seen improvement in both their comprehension and their writing.

Have you used mentor sentences in your classroom to replace your isolated grammar instruction? Tell us about how it went in the comments! I love to hear from you!


If you want even more IN-DEPTH step-by-step help with implementing mentor sentences, check out my courses!

Ideas by Jivey reviews research-based reasons why grammar in isolation doesn't work. Teach grammar in context using mentor sentences and students will become better writers!

I blogged over at The Primary Peach to share a fun end of year activity with OOBLECK! Head over and check it out!


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