Teaching Grammar and Conventions through Inquiry

Often the editing part of the writing process is left to a couple of sessions towards the end of a unit prior to publishing, by which point there is usually a squeeze on time. By embedding the teaching of mechanics throughout the unit., editing becomes a powerful tool for building meaning and crafting writing rather than a practice of mistake correcting.

In this post, I want to draw on the work of Jeff Anderson, author of the book, 'Mechanically Inclined',
to explore a process which uses inquiry to teach grammar and conventions in an authentic and engaging way using mentor texts.

1. Invitation to Notice


  • Show students a sentence/extract from a mentor text which exhibits the correct use of a grammar/conventions component.
 E.g ' Lightning flashes may even have been detected on other planets, such as Jupiter and              Venus.'  (Taken from Seymour Simon's Lightning)
  • Ask students to write down what they notice in this sentence. Turn and Talk with a partner.
E.g. Capital L at the beginning of the sentence; a comma after the word planets; Jupiter and Venus are capitalized. If you're wanting to draw attention to verbs, point out the use of "may have been".  Whatever your focus is, be sure that they notice it.
  • Discuss and celebrate the students' suggestions
  • Name the component you wish them to focus on. Ask what it does when they read it aloud.  Ask what it does when they read it to themselves.  Are there differences?
  • Extend and give other examples.
2. Invitation to Compare/Contrast
  • Show the students an imitation sentence that is modeled directly from the previous day's example along with the example from the previous day.  
 E.g. Hot lunches may even have been ingested by students, such as Alex and Peter.  
  • Ask students to write down the similarities between the two sentences and explain them (some kids may use the vocabulary you introduced from the day before, which is the goal).
  • Share and discuss.
3. Invitation to Imitate
  • Display the two sentences again and tell the students it is now their turn to use what has been discussed in the last few days to write their own imitations.
  • Have them share and evaluate each others to see if they fit the pattern.

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