I remember that one of the first items of business in my college English Composition 1 class was a test—the dreaded grammar test. This test was designed to see if a student would be able to write effectively, based on their knowledge of the parts of language and how they worked together. I bombed it, flunked it flat! My teacher was advocating for some remedial English education for me. I tried to explain that I had been in honors English classes in high school. They didn't teach parts of speech in my classes. I asked for a chance to try the class. If she didn't think that I could handle the writing, I would take a remedial course. Let's just say that she was a lot more impressed with my writing than she was with my knowledge of grammar! How could I write and not know grammar beyond nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs? I am a reader who reads at least a book a week. Why does that matter when it comes to writing?
As a person reads, they get a sense of sentence structure. You still need to know where to put the commas, but you can usually figure that out by reading the sentence aloud. A reader is exposed to many different types of sentence construction. They might not be able to identify them as simple, compound, or complex, but they certainly know how to read them. Over time, this translates to being able to write many different types of sentences, as well.
In addition to gaining an intrinsic knowledge of sentence structure, a reader learns how a story or essay flows. Readers learn how writers get from Point A to Point B by reading a lot of different authors and story types. The way a story is constructed is internalized, after reading many books.
Readers develop rich vocabularies. How? You guessed it! As a person reads, they are exposed to a lot of vocabulary in context. They learn the meanings of the words by reading. When they come across a word where they don't know the meaning or can't decipher its meaning from the context, they can grab a dictionary. An electronic reading device makes this an easy process with its built-in dictionary. When a person reads extensively, there is no need to have vocabulary lists with all of their associated activities. Vocabulary building is organic. It happens as a result of reading.
When did I finally learn a little grammar? When I had to teach it! However, every time that I need to teach grammar, I must do a thorough review. Unlike writing, it is still not a natural part of my academic toolbox. Because I read, I can write, and I do not need grammar lessons to do it!
This is a good resource for middle school and high school writers that can follow them to college. The spiral binding makes it easy to use.
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