Saturday, May 14, 2016

Re-equpping students for "complex texts"

The Edweek article I blogged about earlier offers one other reason for grammar instruction: reading comprehension. Since the Common Core requires students to read “complex texts”

“we need to teach them how to read complex sentences,” said Chris Hayes, a veteran elementary teacher in Washoe County, Nev. And that requires deep knowledge of grammar.
Edweek touts the “Juicy sentences” approach of Lily Wong Filmore:
the technique involves pulling a particularly complicated sentence out of a text that students are reading, and deconstructing it as a class.
But for this, you need a basic vocabulary of terms with which to label the parts of sentences. And that’s where parts of speech come in. Edweek does not connect the dots; here’s my proposal:

First, teach parts of speech—especially noun, verb, preposition, article, adjective, adverb, co-ordinate conjunction, subordinate conjunction, and pronoun. Through in a few linguistic terms like “relative pronoun” (the “which” of “that” of “the book that/which I read”) and “complementizer” (the “that” of “I said that I read the book”).

Then use these terms to teach the syntactic elements of sentences—especially noun phrase, verb phrase, subject, main verb, modifier, restrictive and nonrestrictive relative clause, appositive.

Using these terms, teach students the specific steps for deconstructing and making sense of complex sentences, for example this one I blogged about earlier from Jane Austen:
To know that she had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must, at the same time, so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet been able to reason away, was such a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision in which she remained as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear, if she once entered on the subject, of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister farther. -
Steps:

1. Remove all the parentheticals, appositives, nonrestrictive relative clauses, and sentence-level modifiers:
To know that she had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet been able to reason away, was such a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision in which she remained as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister farther.
2. Find the main verb
“was”
3. Find the subject, noting that it might be many words long, and being sure to include all its modifiers. Note that in older texts, the subject may sometimes occur after the main verb.
To know that she had the power of revealing what would so exceedingly astonish Jane, and must so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet been able to reason away
4. Find any direct or indirect objects
such a temptation to openness as nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision in which she remained as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister farther.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 with any really long restrictive relative or other subordinate clauses--e.g.:
[what] must so highly gratify whatever of her own vanity she had not yet been able to reason away
and:
[that] nothing could have conquered but the state of indecision in which she remained as to the extent of what she should communicate; and her fear of being hurried into repeating something of Bingley which might only grieve her sister farther.
6. Paraphrase the gist of the subject and object; then paraphrase the gist of the sentence

7. Repeat steps 1-6 with any with really long parentheticals, appositives, nonrestrictive relative clauses, and sentence-level modifiers.

8. Gradually add the gist of these modifiers to the gist of the sentence.

No comments: