Pocketfuls of Sunshine

Grammar Rock

Posted on: September 8, 2008

Do you remember that cartoon?

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? This little tune floats around in my head at odd hours, like last night during Bubby’s 3 am feeding.

Sometimes the best teaching happens when the textbooks are closed. Sometimes you have to invent new ways to teach something so that it sticks. And sometimes, you discover that kids learn in ways you did not plan, but just stumbled upon.

I actually used that cartoon when I taught. You see, grammar in isolation is hard for children to learn and understand. They need it in a context. They need a way to remember the rules that somehow evade them, even though they have had grammar lessons every.single.year. So although these Grammar Rock songs were really annoying wonderful to listen five times in a row while I worked at my desk, the students loved them and even, gasp, started singing. Who knew that ninth graders could be so willing to sing?

I’m sure other teachers in the building were snickering as they heard singing through my door. But I make no apologies. Most of my students, years later, can still tell you the definition and proper usage rules for conjunctions. And I would bet that many can still hear that little jingle just as clearly as I can, running around in their heads in the middle of a sleepless night.

So as this little tune was floating around in my head last night, I remembered a day when I was beginning class and the students were settling in to their seats. I asked that each student pass his homework to the front of the row to be collected. The conversation that ensued was one of the more memorable of my career.

Me: Pass your homework to the front of the row, please.

Bobby just sits there with his empty folder and an even more empty blank stare.

Me: Bobby, please pass your homework to the front of the row.

Bobby: I ain’t got no homework. (Really, I’m not kidding. I couldn’t make up stuff this good.)

Me: Ain’t got no homework? Really? Are you sure you want to say that to your English teacher?

Bobby: Sorry. I don’t got no homework.

Me: Wow. Want to try that again?

Bobby: Oh, sorry. I don’t got any homework.

Me: Ugh.

The other students were cracking up. To be honest, as I put on my horrified teacher face, I was laughing inside. The poor kid was trying but just didn’t have it in him. A few students then shouted out the grammatically correct way to convey his message. Ah, they had learned! And now they were correcting a classmate. Score one for me!


3 Responses to "Grammar Rock"

That is too funny! You had me laughing on that one. Kids are great!

You rote: “Sometimes the best teaching happens when the textbooks are closed. That was my experience when I was sitting in elementary school all those years. Yes, I agree and feel vindicated now.

The child who answered, “I ain’t got no homework,” would have gotten his “ears boxed” by the nuns at Our Lady of Grace Elementary School back in the 1960’s. I guarantee he would not have uttered that frase again. We learned good english back then. Fear of violence is a good motivator to any kid.

I think you told me the story about “Bobby the day that it happened. You have so many similar stories to this one, but this one is priceless. It’s funny, but at the same time really sad that the kid can’t form a correct sentence in high school!

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