Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Well, sort of.

I stumbled upon this grammar mastery test on my daily Internet visiting. Since I pride myself on such things as my mastery of the trickier rules of Standard American English, I took it. I scored 48/50. Not shabby, though far from perfect.

As I was taking it, I actually noticed several problems. A few of the answers were identical, allowing me to rule them out, if I didn't quite know for sure. That must have just been whoever set up the test.

Something else was bothering me about this test, however. And then I realized--the sentences were designed to trip up the test-taker, not as representatives of good written English. Some of the sentences were far too complex and convoluted--if one of my students were to write like that test, I would scold them.

That's when it dawned on me about grammar education--we often teach students in a way that they should not write or would not use language. No wonder students often have a hard time grasping certain grammatical concepts. Grammar studies often operate in a vacuum, and students have no way to bridge from the abstract world of proper grammar to actual ways of speaking and writing. They can't make the connection, especially when we teach them using sentences that are unconnected to their daily modes of discourse.

Part of what I'm going to address in my thesis is the disconnect between freshmen composition and students' future writing. Students take freshmen composition, believing that they'll never again use those concepts, never making the connection between the skills taught in composition and the skills they need to be effective writers in the workplace. I hope I can find a way to bridge this gap, and help students be better writers and communicators.


Amanda D Allen said...

Far from perfect? In my opinion 2 points is not that far from perfect. I agree with everything else you said though. There is a gap and and filling it is the only way they are going to value the information. Make actually goes on a similar rant all the time about mathematics. To poorly summarize his point, he thinks that whoever decided to do 50 practice equations and only 2 word problems is dumbing down the country. I look forward to hearing how you bridge the gap.

the secret knitter said...

I agree with Amanda. Missing two is pretty impressive. It's still an A. :)

You beat me by one. I got 47/50. The neither/nor questions had me perplexed, and #12 tripped me up.

Amanda D Allen said...

I tried to take the test, and I failed. I've always known that my grammar is not the best, but this just started depressing me. (That's why I like to surround myself with grammar gods and goddesses; I'm really hoping it will rub off) Several of the questions seemed to have multiple correct answers to me. The sentences just had different meanings. I gave up after frying my brain on this one
Choose the correct sentence.
A)She and he are always fighting.
B)She and him are always fighting.
C)Her and him are always fighting.
D)Him and her are always fighting.

I'd be happiest if we kept this between us. My 6th grade English teacher doesn't need to find out.

Jenn said...

I use a fun little trick on ones like that--you remove one element (usually the one you know is correct) and see how it sounds with the other. Example: "They called her and me". Is me correct in this sentence? Yes, because if you remove "her" then "me" is the correct pronoun (object pronoun, to be precise).

On that one, I knew that the subject was plural--two singulars joined with "and" makes a plural subject--and so I fiddled around with the right pronoun after that.

It's enough to make your brain hurt, sometimes.