The Basic Cozy Grammar Course
Marie's Preface: Excerpt
"Why grammar? It stifles creativity!"
Over the years this question has been hurled at me many times—sometimes gently, but more often vehemently.
My answer has always been the same:
As you'll hear me say in The Basic Cozy Grammar Course, it's hard to be creative at anything if you do not have the technique first. I've always believed in giving students ALL the tools they need to be able to thrive and succeed in life. I used to keep this sign in my classroom:
I believe that just as much now as I did then.
A Little Background
During the late 1960's and the early 1970's, education, influenced by the social changes of the 60's, went through a period where the teaching of grammar was thought to be stifling to creativity.
Often I was made to feel like a mean old dinosaur for teaching grammar.
Oddly enough, much of the criticism came from colleagues who held master's degrees.
I remember saying on more than one occasion, "That is easy for you to say, but you already have grammar skills or you wouldn't have been able to write a master's thesis. Now you want to deny these same skills to present and future students. I am not against progress in education, but in the heat of the excitement of making changes, we must be very sure that what we consider to be progression is not regression, or even suppression, in disguise."
I never wavered; I continued to teach grammar.
In 1991 I was vindicated. In the fall of that year, I decided that it was time to learn to use a computer. The instructor suggested that I would learn more quickly if I worked on a continuous project. I thought of my grammar course, which was hand-written in a tattered, old duo-tang.
This became my computer project.
I spent every opportunity available to me in my school’s computer room: early mornings, lunch times, after school, and in the evenings.
It was during the lunch time periods, particularly, that I noticed a pattern emerging. The younger teachers on staff, one by one, would creep into the computer room and peer over my shoulder.
At first they were bemused by this "old dog learning a new trick," but then they became interested in my grammar project. Without exception each would whisper into my ear, "When you are finished, may I have a copy? I was never taught grammar and I am terrified to teach it."
I promised to give them each a copy.
Grammar Enhances Creativity
It is time to stop giving grammar a bad name and look at it for what it is: a technique. It is a tool that can enhance creativity, not stifle it. It is not only a valuable tool for writing but also a wonderful aid for teaching. When I was guiding students in creative writing classes, it was so helpful, from a teaching point of view, to be able to say, "Here you used an adjective where you should have used an adverb”; or, "at this point you used a principal verb without an auxiliary verb”; or, "if you place the subject at the end of this sentence it will improve the flow of your story."
This is a much more satisfying learning situation than saying, "You have made some mistakes so I have inserted the corrections in red ink."
Why Cozy Grammar?
I was motivated to participate in the production of The Basic Cozy Grammar Course for two reasons:
First, I am aware of the public's concerns and impressions, whether rightly or wrongly, about the lack of language skills demonstrated by students today. This course will enable students, teachers, parents, and home-schoolers to learn the basics of grammar.
Second, and perhaps even more important, I wanted to get out of the classroom—to present grammar in an everyday setting. The coziness of a home, the familiarity of a garden, the fascination of a beach, and the ever-changing moods of the Pacific Coast weather combine to make a stimulating, but non-threatening, setting for teaching a potentially dry and boring subject.
I can't tell you how many letters I've received since we first released these courses about how much people have enjoyed the coziness of Cozy Grammar. One mother told me that her son, eleven years old, actually looked forward to his daily grammar lessons. "In fact," she wrote, "as we would sit on the couch with our cup of tea, it felt more like we were visiting with an old friend in her beautiful home, than learning grammar. But learn we did, in a seemingly effortless way."
We learn best when we feel safe, secure, and relaxed. I would recommend that you find your own cozy way to enjoy these lessons, whether cuddling up under a blanket, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, sitting out in a park in the afternoon sunshine, or something entirely unique to you!