Moving from Correct-Alls
to Mentor Texts
As writers, we learn most of what we know just by watching the
pros, don't we?
John R. Trimble, Writing with Style
Often teachers fall back on grammar and mechanics textbook lessons and workbook pages for lack of something better to do. Many teach mechanics and grammar with daily correct-alls. Yet as far back as 1936, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) found that the formal teaching of grammar and mechanics had little effect on students' writing and, in fact, had deleterious effects when it displaced writing time. Other teachers who know these methods don't work have fallen into haphazardly mentioning mechanics or, fearful of teaching grammar and mechanics out of context, teaching them only during the editing phase of the writing process. When this is the case, kids may only deal with grammar and mechanics a few times a year. Three hundred and sixty degrees from wrong is still wrong. I had to break open the [way it's always been done] and figure out why the tried-anduntrue methods don't work.
Are you picking up a tone here? It's true. I am not in favor of most daily correct-alls publishers create by the dozens. Correct-alls are the prepackaged editing programs that overwhelm students with sentences so riddled with errors that it is impossible to spend sufficient time on each type of error,