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Grammar to Get Things Done


Crovitz, Darren, and Michelle D. Devereaux. Grammar to Get Things Done: A Practical Guide for Teachers Anchored in Real-World Usage. Routledge, 2017.


The purpose of this book is threefold: to examine grammar through form, function, and use. Authors focus on the need to teach grammar with real-world scenarios and deftly remind us of the futility of teaching grammar in isolation. They scoop readers into a broad definition of grammar in order to understand the history of grammar instruction. Basically, the beginning of the book addresses the many different rule-based grammars in use around us, the sociocultural aspects of these grammars, and the importance of understanding concepts related to language expectations among different contexts in order to teach grammar well. While authors obviously advocate for the teaching of Standard English, they do so with the caveat that “perfect” English is socially ludicrous for all of us, and understanding this is important in order to avoid holding one language system up as morally superior.

More than half of the book is dedicated to explorations of grammatical concepts. Authors explicitly state that they do not mean for this section of the book to be used in isolation, but to help educators gain a deeper understanding of these concepts based on overviews, forms, functions, uses, and scenarios. The concepts are couched in Smagorinsky’s principles on teaching grammar, including teaching grammar in context, thinking of grammar as a useful tool instead of one set of rules to correct, focusing on patterns and common issues, and working with a small number of grammatical concepts. They also recommend situating the teaching of grammar within larger units, integrated among several English language arts strands. Examples are provided, including a broad definition of texts to study.

Finally, just before the section on grammatical concepts, authors provide ideas and examples on rethinking some common issues that are sometimes described in margins of students’ papers as awkward, wordy, vague, redundant, word choice, agreement. These ideas are entry points into the rest of the book, where the authors present what they believe to be the most important concepts for English teachers.

Classroom Application

Educators may find the brief history of grammar fascinating as well as eye-opening while stepping into this book. The history, combined with another decree for teaching grammar in context, is woven into example ideas and questions for educators to examine when it comes to integrating the teaching of grammar into larger units. The grammatical concepts explored throughout the majority of the book may also be of most interest to educators to brush up, review, and potentially use (parts or the whole), in classroom practice as issues surface from students’ writing.