Where’s the grammar?


    This week I took the opportunity to visit both my son’s third-grade class at Forest Lakes Elementary School and I popped in for the open house at St. Margaret School in Bel Air. I wanted to compare what was going on in the classrooms and see if my son was getting what he needed in school. I learned that my son needs to start paying a whole lot more attention in school. And, I came to kind of like those trailers where he’s spending this year with the rest of the overflow students. (Save for the fact that he got drenched in today’s rain traveling between trailers. He quite enjoyed it.) But when I visited St. Margaret School’s third grade, I discovered something I didn’t see in my son’s public school: grammar. Now I may have missed it at my son’s school. I may find it. I’ll keep looking. But at St. Margaret School’s third-grade classroom, grammar lessons hit me smack in the face. Right there, written neatly in cursive at the top of the blackboard I saw: “English — We’ll identify action verbs and the correct form of the verb “be.” They teach English at St. Margaret School — and not only English. They teach Spanish too, at every grade level. At Forest Lakes, they teach reading. (My son got himself sorted into a reading group still focusing on decoding, so I don’t imagine conjugating verbs will be on the syllabus for awhile.) Forest Lakes also teaches writing. (My son’s class is writing a letter to a famous person of their choice. His teacher planted errors in a letter she put on a projector and asked the children to find the mistakes. So there was some grammar going on there.) But at St. Margaret’s, the third graders were today assigned to write a two-page creative story to be submitted to a contest. Hanging on the wall at St. Margaret’s were twenty neatly written book reports with all the words in them spelled correctly. Hanging on the wall in my son’s classroom, were about the same number of much shorter student works spanning a range of neatly written and properly spelled to practically indecipherable. So I panicked a little. I mean, I don’t just have one kid. Private school gets expensive. And if you’re not a St. Margaret’s parishioner, you can double that tuition. I was relieved to see that in math anyway — despite that fact that my son is learning the fancy reform version called “Everyday Math” and St. Margaret’s students are learning regular old math — both classrooms seemed to be in the same place. They were both studying elapsed time, three-digit addition and subtraction and beginning multiplication and division. When I got home, I went on a grammar search. I pored over the Harford Public School district’s website. I did find the word grammar on this pamphlet outlining how the district meets the state’s requirements for Integrated Language Arts. Still concerned, I did a Google search on third-grade grammar and found this Multimedia Grammar Glossary from Harcourt School Publishers. When my on got off the school bus, I plopped him in front of the laptop and started clicking on words and asking him if he’d heard of these before: “action verb” (yes, last year) “adjective” (yes) “adverb” (yes, but forgot what it means) “predicate” (huh?). Well, it’s early in the year. We have some time to work on this. It’s not pluperfect, but we’ll keep at it.