Thursday, July 15, 2010

Analyzing the Pieces


Diagramming Sentences

I am tutoring a 7th grader in English, and one of the things we are covering is sentence diagramming. I wouldn't have chosen this topic on purpose, but this student has had little experience with it and the new school she's attending in the fall will cover it in depth. 

What's your take on diagramming sentences? Love it? Hate it? As a child, I didn't see the point, nor remember my teachers telling me why we had to do it. Researching for these lessons, however, has unearthed a bit of background info on why it is a good tool to help students learn. Not only does it help develop thinking skills, dissecting a sentence helps understand its structure, causing one to think analytically. The author of one grammar lesson I came across said that the exercise helped develop his critical thinking skills and caused him to analyze literature more thoroughly.

My thoughts? Well, I still don't do cartwheels over it, but I can see where it can be useful in the big educational picture. The grammar book we are using teaches that isolating the prepositional phrase first is a key step to breaking the sentence down into manageable pieces. This has taught my student to think before she attacks the sentence, so this is a good thing. I realized, too, that it's caused me to look more closely at what I read and write - at structure and how sentences work together.

What, if any, grammar exercises have you found helpful in your writing? When you read, do you mentally take things apart and analyze the writing? Do I have any volunteers for teaching sentence diagramming if I am unable to make a tutoring session? 

Share your thoughts please; I have my pen and tablet ready to make a back up tutor instructor list...

Happy writing, and a happy weekend to all!

Blessings,

Karen





36 comments :

  1. Much to the amazement of my friends, I've never learned to diagram sentences. Never even heard of it until my oldest son went to Christian school. I don't seem to have suffered for it, but sometimes I am curious about it.
    Recently I heard of someone who does it with Bible passages and how it helps her to better understand the Scripture. For that reason, I guess I might look into it.

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  2. I LOVED to digram sentences and it really helped me so much. When my daughter went to school, I was shocked they didn't teach it that way to her.

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  3. Carol,
    It seems to be a mixed bag among people I know - some have had experience, others haven't. I won't be doing it in my spare time, but I can see where it might help some students.

    Terri,
    Okay, so I'm adding you to the substitute tutor list? :) It is interesting to note the differences in curriculum and how some companies deem it important and others do not.

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  4. As a professional editor, I'm glad I had an intensive college course on grammar in which we spent nearly a month diagramming sentences.

    Understanding the structural underpinnings of how sentence parts function will help you write better. You'll not only see mistakes like misplaced modifiers, but also know why they're wrong and be able to fix them.

    What I found problematic in junior high grammar was that the teacher never told us WHY understanding this stuff was important. I'd suggest taking a few minutes to explain to your pupil the importance of understanding sentence structure. Diagramming will help him/her becoming a competent creator and reviser of this building-block of written communication.

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  5. I think just explaining why and providing examples of good and poorly structured sentences would help.

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  6. I'm not sure if it is the same, but I had to parse sentences in a recent college writing course. It did help my writing alot, especially for editing my own work. I also usually recognize misplaced modifiers right away, instead of spending time having to fix them later!

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  7. Sorry Karen, always hated diagramming sentences. Thought it was a terrible waste of precious time. I would have no interest in teaching grammar. I'm a voracious reader and guess my writing prowess was honed in that way. Take care and good luck! Susan

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  8. I think I do write things in proper english at times and then have to switch the order around. Funny! :O)

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  9. Laurel,
    Thanks for the input. :) While explaining 'why we do this', I also encourage her not to be intimidated by the process. If someone had explained that to me, things would have been easier to digest.

    Alex,
    Yes, I agree. I like to use 'before' examples and then get students to help me with the 'after' version. Making them stop and think, is to me, one of the biggest keys. Congrats again on your book!

    Lynn,
    It is very similar, and I think it would help along the same lines. That's a good idea for something a little different, thanks! :)

    Susan,
    Okay so I won't add your name to the list! lol But as you said, there are many ways to improve and analyze, such as reading.

    Diane,
    I know, me too. Sometimes I'll be humming along, typing, and then go back and read it and wonder what I was thinking! :)

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  10. I've worked with Ivy on this in homeschool. GROAN!

    It is very important to learn. That is her worst part of grammar. She hates it. Hopefully this next school year will be better. DOUBLE GROAN!!!!

    I know writers should learn this. It just makes sense to understand diagramming sentences. TRIPLE GROAN!!!!!!!!!!

    I loves ya, Karen. *hugs*

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  11. I've done this many ties with my kids and it still hasn't grown on me. I find it feels like hard work and unfortunately so do my kids. I think I need to find a better method to teach this.

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  12. Robyn,
    So I'm thinking this isn't your favorite thing? lol It does make sense, but not worth stressing over I'm thinking. Love ya too, sweet friend!

    Anne,
    So I'm not adding you to the sub tutor list either, huh? :) That's okay, I think I can manage for now. I know you all are rooting for me!

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  13. As a kid I always enjoyed diagramming sentences. It was one of those fairly easy exercises that looked kind of cool to me. I used to like to take things apart anyway and diagramming seemed to fit into that mold. To me, sentence diagramming is one of those educational exercises that has not practical use later in life other that the foundation it gave to write better.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  14. Thanks for commenting on my interview over at Jen's blog!

    I hated grammar as a kid, especially diagramming sentence, which we luckily did very little of. Once I got to college, however, I discovered a love for grammar.Crazy. I love it. I love the logic behind diagramming sentences. I think it just confuses kids, honestly.

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  15. Hi Karen .. I have no knowledge about grammar?! And recently I yearn to learn! The lessons hit me at a time in school that wasn't brilliant, on top of that we had Latin and French .. I lost the plot! Well something clicked through .. but I'd like to understand the terminology and have the theory explained to me sometime! One day .. I'll get it sorted .. Have a good weekend .. Hilary

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  16. Tamara,
    You are welcome! It was an interesting interview. Funny how things change - you liking grammar now and all. Wonder if I'd like asparagus now, never did as a kid! :)

    Hilary,
    Well, I'm thinking it's never too late, you know? All in good time with a good balance. Don't be too hard on yourself; your blog is great:)

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  17. Lee,
    I think that you should set up a fun workshop and show us how you dissect a sentence. Would be interesting to see your take on it!
    Thanks and blessings,
    Karen

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  18. Hi Karen, though I can make out a good sentence from a poorly constructed one, Sentence Diagramming is something I have never used. But now when I have started teaching Creative Writing to college students, I stress on well constructed, grammatically correct sentences.

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  19. I don't analyze sentences except for studying for sermons, and it is not for the grammar but for the message. I remember having to do it in school. The value of it? Maybe 2 things - 1) It helps with writing later on and 2) with studying foreign languages. Sorry I can't be of help!

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  20. There were some aspects I had difficulty with and others, not so much when I was in school. I don't even think about diagraming sentence until I read something that isn't working.

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  21. Wow, this blog keeps getting better and better.

    LOVE diagramming sentences and think it gave me a big jump forward in my writing career.

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  22. Karen - Because I happened to get the 'easy' teacher in 7th grade, I didn't get a very good feel for diagramming sentences. At the time, I remember being relieved that I didn't have Mr. Nixon (the hard teacher!), but I know now that I missed something that would have been very helpful! Any time to tutor another 'student' in diagramming sentences?! Have a blessed weekend! :)

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  23. Rachna,
    I think that the more we read and write, we gain a better sense of what works. So those who haven't had the experience, or do not like it, can still fill in the gaps.

    Amy,
    Yes, some areas of grammar I didn't mind, and others not so much. I think sometimes we diagram them without realizing it when working to fix something:)

    Warren,
    Actually that is a help; it reinforces what I've shared with my student. My goal is to help her learn and minimize feeling overwhelmed.

    Patti,
    Thank you for the vote of confidence:) I am glad it helped with your writing! You do it well:)

    Maria,
    It's funny what we often miss in school by not having one teacher or another, or by missing out on a certain book or something. I think it all comes out in the end and we learn what we need to, or at least can teach ourselves. Sure, come on over on Mondays at one. I'll copy some extra sheets for you:)

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  24. Hi Karen - In the 8th grade I had to memorize a full 72 prepositions in alphabetical order, and that turned out to be the best tool ever. As I recall, most of my classmates were in misery over that assignment, but I loved it! I can still run through the whole list. :D

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  25. I feel very fortunate to have been raised during the 50s & 60s when the standards for education were (IMO) much higher. Sentence structure was vital to literacy.

    I didn't much care for the process at the time, and I confess I don't give it an iota of thought today, but something tells me that season of study has morphed into an intuitiveness I take for granted.

    I still don't like dangling participles ... whatever they are.

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  26. Lisa,
    I can see where that would come in handy! The materials I'm using have students do that too, so I think we will be ahead of the game:)

    Kathleen,
    You are probably right; how many of remember everything we learned during our school years? I'm with you in the dangling participle department!

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen :)

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  27. Hi Karen -

    I have a vague memory of this exercise in school. At the time, it didn't make me turn cartwheels. Somehow the lessons stuck because I don't struggle too much with grammar.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  28. Karen: I loved diagramming sentences in school! I'm not sure I could accurately manage it today, but I think it's a valuable exercise in analytics.

    Another writing exercise I found helpful and still use, is free writing. It gets the ideas flowing, until a viable one pops to the front.

    Yes, I analyze and pick apart the books I read, even the books my husband reads to me at night. I'll say, "She used that word twice in the same paragraph," or "What a weak sentence." I hate being so persnickety, but I can't help myself. I think it's akin to a chef analyzing a meal in another restaurant.

    Happy Weekend!
    Jen

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  29. Susan,
    They must have, for your blog always looks neat and tidy in the grammar department! :)

    Jeanette,
    I notice stuff like that too, and mentally note it for my writing. Yes, free writing is a good exercise!

    Blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  30. I was good at diagramming sentences as a kid (English was my best subject), but I never saw much point. It's been so long since I took a sentence apart, so I'm not sure how great I'd be anymore, but as I'm planning on home schooling my son, one day I'll refresh my memory just as my mom did to home school me!

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  31. Lindsey,
    I didn't realize you were a former homeschooler! Yes, us homeschool moms brush up on all sorts of skills as we go along. Thanks for coming over to see me:)
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  32. The one University level class I had in grammar didn't use sentence diagramming, and the teacher was fantastic! Of course, my grammar probably would embarass her, so I won't mention her name. However, as a mom and homeschooler, I have to say that sentence diagramming can help. I think that separating the parts in a structured, very visual format can help kids see the different pieces and how they work together more fluidly.

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  33. Karen:
    In the fifth or sixth grade,we had to learn the list of prepositions. We also learned to diagram sentences. We had reviews in the later grades. I haven't tried it for a while.

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  34. Tyrean,
    Good points. I think too, that there are several ways to teach sentence structure so that students appreciate composition.

    Cecelia,
    Knowing prepositions is helpful in this and other instances. How many from the list do you still recall? :)

    Thanks and blessings to each of you,
    Karen

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  35. I used to love diagramming. I think it had something to do with puzzle solving and drawing and making a neat picture. :)

    I may have forgotten how, though. I may go review and teach my granddaughter as I doubt she'll learn otherwise. My kids didn't.

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  36. Sandra,
    Never thought of it like that! Good way to look at it:)
    Have a good weekend,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!