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Post date: Thursday, 3 October 2013

Why assess punctuation and grammar?

Let’s start off with the million dollar question: Why is it important to assess punctuation and grammar in the classroom?

The teaching and assessing of literacy and numeracy skills has become an important focal points in learning but does that mean it is worth spending much time assessing the more finely-tuned details of semicolons, conjunctions and clauses?

The short (and somewhat obvious) answer is that a student cannot make or convey meaning in any sort of text without a basic comprehension of how grammar and punctuation work. The term “basic” is used subjectively here. Compared to most other languages, English is a daunting medley of rules, exceptions, homonyms, tenses, and complex mechanics. Learning punctuation and grammar is not simple. And unless you are a born grammar geek (there is nothing wrong with that!), it’s not very exciting either. Being able to use the language correctly takes ongoing learning, practice, and patience. Nonetheless, a solid understanding of how punctuation and grammar work is a vital skill that students will use consistently for the rest of their lives. It’s not a stretch to say that being able to use the right words at the right time helps people get farther in their professional and social lives. And when it comes to the classroom, building proficiency in the key competencies, in particular “using language, symbols and tests” is difficult without sound knowledge of punctuation and grammar usage.

Just as it is difficult to learn these subjects, so it is with teaching punctuation and grammar. It is now recognised that the best way to teach punctuation and grammar is to describe how it is used in context, rather than rattling off hundreds of rules and all the “do’s and “don’ts”. But if you aren’t actively teaching these rules, how can you as a teacher tell if your students are really getting it? It can be challenging to decipher the issues behind the difficulties a child is having in school. How can you tell if poor performance is because of a student’s undeveloped vocabulary or due to their lack of understanding around the patterns and mechanics of how language works?

This is where our newest progressive achievement test, PAT:Punctuation and Grammar will become useful. The PAT: Punctuation and Grammar will help teachers understand how well their students are learning to make sense of language and how it works in context. It’s important to emphasize that PAT: Punctuation and Grammar does not focus on a student’s prescriptive knowledge of language. Rather than focusing on rules, the test asks students to make sense of text by using the knowledge they have around how language works in context and how it helps aid meaning. The results you will receive from this assessment will be a solid starting point to help you understand where to go next in your teaching in order to ensure that students are getting a good grounding in how punctuation and grammar work in context. It will be an important tool to help shape your curriculum to better serve the needs of your students.

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