Grammar is the key to success on all standardized tests.
Grammar comprises the rules and conventions that allow us to communicate clearly. It is the study of how we use the way words function and marks of punctuation to communicate clearly and correctly.
The ACT and SAT (and nearly every standardized test) are filled with complex passages and sentences. These passages test your ability to determine whether the writers are using the agreed-upon rules and conventions of English correctly and whether they are organizing the parts of speech to communicate ideas in the most logical ways.
What are the parts of speech?
The parts of speech are the eight categories or types of words that we use when we write or speak. They are the eight ways that words or groups of words can function in sentences. For example, "noun" is a word that we use to label every word that names a person, place, or thing. Everything that can be named is categorized as a noun. Pronouns substitute for nouns (he, she, it). Adjectives modify or add more information about nouns (pure water). Verbs are the category for every word that we use to say what we are doing (running, sleeping) or being (am, is, are, was, were). Adverbs modify or tell us more about verbs (ran quickly). Prepositions show position or time (over, under, during). Conjunctions connect words and groups of words (and, for, but, nor, or, yet, so). Interjections convey emotion (wow, ouch!). They are the last of the eight categories and, unfortunately, are relatively useless for comprehension or composition.
Why is it important to study the fundamental grammatical structures of sentences? Why not just focus on tips, tricks, and shortcuts?
Short term test preparation consists of strategies, tips, and tricks. These are great—if you have mastered the knowledge that is being tested. But they are a complete waste of time if you lack the fundamental grammatical skills you need to understand everything you read. Great piano teachers begin by helping their students to learn notes and scales. They do not begin with seven easy ways to play Tchaikovsky. Success on the ACT and the SAT requires that you understand the notes and scales of the English writing system. The test makers are testing your understanding of the written code that all writers use to communicate.
But here's the good news: the code is not difficult to understand. There are only eight parts of speech (or eight ways that words or groups of words can function in a sentence). As importantly, the parts of speech have natural relationships with each other: they fit together. For example, the noun-adjective relationship means that adjectives are always talking about nouns. They are connected. Writers place adjectives right next to nouns to show that relationship. "The hot soup filled my empty stomach." Notice that the word "hot" describes soup, and the word "empty" describes the stomach. These are adjectives because they are telling us more about the nouns "soup and stomach." Did you notice, also, that the adjectives and nouns are right next to each other? That is one of the relationships you will see consistently in sentences. Now on the ACT and SAT, this relationship looks more complex because the test-makers use longer strings of words as adjectives, but they're always going to be next to the nouns they are describing or modifying. Both exams will test your ability to judge whether adjectives are near the nouns they are modifying. But if you don't know what an adjective is or what a noun is, then learning a quick tip is meaningless.
Learning the parts of speech is important because writers create meaning by organizing them in their natural or logical order. Once you learn the basic relationships between the parts of speech, then you can recognize how writers put them together in sentences to make sense. You can decode the sentence puzzle by knowing its parts and how the parts fit together to create the whole meaning.
The parts of speech are the building blocks of all sentences. They are the tools that writers use to construct meaning. Master these tools, and you will learn how to quickly analyze or take sentences apart to get to the core of the writer's meaning. When you master the parts of speech, you will be able to do what the test makers are requiring: You'll be able to read with a writer's mind by always looking for ways to edit the text for greater clarity, conciseness, and accuracy, and you will be able to write with the reader in mind by always looking for ways to convey ideas more clearly and precisely. Comprehension and composition will become much easier.
The primary task of Christian homeschoolers is to make sure that their children can read with fluency and comprehension so that they can cultivate godly hearts and brilliant minds by reading the Bible, and the great anthologies about the people, civilizations, and ideas that have shaped the world since creation. Children who cannot read effectively will have a difficult time studying God’s Word—and anything else—for themselves; and, therefore, will be subject to the minds and motives of others throughout their lives.
What are the parts of speech? The parts of speech are the eight categories or kinds of words that we use to speak and to write. When we communicate, we use words called nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, verbs, and interjections. These are called the eight parts of speech or the eight kinds of words that we use to make sense.
We group our language into these eight categories. For example, all words that name people, places, or things are called nouns. And all words (such as he, she, it, or they) that take the places of nouns in sentences are called pronouns. Words (such as cold, hot, blue, or beautiful) that describe nouns are called adjectives. Words that show action or being (such as run, jump, am, is , are) are called verbs. Words (such as quickly, slowly, or powerfully) that give us more information about verbs are called adverbs. Words (such as and, but, for, nor, or, so & yet) are called conjunctions. And words (such as wow! and ouch!) that help to express strong emotions are called interjections. These are the eight parts of speech.
Exercise can make kids smarter. When I first read those words written by a respected author in a reputable periodical, I responded with skepticism: “Yeah right, just another foolish fad to be thrown out in a few years onto the trash heap of other foolish educational fads.”
But still a little intrigued, I tiptoed then waded into the voluminous research on the subject. And what I found astonished me: Cutting edge scientific research has unequivocally demonstrated that exercise can indeed make kids smarter. The link between exercise and brain optimization is so strong that I began to wonder why more educators don’t know about this research. And it started me thinking about how such basic knowledge about the powerful connection between the mind and the body for both adults and children can potentially revolutionize the way kids learn.
Here’s a summary of what scientific research has discovered regarding the brain-body connection. Much of this has been summarized by author Andrew Merle.
"Exercise after learning improves retention
One study revealed that people who exercised 4 hours after a memory test (the test involved seeing and remembering very detailed pictures) had better retention 24 hours after the test. The results indicate that exercise affects the process by which memories are consolidated (transferred from short-term to long-term memory).
Even short bursts of exercise improve the ability to focus
Another study showed that as little as 4 minutes of intense in-class exercise (called “FUNtervals”) increased the ability to focus among 9–11 year olds.
Even a single “dose” of exercise boosts learning
Another study revealed that 20 minutes of fast walking (60% of max heart rate) on a treadmill increased reading comprehension in 10-year-old children. The learning benefits have been especially profound for children with ADHD."
But why or how does exercise affect the brain?
A BBC article summarizes what research is now confirming:
"One possible reason is that exercise boosts the blood (and therefore oxygen) supply to the brain which helps give it the energy to think. It might also promote the growth of neurons and perhaps encourage the release of certain neurotransmitters and growth hormones that are crucial to the brain’s overall health. All of which could contribute to better concentration and memory.”
Since research and experience continue to affirm that active learning can make kids smarter, why do we keep cuffing students to their seats when we know that they can learn better on their feet?
You may learn more about Andrew Merle’s work here https://medium.com/@andrewmerle/exercise-will-make-your-kids-smarter-d642c12dfbf0
This quote from former first lady Michelle Obama should encourage and inspire all of those parents who continue to insist that their children should speak and write correctly. It should also belie that ignorant misconception that children of color should be allowed to speak and write in their own dialects instead of being taught how to communicate according to the conventions of English grammar.
"“Our parents had drilled us under the importance of using proper diction, of saying “going” instead of “goin” and “isn’t” instead of “ain’t “. We were taught to finish off words. They bought us a dictionary and a full Encyclopedia Britannica set, which lived on a shelf in the stairwell to our apartment, its titles etched in gold. Any time we had a question about a word, or a concept, or some piece of history, they directed us toward those books. Dandy, too, was an influence, meticulously correcting our grammar and admonishing us to enunciate our words when we went over for dinner. The idea was we were to transcend, to get ourselves further. They’d planned for it. They encouraged it. We were expected not just to be smart but to own our smartness – to inhabit it with pride – and this filtered down to how we spoke.”
To this I say Amen!
How can a knowledge of sentence structure help to improve your reading comprehension?
The link between reading comprehension and sentence analysis is clear: Every word or group of words-- every part of the sentence-- is telling us something. The question is: What is that word, or group of words, or sentence part saying? What is it telling us that we need to know?
Each word or group of words plays a key role in giving us information. In order to find out what information each part or group of words is giving to us, we need to ask the verbs and nouns questions. Answers to those questions will allow us to see what each word or group of words is saying, or helping the sentence to say, or rather how each word or group of words is helping the writer to communicate her meaning to us. So in order to improve both your reading comprehension and writing, you must first master your sentence comprehension skills.
What is the sentence saying? What’s happening in the sentence? What idea or ideas is the writer trying to communicate? These are the critical questions that lead to comprehension.
There are only three basic sentence patterns
The key is to find the subject-verb relationship. Then we must find the word or group of words that completes the idea that starts with the subject-verb relationship. Some words or groups of words that complete the subject-verb relationship are answers to the question: (verb) who or what? These words or groups of words are called completers. When they occur after an action verb they are called objects, but when they occur after a linking verb, they are called subject complements because they either rename or describe the subject directly. Other words or groups of words can complete the idea started by the subject-verb relationship by asking and answering where, when, why, or how about the verb.
The word “that” either begins an adjective clause that answers “who?” or an object clause that answers “what?”
This is one way in which writers can add descriptions, clarification, and definitions to terms and various elements of sentences.
Why we teach reading comprehension and writing skills through grammar and vocabulary at Scholarskills: here is an excerpt from a shocking article about the inability of our students to read and write.
”Of about 78,000 NYC third-graders, they found the number who scored zeroes on three or more written answers doubled from 10,696 (14 percent) in 2012 to 21,464 (28 percent) in 2013, when the state tests were redesigned to fit the tougher Common Core standards.
But in the next three years, city third-graders — who were taught nothing but Common Core curriculum since kindergarten — still racked up zeroes at the same high rate, the study found.
The percentage with three or more zeroes on the ELA exam was still 28 percent in 2014, 29 percent in 2015, and 27 percent in 2016, the last year data was available.
That year, the state eliminated time limits, but the effect on zeroes was slight.
“We can’t say this is just kids getting used to the Common Core curriculum. This is all they’ve ever known,” Jacobowitz said. “It did not get better over time.”
What’s worse, the racial achievement gap widened. In 2013, the number of black kids scoring three or more zeroes was 10 percent higher than white kids. In 2016, the gap grew to 18 percent. The white/Hispanic gap grew from 11 percent to 20.”