Most Dartmouth students write grammatically. Accordingly, we do not recommend setting out a formal system for teaching our students the basic structure of a sentence and the usage rules of the English language. A good handbook can provide your students with this kind of information.
Professors have various options when addressing grammatical error in student writing. Which strategy they employ will depend on the kind and frequency of error in a particular paper, as well as the professor's priorities for a particular assignment. The following suggestions cover several response techniques commonly used in Dartmouth's writing classrooms. Because grammar instruction tends to be individualized, you may want to keep all of these strategies in your toolbox of instructional techniques, combining them to create a customized response to individual students' writing problems
- Mark individual errors. Instructors can mark individual errors in a variety of ways. For instance, you can mark and label an error every time it occurs, referring students to a grammar or handbook. You can mark error the first time it occurs, name it, and ask the student to find and correct other instances in the paper. Some professors circle errors but don't name them, requiring the student to investigate and solve the problem in on her own. Whichever mark you decide to make, consider both your student's level of competency and the lesson you're trying to teach. A student may need to have errors named for him early on, but as the term goes on you may decide to circle the error and let the student name it and correct it. Always consider which method is most effective at this particular point in a student's education.
- Look for patterns of error. Determining that a student or group of students consistently have trouble with commas (for instance) can help you see where and how to best focus your attention. Perhaps you need to work with a student during office hours; perhaps the problem is common enough that you can discuss it in a five-minute grammar lesson (see below).
- Prioritize error. Finally, when addressing papers especially troubled by grammatical problems, a professor will want to prioritize the errors. Students can be overwhelmed by too much direction or editing—sometimes the most effective approach is to choose one or two types of error per paper to address.