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Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College – Format Matters

This was one of those techniques that I remember using when I taught Language Arts, but had abandoned when I went back to teaching my History classes.

When I was teaching Language Arts, I was a stickler for having my students answer in complete sentences and with proper grammar.

If a student just answered the question with a one-word answer, I would say, “Nope,” and move on.

Other students would offer their responses which were really wrong, and I would continue calling students until finally someone would give the correct answer in a complete sentence, and I would say, “Right!”

The original student, along with most of the class, would argue that he had already said the right answer. (I used to give out rewards for right answers.)

That’s when I would explain that I needed the answer in a complete sentence.

Technique #4Format Matters – asks the teacher to “prepare your students to succeed by requiring complete sentences and proficient grammar every chance you get.”

The book offers two ways to correct errors in language:

  1. Identify the error – Repeat the statement in a question: “We was walking down the street?”
  2. Begin the correction – Repeat the answer with the correction: “We were…”

I also like the idea that the book gives to make this process something that students will remember by using a catch phrase: “Say it like a scholar.”

Key Idea: “It’s not just what students say that matters but how they communicate it. To succeed, students must take their knowledge and express it in the language of opportunity.”

Why did I stop requiring complete sentences when I taught history? I suppose it was because the objective was to get the student to give me the correct date or person or cause. I was happy when a student gave me the right answer. Having to do it again, however, I would have kept up my high standards when it came to student responses.

I think it’s a good idea to require students to answer in complete sentences and correct grammar – in every class.

I’ve been told that it’s important not to discourage or devalue the informal language of the student. It’s often part of their culture or home life. I agree. Certain cultures have different ways of expressing  themselves which to some of us may seem incorrect or non-grammatical. We can’t make the way their parents talk at home of lesser value.

Tell the students that there are times when it is OK to use informal language, but when in an academic setting or when applying for a job, it’s important to use formal language.

What do you think?

Do you require students to answer in complete sentences? Is it an effective strategy?

Thanks again,


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