Does Grammar Matter?

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Area: Language Arts and Literature
Grade Level: Middle School, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: Grammar, Language, Prescriptivism vs. Descriptivism
Estimated Time Necessary: 45 minutes with a take-home component

Lesson Plan

Grammar as Helpful
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to explain some of the ways in which grammar is used as a helpful tool that allows them to communicate effectively with others.
Grammar as Hurtful
Students will leave this lesson able to understand why grammar excludes certain people. They will recognize that grammar can make some people feel left out or different.

Lesson Overview

Has anyone ever corrected you on your grammar? In this lesson, teachers will encourage students to explore their use of grammar. We all use it, but why does it matter? In looking further into their grammar use, students will consider the role that grammar plays in different people’s lives.

This lesson breaks down the Prescriptivism/Descriptivism debate into bite-sized chunks. Essentially, Prescriptivists believe that one form of a language is the proper form of that language and they focus on how language should be used. Descriptivists, on the other hand, focus on how language is currently used, recording how our use of language changes over time. Before teaching this lesson, watch the attached video to gain a better understanding of this distinction.

Discussing Individual Experience with Grammar

As an opening activity, ask students to think of a time when someone corrected their grammar. Have them write their answer on a piece of paper or in a notebook, documenting the situation and how it made them feel.

Then, take the conversation deeper with the entire class.

Questions to ask:

● How did this make you feel? Why?

● Did your grammar mistake affect the meaning of what you were trying to say?

● Why do you think people care about grammar?

Formal Introduction to Grammar

Video – Khan Academy – Introduction to Grammar

This video says that there are many Englishes.

Questions to ask:

What do you think this quote means?

Can you think of any examples of different types of English?
Think about pronunciation and word use— have you ever disagreed with someone about what to call something?
Why do some people make fun of types of English that aren’t their own?
What might be some positive and negative results of having grammar?

Prescriptivism vs. Descriptivism: The Grammar Debate

Have students watch the video on the Video tab: Ted-Ed: Does Grammar Matter?

Video Summary: At first, people only spoke to one another to communicate. Then, they began to write down their language so they could communicate with other people in different places. Because of this, languages were standardized. In other words, people who had power decided how the language was written and spoken so that people could better understand one another. To this day, people disagree over whether or not languages should be used in a specific, uniform way, or recognized and legitimized for their diverse range of forms.

Questions to ask:

Has your perspective changed on whether or not you think grammar does or does not matter?
Do you think grammar should change over time to include different groups of people? Or, should it stay the same so that people can rely on it?

Encourage students to explain why they feel this way.

Take-Home Activity – Grammar Journal!

Step 1: Ask 3 of your friends/family members about a time when someone corrected their grammar. Then, ask them how they feel about grammar.

Do they find it helpful?
What was their experience learning grammar?

Step 2: Write their answers in your grammar journal (along with your own answers). Once you have collected answers, write down 3 observations about the answers you collected.

Link to Lesson in its Original Format:

Does Grammar Matter?



Discussion Questions

  • How might grammar make people feel bad about themselves?
  • Let's say you have the knowledge to correct everyone's grammar mistakes while talking with them. Would you do it?
  • Does having better grammar skills make someone a better person?
This lesson plan was created for PLATO by: Eliza Jones, Hamilton College's K-12 Philosophy.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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