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Thinking Through Grammar: Freshman
Soft Cover ISBN 978-0-9709075-8-5
Hard Cover ISBN 978-0-9709075-8-5

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Thinking Through Grammar: Sophomore
Soft Cover ISBN 978-0-9776097-0-3
Hard Cover ISBN 978-0-9709075-9-2

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Thinking Through Grammar: Junior
Soft Cover ISBN 978-0-9776097-2-7
Hard Cover ISBN 978-0-9776097-1-0

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Thinking Through Grammar: Senior
Soft Cover ISBN 978-0-9776097-4-1
Hard Cover ISBN 978-0-9776097-3-4

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Thinking Through Grammar: 5th and 6th Grade
Soft Cover ISBN 978-0-9709075-6-1

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Teaching and Learning Grammar: The Prototype-Construction Approach
Soft Cover ISBN 978-0-9709075-2-3

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Thinking Through Grammar
By Arthur Whimbey, Myra J. Linden, and Brad Frieswyk| Order Form

Arthur Whimbey and Myra Linden spent over 30 years researching and experimenting with sentence combining before developing Thinking Through Grammar. In their work, they discovered that the power of sentence combining is that it strengthens many aspects of a student's capacity to handle written material. Research has shown that sentence combining 1) improves a student's ability to write mature, informative sentences; 2) reduces gramatical errors; 3) enhances the overall quality of any student paper or essay; 4) increases the amount and quality of revision; and 5) improves reading comprehension.

Traditionally, the problem has been where to begin teaching the complexities of grammar. As Greenbaum and Quirk put it in Student’s Grammar of the English Language, “Grammar is a complex system, the parts of which cannot be properly explained in abstraction from the whole.” To emphasize their point, look at the definition of a verb that is taught in most traditional grammar programs:

A verb is a word that expresses an action or a state of being.

Now, based on that definition, identify the verb in this sentence:

Eating custard pie, Peter is a picture of happiness.

Two words fit fairly neatly into the definition: Eating clearly expresses an action, and happiness could be interpreted as expressing a state of being. However, neither of these words is the verb. Explaining to a student that is is the verb will most likely be met with a blank stare, and leave him or her no closer to understanding what a verb is.

Traditional grammar instruction presents definitions like the one shown above and then has students parse and diagram sentences based on those definitions. The result: very few students exposed to traditional grammar instruction come away with a firm understanding of grammar.

Thinking Through Grammar does the opposite. Through sentence-combining and other construction exercises, students learn to build and add details to sentences, giving them a firm understanding of how the parts of speech fit together to form a wide variety of standard English sentence patterns.

Here is a brief overview of how Thinking Through Grammar introduces students to the complex world of grammar. First, students learn that nouns and a verb occupy core positions in a basic sentence, such as this one:

A chef (subject, noun) prepares (verb) meals (object,noun).

Students then learn how verbs “act” in sentences. For example, they learn that a verb is inflected for tense:

Present: I lift weights.
Past: I lifted weights.

Here is an example of a verb that completely changes its form to show past tense:

Present: A boy is outside.
Past: A boy was outside.

Once students understand this characteristic of a verb, the verb in the earlier example is easily identified:

Present: Eating custard pie, Peter is a picture of happiness.
Past: Eating custard pie, Peter was a picture of happiness.

But again, the focus of Thinking Through Grammar is not on identification of the parts of speech. It is on the construction of sentences. Students learn how words are added to sentences to modify nouns, verbs, and other modifiers. Here is a sentence-combining activity that shows students how to enrich their sentences with adjectives:

Rewrite the first sentence with the adjectives from the other sentences inserted before the nouns they modify.

Paul felt that the canyon was the setting for his novel.
The canyon was silent.
The canyon was empty.
The setting was perfect.
The novel was new.

Answer: Paul felt that the silent, empty canyon was the perfect setting for his new novel.

Notice the comma placed between silent and empty. These types of exercises give the opportunity to teach students about punctuation as they are learning how the parts of speech fit together. So, instead of a separate chapter on comma usage, students learn how to use commas in the context of constructing sentences. Here are some more examples:

Rewrite the first sentence with the prepositional phrases from the other sentences added at the end.

Jack broke his leg falling.
The fall was off the stage.
The stage is in the auditorium.
The auditorium is at our school.

Answer: Jack broke his leg falling off the stage in the auditorium at our school.

Rewrite these sentences joined with the coordinating conjunction and.

Joe washes the dishes.
Carla puts them away.

Answer: Joe washes the dishes, and Carla puts them away.

Rewrite these sentences as a single sentence with a compound subject.

A small bowl of vegetable soup is all I want for dinner tonight.
A few saltine crackers with cheese are all I want for dinner tonight.

Answer: A small bowl of vegetable soup and a few saltine crackers with cheese are all I want for dinner tonight.

Here are two sentences. Decide which one describes the cause and which describes the result. Then rewrite the sentences as one sentence using the subordinating conjunction because. Place the subordinate clause first.

We had no water for drinking or washing.
Our water pipes froze.

Answer: Because our water pipes froze, we had no water for drinking or washing.

Rewrite the following sentences as one by creating a relative clause from the second sentence and inserting it right after the noun it modifies.

Animals must not be captured or injured.
Animals are in danger of extinction.

Answer: Animals that are in danger of extinction must not be captured or injured.

Even advanced structures are easily understood by students because they recognize the role that these structures play in sentences. For example, in the next exercise students clearly see that a noun clause plays the role of a noun in a sentence because it fits into a "noun slot."

Create a noun clause from the second sentence by replacing somewhere with where and moving it to the beginning of the sentence. Then rewrite the first sentence with the words NOUN CLAUSE replaced by the noun clause that you created.

NOUN CLAUSE is uncertain.
The hurricane will come ashore somewhere.

Answer: Where the hurricane will come ashore is uncertain.

This way Thinking Through Grammar overcomes the monotony often found in students’ writing. Without instruction in sentence construction, many students become comfortable with only a small number of sentence patterns and repeat those patterns over and over. However, the types of exercises shown above introduce students to and make students confident with new sentence patterns that they then apply to their writing. According to research, Thinking Through Grammar succeeds where traditional grammar instruction has failed: It not only teaches grammar, but also improves students’ writing.

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