Making Language Learning Funner



Recently, I read Sandra Wilde’s Funner Grammar, Fresh Ways to Teach Usage, Language, and Writing Conventions, Grades 3-8. What a lovely little book. Wilde gives the teacher a rationale and respect in allowing for meaningful language study in the classroom. She spells out the fallacy of trying to use worksheets to teach grammar as “not only boring, but useless.” Instead, Wilde offers sound approaches to teaching the absorbing subject of linguistics.

What I love most about this book is the questions that Wilde asks. To wit: “Were your parents annoyed by anything about the way that you talked as a teenager?” “How many languages are there in the world?” “What is language?” What is the most complex language?” “The easiest?” “Will we all speak the same language someday?” These are far more perplexing and child-friendly than diagramming sentences.

I am also grateful for Wilde’s thoughtful unpacking of language and social justice. She provides that to discriminate and stigmatize according to how one speaks or writes, is narrow-minded, as well as foolish. She challenges teachers to stop correcting kid’s speech, instead accept, acknowledge and celebrate the diversity and richness of our contemporary communication. I took this to heart.

Wilde offers an alternative path to teaching children the importance, meaning, joys and beauty of language. It is chock full of lesson ideas that I cannot wait to try out on my fourth graders. Plus, Wilde offers a plethora of bibliographic choices for teachers to explore. Her Kid’s Guide to Citations and Reference Lists, alone, is worthy of appreciation.

Resources for further study:

Below is a sample of resources that Sandra Wilde recommends interested teachers and students of linguistics to explore:

1000 Languages: The worldwide history of living and lost tongues: London: Thames and Hudson

You are what you speak: Grammar grouches, language laws, and the politics of identity. New York: Delacorte Press.

The Language of Names. New York: Simon and Schuster

The infinite gift: How children learn and unlearn the languages of the world. New York: Scribner

Sequoyah: The Cherokee man who gave his people writing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Ox, house, stick: The history of our alphabet. Watertown MA: Charlesbridge

Alphabetical Order: How the alphabet began [Monde de alphabets]. New York: Viking.

So now what?

More than anything, I am grateful for this book. Wilde does not advocate banishing grammar teaching; rather she gives sensible, thought-provoking strategies towards approaching all things language. It is time well spent and one of the few “teacher books” that I will reread (perhaps, right away!). If you are a teacher or parent of a little one, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy for your library or tablet.

5 thoughts on “Making Language Learning Funner

  1. I look forward to sharing thoughts with you about Sandra Wilde’s Funner Grammar. May it help us find our way to better teaching.

  2. Thanks Kase,

    We are on our way, with your leadership. Happy CNY!

  3. Barry, I immediately bought the book and it’s arrived–but between high-stakes testing, moving a cross town, and the usual teacher work load, I just haven’t had a moment to open it! LOL I’m prepping for my first int’l job in the UAE come August and so I especially appreciate your insights. Blessings!

    • Suzanne,

      So very glad that I can help you out. Feel free to use me as a resource anytime. Best of luck.

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