ne tricky aspect of the Common Core Standards is the way the language standards build on one another. In the introduction to the language section, it says,
“Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade-specific standards and retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades.”
In grades 3 through 12, many of the grade-specific language standards are marked with an asterisk, which means they ought to be reviewed frequently in subsequent years. What this means for high-school teachers like us is that we have to teach a few specific grammar or language standards that students haven’t been exposed to before (like parallel structure or semicolon usage), but we are also responsible for reviewing a lot of past concepts that they should have (but may not have) mastered in previous grades.
The only way I have found to do this without taking up all available class time and making students despise language and grammar is through short, focused activities at the beginning of class every day. If it’s daily, the students see it as a normal routine rather than a cruel and unusual punishment and you are able to cover a lot of grammatical ground. And if it’s short (ten minutes tops) the students don’t feel too bogged down by it and you still have plenty of time left over for all the other incredible projects and activities you want to guide your students through during the year.
I originally created a full-year, comprehensive grammar curriculum called Ten-Minute Grammar for my seventh and eighth graders. The students enjoyed it (as crazy as that sounds, considering that we’re talking about grammar), I covered a huge amount of ground during the year, my students told me the daily practice really helped in their standardized tests, and their writing improved. And best of all, it only took ten minutes per day.
But now that I’ve moved into high-school English classes, I needed to create a new set of materials that hit students at a higher level.
Ten-Minute Revision is similar to Ten-Minute Grammar in that it is a full-year, comprehensive program built around short, daily practices. Each day, students come to class and find a few short practice questions that they can answer on a sheet of scratch paper. They have five minutes to answer the questions the best they can, and then five minutes more are spent analyzing and discussing the answers.
Where the Ten-Minute Revision units differ from TMG is in the type of concepts being taught. In TMG units, the topics were usually very concrete grammar concepts focused on identifying examples in context and then finding and correcting errors. In the TMR units, the focus is more practical—it’s all about helping students improve their writing. We will focus on topics like how to write a powerful thesis statement, how to revise wordy writing, and how to choose words deliberately for meaning. Many of these concepts don’t have right or wrong answers, but there are some revision rules-of-thumb that the students can benefit from.
The key difference is that the skills and concepts taught in these units are intended to be put to use immediately. Rather than stand-alone units that are separate from whatever you’re doing with the remainder of your class time, the goal here is to get students to apply new concepts in the context of whatever writing they are doing in English class as well as their other subject areas.