Giving students the language of language

Katie and I gave a talk at the ATEG conference weekend before last. 

One of the presenters made the point that most anti-grammar advocates don’t actually oppose teaching students grammatical correctness in written English.

What they really oppose is teaching students the names of grammatical concepts. They’re against teaching labels. 

But, she said, when you refuse to teach labels, you deny students the language of language.

To underline the point, she and her co-presenter acted out an extended dialogue in which the only nouns were “thing” or, alternatively, “things.” It was pretty funny. Completely incomprehensible, but funny.

This reminds me of a friend of mine, who was talking about having a hard time, as she gets older, remembering what things are called. It drives her college-age son nuts, she said. 

“It’s not a doohickey, Mom!”

She hears that a lot.

I said He should just be grateful you didn’t say thingamajig.

Or thingamabob, even worse.

Half the time the opposition to teaching knowledge amounts to no more than an opposition to teaching vocabulary.  

I don’t get that.

People learn vocabulary fast. In fact, vocabulary learning is the one area where adult L2 learners excel. (I’ll find a source for that & post…)

All these people lobbying against teaching content …. they seem never to notice that in real life it’s not fun, not knowing the names of things. 

Not knowing, or not remembering. Either one.