An Invitation...

Thursday, November 6, 2014
brought to you by Lori
Jeff Anderson and Lori--he's very tall
(Suz is so upset she wasn't there!)

I admit it. I'm a bit of a professional development junkie. I actually really love a good professional development. I love taking cool ideas back into my classroom and seeing how they work with real, live children. I love hearing other educators explain how they teach something well, and I like learning from their experiences. 

Last week, I got to sit down with one of my favorite grammar gurus of all time, Jeff Anderson. He did not disappoint. He spoke mostly about grammar instruction and how it has changed over the years. He said that at one point in time, we "hid grammar instruction so well that we made it disappear." Ooooh...let that sink in. I think that sometimes we have a fear of teaching grammar because we don't know how to make it not boring. 

He also made me think about my own teaching practices by explaining current grammar instruction in this way: Editing Instruction vs. Editing Practice. Everything we know about pedagogy tells us that instruction comes before practice, but all too often, we use practice-style activities and pass it off in our own minds (and in our students') as instruction. Any type of DOL or Revising and Editing passage is simply practice and you cannot offer instruction through those means. Here is the way Jeff Anderson suggests teaching grammar. Think of it as an invitational experience.
This is a lovely little gem of a book...Get it!
Begin by choosing a great mentor sentence. It can come from something you're currently studying, a picture book, a news article--anything that achieves the grammar pattern you want students to learn. 

Invitation to Notice
Display the mentor sentence. Provide think time and wait time. Ask students: What do you notice? Let them share their observations in small groups and then share out to the whole group. This keeps everyone accountable. 

Invitation to Compare/ Contrast (Love this!)
Put a teacher-created sentence next to the mentor sentence. Ask students: How is my sentence like the mentor sentence? How is it different? Again...follow the same table talk rules as mentioned above. At this point, Jeff Anderson made it a point to say TIME=DEPTH. Allow your students (and yourself) to spend the time on these mentor sentences! How else will they learn the skill?

Invitation to Imitate
Students should use their reader's eyes to see the pattern. They should use their writer's eyes to take the author's pattern to look at their own world. Ask students to write a sentence that works in the same way as the mentor. It's ok to copy parts of the sentence.

Invitation to Celebrate
Display the new sentences. Make a big deal out of the work that kids have done. Share them out loud and applaud. There is power in having a student read his sentence twice. Trust me...try it. The first time, there may be fear and trepidation, but the second he gets a laugh or a bit of praise, he will read it more confidently the next time. 

Invitation to Edit (This part is cool!)
Copy/paste the correct sentence 4 times. In 3 versions, make an error or even just a change (like spelling out a contraction). Ask students: What changed? What effect does it have? HELLO AUTHOR'S PURPOSE!

Invitation to Collect 
Instruct students to read or listen for the new patterns that they've learned through the mentor sentences you've studied.

Invitation to Respond
Write a response to literature using any of the grammar patterns that have been picked up through instruction with mentor sentences.

Y'all, my morning with Jeff Anderson was so fun! And that was just the morning session. [Oh yeah...I also got to have lunch with him too! Squeee!]

From one PD junkie to another, I hope that you'll take this invitation to shift your thinking about grammar in terms of instruction first followed by practice. 


  1. Girl, I saw him and Donalyn together about four years ago. Changed. My. Life! (said in my best grammar groupie voice) Thanks for reminding me of how powerful "Invitation to Notice" can be. My kids are really draining me this week, so maybe I can spark them, and me, back to life!

    1. It was seriously so good! He's the kind of person that makes you wonder why you've been doing it the hard way! Hope your year is going well. The holidays are soon upon us!

  2. You need to check out the Sentence Composing series by Don Killgallon! He uses this approach almost exactly. I'm not using it currently but am trying to figure out ways to put it in my curriculum later this year.

    Click on the Samples tab at this link:

    I linked to the Elementary one, but there is also one for Middle and High. Really good stuff.

    1. Thanks Melissa! I have a copy of Killgallon's Sentence Composing for Middle and High School. I'm in the same place that you are- how do I use this in my classroom? Let me know what you come up with, and thanks for the resources!