Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Using Grammar to Improve Writing: Recipes for Action is a nonfiction educational resource book for teachers and writers written by Sarah Tantillo. Tantillo is a former teacher who works as an educational consultant and literacy coach. She is also the author of The Literacy Cookbook: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction and Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Action. Tantillo believes that students’ inability to write often stems from the methods that are currently used to teach them principles of grammar. She recognizes that grammar is not considered of primary interest by students or their teachers, and she has no interest in going back to the times when students dutifully diagrammed sentences and had syntactical rules hammered into them. Rather, she offers ways to integrate grammatical principles and elements of writing in such a way that they can be used efficiently while complying with Common Core State Standards.
Sarah Tantillo’s Using Grammar to Improve Writing: Recipes for Action offers refreshing and innovative ways to help students learn grammar painlessly and even with a bit of fun. I appreciated how she uses insights based on second language acquisition to build her programs, and I loved how she transforms the writing process from being one hampered by relentless self-editing to one that is characterized by investigatory processes. Rather than present students with models and rules to memorize, she suggests methods that allow them to discover the right forms through comparison and detection of patterns. I especially liked how her coaching style helps kids easily progress from simple three-word sentences into more complex structures. Her ideas for helping kids catch up to their grade level are sound, and her breakdown of writing and language instruction for teaching by grade levels is fascinating from a linguistic standpoint. And while I’m one of those dinosaurs who actually loves reading grammar books, playing with syntax, and diagramming sentences, I appreciated the fresh and inspirational way in which she looks at grammar and writing. Using Grammar to Improve Writing: Recipes for Action is most highly recommended.