Grammar Study: How it can develop critical thinkers

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In a previous post, I shared my keen interest in Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. I discussed how the Shurley English Jingles give the intelligences of Word Smarts, Picture Smarts, and Body Smarts a workout. Now, I would like to take it just a bit deeper into the next level in Shurley English.

After students master the Shurley English Jingles, the jingles become a fertile knowledge base upon which the Question and Answer Flow (Q & A Flow) is built. The Q & A Flow is a simple, pattern-based system of questions that the students learn to ask aloud orally. Yes…Shurley English teaches kids to talk to themselves; rather, to ask themselves questions—questions that elicit logical answers that their brains know to be correct, based upon what they have learned from the jingles. I call this kind of questioning “Thinking Out Loud.”

After much practice and rehearsal, using the Q & A Flow, the students then know how to analyze every word in a sentence. We call this Sentence Classification, but it goes way beyond just determining if the sentence is a statement or a question. Students learn to classify the words in a sentence based upon the specific questions they answer from the Q & A Flow. Compared to the way English grammar was always taught years ago, students learned to classify words, but usually only so that they fit into a static list of seemingly unchanging vocabulary. With the Q& A Flow, something quite different and extraordinary replaces that old system. Instead of grouping words into lists that have parts of speech headings, students learn to evaluate how specific words are actually functioning in a sentence, based on context. You see, by the old system, the word basketball is just one of the words that fits into a Noun list. But with the Q & A Flow, students begin to think in terms of the attributes of a word and its use in the context of a sentence. For example, take a look at the following sentence:

We cheered loudly at the basketball game!

Students, using the Q & A Flow, determine that the word basketball, in this context, is really an adjective. I don’t know about you, but when I am working with students and trying to help them comprehend what they read and to be able speak and to write with expertise, I would prefer their brains be adept at this kind of analysis! Can you see how a student’s Word Smarts and Logic Smarts can benefit from this kind of thinking? I consider it nothing less than brilliant.

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David Lutz

David, a former classroom teacher, administrator, and self-proclaimed grammar nut, considers the oddities of English vocabulary and grammar his playthings! He received his degrees in elementary education, teaching, and curriculum design from CMU in Fayette, MO, and the University of St. Mary, Leavenworth, KS, respectively. His career has been a colorful collage of experiences in education, ranging from Kindergarten to Adult education and parenting classes.


He and his wife, Marjorie, have been blessed with 30 years of marriage, three grown sons, a cherished daughter-in-law, and the smartest, cutest grandson on the planet! He’s worked for Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc., for over 11 years and loves to help students and their teachers learn to love language and language learning as much as he does.