Fragments are where I have trouble teaching grammar
The problem I have teaching grammar is getting students to stop using fragments when they write. I still have students who cannot recognize a fragment. (I teach college freshmen.) They don't know what a subject or a predicate is. When I teach fragments, we look at sentences, a couple sentences at a time and we try to apply your question concepts of yes and no, but as soon as I assign a five paragraph paper all the knowledge and understanding of fragments go out the window.
I try to explain that they need to proofread the paper before turning it in. I have explained how they can take each sentence in the paragraph and separate it individually sentence by sentence and look at each sentence. I think they just refuse to do that. They always want to look at the paper as a whole and be done with it.
Help me to better understand teaching about fragments. Thanks.
Fragments are a persistent problem in student writing. In most cases, students know how to correct fragments in exercises; they just don't know how to do the correcting in their own work. The real trick to teaching grammar is to enable students to apply what they know. Application is one of the higher level thinking skills!
You attack the problem two ways. (1) you put a grade penalty on fragments, which supplies motivation for correcting them, and (2) you teach students how to correct their own work. Let's focus on how you do number 2.
If you want to get to the heart of persistent fragments, you should have students write in a controlled situation on a real topic (so they have multiple writing issues to deal with at the same time) and then correct their own work. You also have to show students how to find fragments in their own writing. I recommend you avoid using the term proofreading. Students don't understand it and true proofreading is rarely done in this century.
The best way for a student to correct his/her papers is to read a paper for one error at a time. Your task is to get them to see that focused corrections work. I'd recommend informal writing for this. I'm a big believer in using writing to teach grammar.
First, have students free write for 1 or 2 minutes as fast as they can. Then have them check their work one sentence at a time looking just for fragments. They could underline each one.
If you have technology available, do the free writing along with your students, putting your writing on an overhead transparency or inputting it into a computer. Then you can project your writing as you model the single-sentence at a time correction method before you ask students to check their work.
Next have them write for 1 minute explaining what they discovered when they looked just for that one error.
After you do this exercise with free writing, another day use informal writing to check understanding on some other topic that you are discussing, whether it's citations or sonnets. Follow with normal oral discussion on the topic.
Then have students go back to that piece of informal writing and check it sentence by sentence for one writing mechanics error. Again have them write a 1-minute analysis of what they found when they did a search for that one error.
For this type of informal writing to be useful, it has to be a regular part of your routine. You don't have to have students check for a particular error in each piece of informal writing, but if you have them check for one once each class period, they will get into the habit of checking.