Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop

Some teachers love grammar and some hate it, but nearly all struggle to find ways of making the mechanics of English meaningful to kids. As a middle school teacher, Jeff Anderson also discovered that his students were not grasping the basics, and that it was preventing them from reaching their potential as writers. Jeff readily admits, “I am not a grammarian, nor am I punctilious about anything,” so he began researching and testing the ideas of scores of grammar experts in his classroom, gradually finding successful ways of integrating grammar instruction into writer's workshop.

Mechanically Inclined is the culmination of years of experimentation that merges the best of writer's workshop elements with relevant theory about how and why skills should be taught. It connects theory about using grammar in context with practical instructional strategies, explains why kids often don't understand or apply grammar and mechanics correctly, focuses on attending to the “high payoff,” or most common errors in student writing, and shows how to carefully construct a workshop environment that can best support grammar and mechanics concepts. Jeff emphasizes four key elements in his teaching:

  • short daily instruction in grammar and mechanics within writer's workshop;
  • using high-quality mentor texts to teach grammar and mechanics in context;
  • visual scaffolds, including wall charts, and visual cues that can be pasted into writer's notebooks;
  • regular, short routines, like “express-lane edits,” that help students spot and correct errors automatically.

Comprising an overview of the research-based context for grammar instruction, a series of over thirty detailed lessons, and an appendix of helpful forms and instructional tools, Mechanically Inclined is a boon to teachers regardless of their level of grammar-phobia. It shifts the negative, rule-plagued emphasis of much grammar instruction into one which celebrates the power and beauty these tools have in shaping all forms of writing.

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By Gayle (The United States) · ★★★★★ · July 13, 2012
Awesome, awesome, AWESOME! (Don't let the "writer's workshop" part of the title scare you!) First, it's a grammar book that is engaging to read. Second, it is designed in a very user-friendly way with 3 parts: method/philosophy, individual lessons (based on the most common student errors in gramm... ...more
By Christine (Los Alamos, NM) · ★★★★★ · December 10, 2012
This is a nice handbook for every writing teacher's shelf, focusing on each element of grammar or often made grammatical error and how to address it in a writing context.
I especially appreciate the mentor texts included in the book for each grammatical errors tat students commonly make. I also t... ...more
By Taylor · ★★★★★ · January 26, 2014
This book focuses on Jeff Anderson’s first hand experiences with teaching editing (and grammar). He found that students generally hate these skills due to how they have been taught in the past. Part 1 focuses on the background information and his reasoning behind what he discusses in part 2. Part... ...more
By Todd (Salmon Arm, BC, Canada) · ★★★★★ · January 08, 2013
This book is brilliant, very useful. Most education literature is limited in how useful it is, but this one, is a gold mine of useful and practical tools. In addition I've learned how to improve my own writing from it! ...more
By Renee · ★★★★★ · June 10, 2014
This is a must-have for any new or current English teachers. Jeff is funny, practical, and honest in his approach to writing instruction, particularly grammar instruction. Make learning grammar authentic and meaningful, thus developing better student writers! The second half of the book are quick... ...more
By Adrienne (Fort Collins, CO) · ★★★★☆ · November 08, 2011
Technically I've been reading this for a few weeks, but it counts for my teaching book for last week. I liked this book a lot, although I feel like it's definitely geared more toward middle school. I really like the general ideas in this book though, particularly editor's checklists as evolving p... ...more
By Jennifer (Kennesaw, GA) · ★★★★★ · September 07, 2010
I love the ideas for incorporating grammar instruction with student writing in this book. Anderson's ideas for the Writer's Notebook are solid and realistically able to be implemented in a classroom. He offers great lessons for teaching different grammatical concepts to students, and these lesson... ...more
By Becky (Oswego, IL) · ★★★★☆ · May 11, 2014
Anderson is obviously very passionate about writing and gives practical advice on how to teach mechanics in a writer's workshop. I use some of these ideas in class along with Atwell style workshop. Good book to have on hand. ...more
By Jared (Hanover, PA) · ★★★★★ · February 20, 2014
Getting some great ideas for our writing class next year--awesome ways to weave in effective grammar & mechanics lessons everyday in a Writing Workshop. Perhaps some daily sentence work bell ringers? ...more
By Dona (Saint Louis, MO) · ★★★★★ · June 28, 2014
Can't wait to try this approach out in the classroom. Might actually make grammar not only more enjoyable but also more useful in one's writing. ...more