When you get dressed in the morning, do you put your shoes on first and then try to pull your socks on over them? Would you teach your child algebra when she had not yet mastered simple addition and subtraction?
The answer to these questions is, of course, no. Unless you are trying to make a bold sock-dirtying fashion statement or play a practical joke on your child, you would not do either of these things. For the same reason that you put your shoes on after your socks and that you teach your child addition and subtraction before algebra, diagramming is one of the best ways to learn grammar.
When you learn grammar by diagramming sentences, you are introduced to the simplest grammatical elements first (subjects and verbs), and gradually build to the more complex elements. Diagramming sentences follows a logical order (just like putting on your shoes does!), naturally building your grammar knowledge. It prepares us to tackle the concepts we’re ready for and leaves the more difficult ones until we are ready to tackle them.
This is good news because it means that we can all avoid the inescapable confusion that I found myself in when my teacher was teaching me gerunds while I still had a shaky understanding of nouns and verbs. (If you don’t know what gerunds are, it’s okay. I didn’t either. They are nouns masquerading as verbs-those tricky little devils!) It is very difficult to grasp the function of a gerund when you do not fully understand nouns and verbs. It’s like a painter trying to mix the color orange when he does not have yellow or red. Giving a painter this task could be so frustrating that he may never want to paint again. Giving a student this task could be so frustrating that she may never want to try again.
Diagramming’s necessary order of topic-mastery is not only beneficial to the student, but also to the teacher. As a teacher, sometimes it can be very daunting figuring out what to teach our students in the best order that will ensure their understanding. The nature of diagramming dictates the order in which you should teach topics and ensures that the student masters each concept before continuing to the next.
Oh, and did I mention that diagramming sentences is FUN? Seriously. After teaching grammar to a variety of grade levels, I am constantly amazed by both the excitement that the students radiate when they are diagramming and by their level of understanding and retention of concepts covered while diagramming.
Diagramming sentences introduces grammatical elements in a natural, flowing manner that will keep students engaged and excited about learning. This is revolutionary because it means we can all learn with ease, retain what we have learned, and have fun doing it. Isn’t that something worth looking in to?