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Image Grammar: Teaching Grammar as Part of the Writing Proce

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Katie Cunningham

on 25 April 2014

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Transcript of Image Grammar: Teaching Grammar as Part of the Writing Proce

Image Grammar: Teaching Grammar as Part of the Writing Process
by Harry R. Noden

Digging Deeper
Noden continually stresses the importance of using grammar
as a tool
to write effectively, clearly, and vividly.
He believes that students should know
what makes grammar effective
so that they can make effective grammar decisions as well.
Noden advocates teaching students by
showing them models of professional work
, then inviting them to imitate the work to the best of their ability.
Other Noden Lessons
For meaningful descriptions:
specific nouns and verbs; prepositional phrases; "layering" drafts by adding more description with each layer (chapter 2).
Using parallel structure for rhythm and effect--repeating words or grammatical structures (chapter 3).
"Chunks," or recognizable patterns, are great ways to organize information. In writing, this can look like image collages, run-ons, brush stroke combos, and concrete visualizations (chapter 5).
Fragments, punctuation, hyperboles, and shaped writing are all advanced ways to convey effect (chapter 6).
Noden In Context
A typical Noden exercise looks like:
1) a creative example of a grammatical strategy used effectively.
2) a discussion of what makes this strategy effective.
3) an assignment that encourages students to imitate this strategy in their own writing.
Why Image Grammar?
There are conflicting views on the purpose of grammar education in English education.
61% of English teachers are traditionalists: they believe that students should be grilled on the right/wrong of grammar (xiii).
Traditional grammar education doesn't improve writing performance.
39% of English teachers are research-based, focusing more on linguistics and translational grammar (xiii).
Linguistic grammar is confusing and doesn't improve performance.
So, Noden creates the "Image Grammar" approach, which is designed to be enjoyable, understandable, and effective for creating better writers.
The Basics:

Powerful writing starts with powerful images.
The writer has to be able to see the images before they attempt to write them.
Then, the writer applies the image using artistic grammatical strategies, or "brush strokes."
There are five basic brush strokes.
Basic Brush Strokes
Brush Stroke One:
Painting with Participles
"Hissing, slithering, and coiling, the diamond-back snake attacked its prey" (Noden 5)
add -ing words to evoke action.
Brush Stroke Two:
Painting with Absolutes
"Feet trembling on the snow-covered rocks, the mountain climber edged along the cliff" (Noden 7).
add a noun + -ing verb combo for a "zoom" effect
Brush Stroke Three:
Painting with Appositives
"The raccoon, a scavenger, enjoys eating turtle eggs" (Noden 8).
add a "noun that adds a second image to a preceding noun" to add detail or clarity (8).
Brush Stroke Four:
Painting with Adjectives
Shifted Out of Order
"The cheetah, tired and hungry, stared at the gazelle, which would soon become his dinner" (Noden 11).
shift two adjectives after the noun to intensify an image and add rhythm.
Brush Stroke Five:
Painting with Action Verbs
"The gravel road curled around the left side of the barn" (Noden 12).
use vivid verbs to add motion and life to the image.
Harry R. Noden is a secondary English teacher who wrote
Image Grammar
as a statement of his philosophy of grammar education, as well as strategies and mini lessons that teachers can use to implement his method.

Image Grammar
does not teach the hard-and-fast rules of grammar: instead, it looks at grammar as a system with effective and ineffective choices. Noden advocates teaching the differences to students so that they can use grammar as effectively as possible.

Why Isn't this Plagiarism?
Robert Lewis Stevenson, Vincent Van Gogh, and Pablo Picasso all imitated techniques before they could create their own masterpieces (78).
Students should be imitating structure, not content. Always ask students to change the subject of their piece.
Will Students Move Beyond Imitation?
If students understand the how and why of grammatical structures, they can internalize them and integrate them better in context.
"Sophisticated grammatical structures may emerge when teachers focus on developing ideas for writing and on using descriptive language, without focusing on particular parts of speech or on particular grammatical constructions" (Connie Weaver, qtd. Noden 91).
If teachers focus on creating descriptive writers, good writing will emerge naturally.
Exercise One:
Parallel Structure
Use the parallel structure of the
Twilight Zone
introduction to write a passage in parallel structure.

Twilight Zone
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call...THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
My Example:
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as chaste as a PG movie and as politically correct as a second-grade classroom. It is the meeting place between mind and heart, between books and The Book, and it lies between the plateau of childhood expectation and the peak of adulthood. This is the dimension of the pinecone curtain. It is an area which we call...THE WHITWORTH ZONE.
Effectiveness: While it felt mad-libs-y for me to fill words into a blank, being forced to think in doubles with this template really helped give this piece a rhythmic quality that doesn't come naturally to my voice.
Exercise Two:
Play with Run-Ons
Write about a scene where things are out of control--like a sporting event, a musical performance, a natural disaster, or a chase--and
1) imagine as many details as possible about the event.
2) write a paragraph with fragments or run-ons to capture the whirl of action.
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