Assignment: Does Grammar Matter?

assignment, grammar, in-class activities, professionalization

Overview– A solid discussion of grammar will often leave students in a space of uncertainty. If we explain that all dialects have grammar and that no grammar is inherently better than any other, we can give them impression that grammar does not matter. At the same time, if we explain that students are held purely to the Standard Academic English grammatical standards, we can give the impression that grammar is the only thing that matters.

This in-class activity is designed to explore that tension.

Requirements- You are on the hiring committee for the local Gold’s Gym, and there is an open slot for front desk associates. You are down to the last three cover letters and have room for one more interviewee. From these three letters, who are you going to choose to take the final interview slot.

View the Letters In Google Docs

Who are you going to choose? Why? Did the grammar used in the letters factor into your decision? Was it the sole factor? How much did it matter?

Teacher’s Notes-
Students can be broken into small groups with each group asked to come to a consensus on who should get the interview.
One of these letters is grammatically unacceptable. It ignores the conventions of Standard Academic English so completely as to appear sloppy. It reflects negatively on its author, and students are quick to point out the flaws and discard this applicant.
Of the other two, there is usually dispute over who should get the job. One of the applicants has flawless grammar but gives fewer specific examples of past experience and reasons for deserving the job. The other applicant gives many specific examples and reasons for deserving the job but has some grammatical errors.

Regardless of which letter students choose, the debate opens a discussion about how grammar is only one of many factors that are considered.

Additional Resources

This activity works well in a unit that looks at the following readings:
“Grammar as Fashion“
“I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.”
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