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.
For the past 25 years, Jeff has worked with writers and teachers of grades, K-12, inspiring them about the power and joy of the writing process. He has written four books for Stenhouse Publishers: Mechanically Inclined, Everyday Editing, 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know and his latest book with Dr. Deborah Dean of BYU Revision Decisions: Talking Through Sentences and Beyond (November 2014). He also has two middle grade novels, Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth (Sterling, 2015) and Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck (Sterling, October 2016).
Jeff grew up in Austin, where he learned to love writing through journaling, a bit of positive reinforcement, and writing stories and dramas to entertain his friends on the phone. He wanted to become a teacher early on, but his parents tried to convince him otherwise. "They wanted me to make more money." During an internship visit to a local elementary classroom, he made up his mind. "When I saw those curious eyes, kids raising their hands, asking questions, I lost all track of time and from that moment on, I was a teacher. I want to create environments that feel safe for learners at the elementary, middle, and university levels and during professional development for teachers. Working together we figure out things, surprise each other, find our strengths, and experience the joy it is to be a learner and teacher. We are students and teachers to each other."
Jeff specializes in writing, revision, and grammar. "I love the ability to spark curiosity and creativity and to support students in finding their voices. That's pure joy." When it comes to his own professional development, he wants to explore things that have meaning to him in the classroom. "I want to find out things I didn't know, be affirmed or reminded of what I do know, and be energized by thinking and action, reflection and application. Since that's what I want, that's what I give teachers. Something they can take, shape, and make their own. Something they can use right now."
Jeff's first book Mechanically Inclined, came to life from what he didn't know and what he needed to know. "I read, tried things out, played in my head and in my classroom, and read some more, permutating and refining. I thought about what worked and what didn't, as well as what sound pedagogical principles are used in other disciplines."
His other books also came from his work in his own classrooms and those across the United States. The invitational process Everyday Editing is built around was first shared in workshops until teachers wanted another book on grammar. 10 Things was Jeff's chance to share what his experience had taught him are the essential things every writer needs to know and be able to do. In his first collaboration, Jeff and Debbie came together to tackle a sentence combining and its larger effects on revision and writing.
In his free time, Jeff walks his dogs Carl and Paisley or sits on the deck with his partner Terry. When he's not doing that he reads middle grade novels and his new addiction is nonfiction.