English Guidelines

The English department at Northwest High School has shown a growing concern with the lack of English groundwork students are prepared with before entering high school. The biggest concern is what language skills students are taking from their English classes. The English pacing guide does not require teachers at the high school level to teach any language skills, such as grammar and punctuation. At the college level, basic English knowledge and grammar skills are essential. It is crucial that students leave Northwest knowing the fundamental elements of grammar and punctuation.

Mary Liebl, Literacy Curriculum Coach for Wichita Public Schools, comments on the preparation before the high school level. She says the language skills are taught at the elementary level and reinforced throughout middle school. The middle schools equivalent to a pacing guide is not as explicit with the expectations of grammar and punctuation skills, but in the upcoming years the guide will be changed to have more specific guidelines so students are better prepared. All teachers are expected to prepare their students for the expectations of high school, but how they achieve this has been flexible in past years. This, along with lack of time and extensive curriculum, has put the language abilities of incoming students at a disadvantage.

Individual teachers have set out to curve this problem by adding grammar and punctuation lessons into their already packed schedules.
“As a department, we are working to balance the requirements of the common core curriculum demands set upon us by testing and finding ways, and time, to incorporate pieces of grammar that are the most useful and will have the most positive impact on our students as they head off to college and careers,” English teacher Melissa Buteyn said.

Tim Hatfield has also put solid effort into teaching his students the proper skills, such a grammar and diagraming, that they need to leave Northwest prepared for the challenges of college level courses. He has a unique concept on why we neglect to further solidify the foundations of language throughout high school.

“There’s been a thought over the last 30 years that people can just learn how to read and write by just doing, and I agree with that except that it’s like saying you can throw a basketball onto a basketball court and tell a bunch of people to figure out the basketball game,” Hatfield said. “So yeah, it eventually happens and some people come up with a game that’s really similar to basketball, if not the same, but others never quite figure it out. Grammar and those types of things are just foundational that help you bridge that gap more quickly, so I try to incorporate it if I can. If I ruled the world, I would have grammar classes and reading classes and writing classes but, since we have to do it all at one time, we just do what we can.”

The mechanics of writing are important to prepare our students for life outside of our school walls.

“It make me feel like Wichita students are not going to be equipped to compete with students in other districts who do have a grammar curriculum,” Buteyn said. “I want you to leave my classroom, this high school, ready to compete and if you don’t know what a verb is, and you don’t know how to write a complete sentence because you don’t know what a verb is, you’re at a disadvantage.”