Grammar and Culture

USDE Grant: T195N070327

TARGET Program 2010:  February 6 – March 6

Salisbury University

Instructor:  Dr. Wavie Gibson



Course Description/Objectives 


This course offers a serious exposure to the grammar of Standard American English and some of the cultural factors that may affect ESL students’ communicative competence in English.

While the course gives cursory attention to theoretical and philosophical issues of grammar and culture, it gives primary attention and focus to traditional grammar rules and structures and those aspects of culture that may affect ESL students’ development of proficiency in the same.  Moreover, while the course may assign cursory attention to highly endorsed ESL pedagogies, it is essentially a content course, not a course in ESL pedagogy or methodology.


Students take this course primarily because they are teachers or prospective teachers interested in helping ESL students achieve academic success in general and Standard English proficiency in particular.  Beyond these interests and needs, students take this course for an assortment of secondary interests based on grade levels, content areas, and the related services they offer to schools, families and communities.  In various degrees for the students taking this course, the following objectives apply:


1.  To help students develop comprehensive knowledge about the grammar of Standard

     American English.


2.  To provide students with the metalanguage for discussing traditional, schoolhouse



3.  To assist students in identifying rules and structures in Standard American English

     that present exceptional challenges for ESL students.


4.  To assist students in identifying grammar errors that are highly stigmatizing for ESL





5.  To help students identify cultural factors that may help prevent ESL students from

     developing proficiency in Standard American English, e.g,, solidarity, gender,

     ethnicity, degree of integration and assimilation.


6.  To provide students opportunities to research and develop projects that represent

     their individual needs and interests.



Course Materials


Bonvillain, Nancy.  Language, Culture, and Communication.  Upper Saddle River:

Prentice Hall, 2003.


Maimon, Elaine, et al.  A Writer’s Resource.  New York: McGraw Hill, 2007.


Mesthrie, Rajend, et al.  Introducing Sociolinguistics.  Philadelphia: John Benjamin, 2000.


In addition to the required textbooks, several books and materials will be identified and/or placed on reserve to accommodate special interests and needs that may arise during the semester.

Special instructions and policy for using such materials will be discussed during the first two class sessions.



Course Requirements/Grading Scheme


To complete this course, you must submit all of the items listed below.  General descriptions of the requirements are discussed at the end of the Schedule of Assignments in this document.  The specific criteria for each assignment will be discussed fully and distributed in written form at the time specified in the syllabus.


A.   Requirements


1.  Three Exams          -          -          -         -          -         -          -          -          -           60%

2.  One Self-Help Project       -          -         -          -          -          -         -          -           15%

3.  One Reaction Paper           -         -          -          -          -          -         -          -           15%

4.  One Portfolio Artifact        -         -          -          -          -          -         -          -           10%


B.  Grading Scheme


A = 90 - 100%; B+ = 85 - 89%; B = 80 - 84%; C+ = 75 - 79%; C = 70 - 74%; D = 65 - 69%;     F = 0 - 64%.




NCATE Standards/Technology Requirements



Students seeking certification in TESOL must satisfy a variety of standards required by NCATE and the TESOL program at Salisbury University.  While this course may address several of such standards indirectly, it directly addresses Standards 1.a of Domain I and 2.a of Domain II of TESOL/NCATE Standards for the Accreditation of Initial Programs in P-12 ESL Teacher Education (2002).  The instructor will discuss the details of the requirements as needs suggest.  Please refer to pages 18-36 of the TESOL Standards for details.


MSDE/NCATE Technology Requirements


Students counting this course toward TESOL certification must place in an electronic portfolio one piece of work done for this course.  When selecting the paper or class project for the portfolio, students should be reminded that the item will become part of their professional images.


A written discussion satisfying the criteria below must accompany the piece of work placed in the portfolio:

- a brief identification of the artifact (exam, reaction paper, etc.)

- a brief explanation of why and how the ideas or content of the selected assignment     should become part of the classroom pedagogy

- a discussion of how the assignment helps to satisfy the objectives for this course

- an evaluative statement indicating the extent to which the selected assignment satisfies

   the NCATE/TESOL standards addressed by this course  (See the NCATE Standard




Attendance/Late Assignment


You will be required to attend every class session of this course.  Moreover, you must submit all assignments on the dates specified in the schedule of assignments.  Any waiver or special consideration for absences or late work must be in accordance with the policy and

requirements of the TARGET Program.



 Special Needs:   Students who require special consideration for disabilities or other special needs should inform the instructor about such consideration and related accommodations as soon as possible.


Structure of the Course


This course will reflect the fact that all of the students are graduate students skilled in making presentations and facilitating discussions. Accordingly, in addition to lectures, demonstrations and other instructor-based activities, the course will involve you as informal researchers, discussion leaders and critical evaluators of related research and theory.

Writing Across the Curriculum Commitment (WAC)


The required assignments and projects for this course are designed to help me assess your


course-related achievements and to satisfy the WAC requirements at the University.  Collectively, these items will require you to submit several pieces of writing that respond to a variety of rhetorical situations.



Academic Dishonesty/Plagiarism Policy


The English Department takes plagiarism, the unacknowledged use of other people’s ideas, very seriously.  As outlined in the Student Handbook under the “Policy on Student Academic Integrity,” plagiarism may receive such penalties as failure on a paper or failure in the

course.  The English Department recognizes that plagiarism is a very serious academic offense and professors make their decisions regarding sanctions accordingly.  Please familiarize yourself with the details below.


Each of the following constitutes plagiarism:

1.  Turning in as your own work a paper or part of a paper that anyone other than you

     wrote.  This would include but is not limited to work taken from another student,

     from a published author, or from an Internet contributor.

2.  Turning in a paper that includes unquoted and/or undocumented passages someone

     else wrote.

3.  Including in a paper someone else’s original ideas, opinions or research results without


4.  Paraphrasing without attribution.


A few changes in wording do not make a passage your property.  As a precaution, if you

are in doubt, cite the source.  Moreover, if you have gone to the trouble to investigate secondary sources, you should give yourself credit for having done so by citing those sources in your essay and by providing a list of Works Cited or Works Consulted at the conclusion of the essay.  In any case, failure to provide proper attribution could result in a severe penalty and is never worth the risk.




Schedule of Assignments and Structure of Class Sessions


The assignments and activities below are generically phrased in order to allow for special

needs and interests.  Accordingly, the instructor reserves the prerogative to adjust the schedule and/or assignments to reflect such needs and interests.  The specific requirements for each assignment will be discussed far enough in advance to allow each student maximum time to prepare the assignment.



A typical class session will include lectures, class discussions, student presentations, demonstrations, videos, and group- activities.



February 6


Introduction to Course

Survey of Students’ Grammar Backgrounds

Primary Components of English Sentences                                                                                                   

Phrases, Dependent Clauses, Independent Clauses

Types of Sentences According to Structure

Cases of Nouns and Pronouns

Degrees of Adjectives and Adverbs

Language and Cultural Meaning

Criteria for Reaction Papers and Self-Help Projects


Required Reading

1.  Chapter One, Language, Culture and Communication

2.  Related Topics, A Writer’s Resource/ Handbook



February 13


Definitions of Standard English

Primary Parts of Speech

Problems with the Be-Verb

Problems with Definite/Indefinite Articles

Fragments, Comma Splices and Fused Sentences

Problems with Modals and Other Auxiliary Verbs

The Influence Class, Race and Gender Have on Language/ Communication

Criteria for Reaction Papers and Self-Help Projects

Exam One


Required Reading: Chapters 7 and 8, Language, Culture and Communication

Related Topics:   A Writer’s Resource/Handbook

Reading: Chapters 1 and 2, Language, Culture and Communication; Chapter 13, Introducing Sociolinguistics


February 20


Coordination and Subordination

Conjunctive Adverbs and Transitionals

Principal Parts of Verbs

Tense Formation and Uses                                                                                                                                                     

Pidgins, Creoles and New Englishes

Special Problems for ESL Students

Exam Two



Required Reading: Chapter 9, Introducing Sociolinguistics

Related Topics, A Writer’s Resource/Handbook    



February 27


Sociolinguistics and Education

Language Planning and Policy

Linguistic Competence versus Communicative Competence

Language Choice and Code Switching

Grammar Problem for ESL Students

Exam 3

Reaction Papers Due                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


Required Reading: Chapters 5, 11 and 12, Introducing Sociolinguistics

Related Topics, A Writer’s Resource/Handbook



March 6


Acquisition of Communicative Competence

An Ethnography of Communication

Popular Trends in ESL Pedagogy (Lecture)


All Papers / Projects Due


Sharing Matters of Individual Interests


Required Reading: Chapters 4 and 10, Language, Culture and Communication