You’ve heard of a ‘feel good’ movie, right? Well, let’s just say that Loving Grammar is a ‘feel good’ grammar textbook. That’s what I mean when I subtitled this book: “A Quirky Workbook.”
Can we talk about this for just a second? Why worry about something as subjective as happiness? Excuse me—have you studied any grammar lately? Believe me, it’s not easy—(anyone who tells you it is is not playing with the full grammar deck).
So, what do we do to change the mood of a grammar book? How about this: putting it all in a classroom and then inserting into the grammar mix some zany and clever exchanges between teacher (Mr. Lund) and students (Felix, Giovanni, Kristy)? After many years of teaching—if I know anything!—I know that if the students are having a good time—and the teacher is too!—then it is very, very likely that some serious and lasting learning is going on.
In his book, The Happiness Advantage (2010), Shawn Achor says this of the role of happiness and education: “Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive” (15).
I couldn’t agree more! Like I said—I want everyone to have a good time in this Loving Grammar classroom! One parent wrote this when I asked her how her daughter was doing with the program: “I will tell you already that she did not want to stop your book to go back to her math lesson. We went through Lesson 1, Lesson 2 and now are working on 3…. She loves it!”
So, for example on page 40 of Loving Grammar, we see Mr. Lund messing around with Giovanni, “What’s the matter, did you lose your puppy?” Or when Felix playfully hits back at the teacher, “What’s up, Mr. Lund? Cat got your tongue?”—the maestro counters with this: “Well that’s a fine metaphor to come from a guy named Felix.”
If I know anything about learning, I know that good-hearted humor and fun can do two things: first, it can create a sense of joy and confidence in the learners, and second, it can inoculate students against the mess-ups and the knock-downs that we all face when we are learning something as tricky as grammar and punctuation. This gives our students a significant cognitive advantage—a willingness to take risks! And that, my friends, is essential to learning. And that’s one of the best secrets of Loving Grammar.