Reading & Literacy

Let ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Teach Your Students Grammar

By Ross Brenneman — July 15, 2014 2 min read
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In May, I asked how teachers can address frequent student grammatical mistakes.

The response to that post generated a number of great suggestions.

But no response went so far as musician-comedian “Weird Al” Yankovic, who has a new music video, “Word Crimes,” made in direct response (I’m guessing) to my post, detailing all those grammatical tics that drive some of us up a wall.

The song, if you’re not up on your pop culture, is a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” except helpful and not misogynist. And it takes on “literally,” which is figuratively the worst thing.

Yankovic isn’t the only celebrity hitting the good grammar bandwagon, though. Kelsey Grammer, of both “Frasier” and appropriate homophone fame, recently joined Twitter to help fix social media’s grammatical problems “one ‘helpful’ tweet at a time.”

Turning to those of you who contributed comments to my original blog post, here were some good takes on addressing grammatical issues:

User kpurdie reminded teachers to be cognizant of how student come to learn grammar in the first place:

I think we need to correct spoken and written grammar errors early and often. We also need to be sensitive to the students’ home environment (where most oral language is learned) and not belittle their caretakers while correcting.

Joanne, meanwhile, decried the improper use of the word “myself,” while also addressing my blog’s initial question, on the misuse of the word “impact":

The only way we can stop kids from using “impact” as a verb (it’s a noun and so is “access”) is to stop politicians, TV news people, and pundits from using it that way.

(Some within my own organization, it should be noted, have had a significant impact on Education Week‘s own misuse of the word; I think I only turned up one verbal use of “impact” in 2014, at least in our news coverage.)

And dhong also brought up one I’d never thought about before, though now it irks me:

Along the same lines with the word “impact” is the word “invite.” I learned it as a verb only, but I receive an invitation. I rarely, if ever, hear the use of invitation now.

But kenyadee noted that sometimes, you just have to surrender:

My high school assistant principal, who taught English, refused to teach whom believing it was falling out of usage. Language does change over time or we would all sound like the Pilgrims and other settlers.

Outdated grammar: That’s for whom the bell tolls.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.