In the last 50 years, the trend in the field of composition pedagogy has turned away from traditional grammar instruction, condemning pedagogical practices that focus on preventing and remediating error. In the early 1960s, Richard Braddock, Richard Lloyd-Jones, and Lowell Schoer invoked the death sentence on traditional grammar instruction: "The teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing" (37-38). Having been enlightened by this scholarship, the field refocused instruction to emphasize elements like writing process, collaboration, modeling, and prewriting, pushing grammar instruction to the side. As a result of this shift in pedagogies, we are helping our students to see writing differently. We're teaching them that "good writing" is more than correct spelling and well-placed commas,which is correct. But grammar is still an important part of language, and an integral part of rhetoric. Recent scholars like Cheryl Glenn, Virginia Tufte, T.R. Johnson, Constance Weaver, Martha Kolln, and Nora Bacon have recognized this oversight in the sharp move away from grammar instruction, and have developed different strategies to rewrite the tradition so that grammar instruction can be an effective part of writing instruction. I will add to their efforts by identifying the shift in theoretical principles that makes what we refer to as traditional grammar instruction so ineffective, by using the Greco-Roman curriculum (specifically Quintilian's imitatio) as a framework for understanding where these new grammar instructions come from, and by synthesizing this new understanding into a new curriculum for the writing classroom that more effectively integrates grammar instruction.



College and Department

Humanities; English



Date Submitted


Document Type





grammar instruction, Quintilian, imitatio, first-year writing