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Do sentence diagrams have a place in the Common Core?
FRIDAY, AUGUST 22, 2014 10:21 AM

Schools and educators have used numerous tools to teach their students, such as sentence diagrams. These formulas allowed students to break apart a sentence by its components (i.e., subject, object, verb, preposition, adjective and adverb) and put it back together. According to NPR, the practice is unique to the U.S. and was introduced in the 1870s. Diagramming was popular for a time, but received criticism between the 1960s and 1980s. Despite that, some teachers have continued educating their students with sentence diagrams. This begs the question, are sentence diagrams helpful? And if so, to what extent? Furthermore, many wonder if curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards should use the diagrams.

Standards of English education
The Common Core State Standards for English/language arts do not mention sentence diagrams at all. The Standards do mention graphs, charts and diagrams in other contexts (such as in the case of plotting data), but not in the realm of mapping sentences. However, the sentence diagram omission is not surprising - the CCSS is a set of benchmarks and do not mandate how teachers reach grade-level goals. Theoretically, a teacher can use sentence diagrams to teach grammar and meet the Standards.

The worth of diagrams
However, that still leaves the question of whether teachers should use sentence diagrams. Some students dislike them, feeling as though they have another ancillary task to perform on top of learning grammar. However, many students find the charts immeasurably useful. The maps create a visual aid students can picture when constructing a sentence. 

"When you're learning to write well, it helps to understand what the sentence is doing and why it's doing it and how you can improve it," Kitty Burns Florey, the author of "Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences," told the source.

Not only that, but diagramming sentences requires students to use critical thinking, a skill the Common Core prioritizes. In that respect, the practice is in line with CCSS goals.

To diagram or not to diagram?
While sentence diagramming is a helpful tool for some students, the fact that others struggle with it leaves many teachers wary of the practice. Do they introduce mapping and run the risk of frustrating a large portion of students? That, of course, remains up to the teacher. 

According to The New York Times, some experts recommend forgoing the practice and focusing instead on encouraging kids to read. This is because as kids encounter properly executed sentences, they'll be able to better learn English/language arts skills.