Correcting the Grammar of Others

Reading Comprehension
Ongoing Activity
Grades 6–12
Language Arts, History
Small Group, Individual, Entire Class, Outside Activity, Editing, Writing


  • Students will identify and correct faulty grammar of characters in The Red Pony.
  • Students (in groups) will be able to present their findings and corrections in front of the class.
  • Students in the audience will be able to critique the findings/corrections of each group.


Besides students’ usual grammar exercises in English class, they can learn literature-based ways to enhance their grammar capabilities. Students seem to be at their best when they correct the work of others. One of the best ways to complement grammar study in the classroom is to correct the errant grammar of characters in novels.

Obviously, The Red Pony reflected the language and vernacular of mostly under-educated ranch workers of the time; as a result, the novel is rich in non-standard language. Finding examples to “correct” will be plentiful.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Copies of The Red Pony
  • Students’ notebooks
  • If available, an LCD projector or interactive white board to show the students’ typed before and after versions. If an LCD projector or interactive white board is not available, an overhead projector will work, as will photocopies.
  • If possible, before the exercise, take a local “grammar walk” (optional). Many local stores, shopping centers, billboards, signs, and the like, have grammatical errors.
  • If a “grammar walk” is not practical during school hours, perhaps students could be assigned (for extra credit), on their own time, to photograph errant signage and present to the class (with the teacher’s approval) for evaluation.
  • However, if the school is close to local businesses and “the grammar walk” seems practical, be prepared with the following:
  • ~A “grammar repair” kit with hand-made (typed or handwritten) cut-outs of apostrophes, commas, letters for re-spelling, semicolons, periods, and the like, to place on the signage.
  • ~A camera (cell phone or otherwise) to photograph “before and after” examples of signage.

Estimated Time

  • The “grammar walk” would take about 2 hours (depending on the location) and would need to be an internal field trip.
  • The in-class grammar corrections from The Red Pony are ongoing, and the time spent is up to the discretion of the teacher.


  • In small groups, have students go through the current reading of The Red Pony and correct the errant grammar of most of the characters as they speak.
  • The groups can then come to the front of the class and read grammatically errant dialogue from the characters. This would be best done on an LCD projector or interactive white board (using PowerPoint or a Word document on a laptop), or an overhead projector so students can see the bad grammar. Lacking that, groups should inform the audience of the page number from which they will be reading (or pass out photocopies of their corrections).
  • The groups will solicit suggestions from the audience and then present their own. Be sure to have students explain why the grammar was poor and how they improved it. For example:
Billy Buck gave him [Jody] riding instructions over and over. ‘Now when you get up there, just grab tight with your knees and keep your hands away from the saddle, and if you get throwed, don’t let that stop you. No matter how good a man is, there’s always some horse can pitch him…pretty soon, he won’t throw you no more, and pretty soon he can’t throw you no more.’

‘I hope it don’t rain before,’ Jody said.

‘Why not? Don’t want to get throwed in the mud?’ (19)

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up


  • Students should keep examples of their work in their notebooks. If possible, students should also compile a digital or hand-made scrapbook of all their grammar work.


  • Continue to use this exercise for students’ subsequent work.


During the course of the exercise, teachers should monitor the work of the groups and their notebooks. Periodic grammar tests, using uncorrected student examples from The Red Pony, would be highly useful.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 2
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Conventions of Standard English: 1, 2
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5, 6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 9
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 7

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