SummaryDiagramming sentences helps students become better writers by teaching to write simply and clearly, and increase their mental capabilities for reasoning.
Many Seton students ask: “What can we learn from diagramming sentences?”
Our public educational system has discredited and avoided the use of sentence diagramming since 1966. From the articles I’ve read, diagramming fell from grace because adults and students misunderstood its function and purpose.
Some considered diagramming drudgery and limited in its development of composition – drudgery in that it demands mastering skills like grammar and syntax through the making of diagrams, and limited in that it teaches nothing of composition and spelling.
Diagramming is a method that helps students deconstruct sentences, so that they develop a natural instinct for combining words and phrases to form complex sentences correctly. Diagramming helps determine placement of punctuation, improves reading comprehension skills, and trains the mind to relate verbal components to each other in relaying a specific message. When we know how a sentence works, it is difficult to write an incorrect one.
Diagramming is a great way for visual learners to grasp the structure of a sentence. Similar in a way to Venn diagrams in mathematics, taking sentences apart in this way allows students to understand subjects, possessive pronouns, adjectives, and participles. This approach “clicks” with many of these students.
Diagramming doesn’t just make us better writers. Yes, it teaches us to focus on the structure and patterns of language and gives us an appreciation for language. Many teachers and students appreciate the effect diagramming has on the development of the brain: diagramming is a training ground for the mind, a way to train us to think and grapple with complex ideas. It’s a game, like playing chess.
Through diagramming, then, we can master a discipline, improve our grammar and composition skills, and exercise our mental capabilities for reasoning. In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell states that writing should be simple and clear so that “when you make a stupid remark, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.”
Seton aims to give its students the ability to write simply and clearly.
Diagramming is one of the tools that strengthen that ability.