Title

Tapping into What They Know: Contextual Grammar Instruction and Student Writing

Location

Ballroom E

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance

Many students, both mainstream and at-risk, cringe at the idea of grammar instruction (as do many new teachers!). This session details how to use students’ innate knowledge of grammar to take them to a conscious understanding of language: how it works, why it is important, and how to control it effectively. Beyond academic achievement, grammar instruction can help at-risk students feel confident in both their postsecondary readiness and career readiness.

Brief Program Description

Grammar instruction is critical to at-risk students' confidence in both their postsecondary and career readiness. This session details how to bring students' innate knowledge of grammar to the surface and then transfer that knowledge to their writing. Participants will receive lesson plans and handouts in this session.

Summary

From Braddock to Schoer to Hillocks, research has repeatedly shown that isolated grammar instruction does not improve student writing (Lindemann, 2001). This research may leave many teachers feeling abandoned in their grammar instruction, questioning, “If isolated grammar instruction doesn’t work, then what will?” This question is all the more important in an at-risk classroom, where many students did not grow up in a print-rich environment and may lack basic literacy skills that give them the background knowledge of “school-based” usage rules (Purcell-Gates, 2002). However, the field of linguistics offers teachers solutions to traditional grammar instruction. According to Chomsky, each human being has an innate understanding of grammar and how it works (Curzan and Adams, 2012). Using classroom-tested models and lessons, this session highlights the grammatical knowledge that all of our students come to the classroom with and how to use this knowledge to build a bridge to the usage rules at-risk students will need to be successful in postsecondary and career endeavors. Beginning with a sociocultural understanding of language (Devereaux and Wheeler, 2012; Devereaux, forthcoming), students can analyze the difference between grammar (how words are formed to create a sentence) versus usage (socially-preferred rules for subject-verb agreement, punctuation, etc.), understanding that the language variation they may use at home is as grammatically-sound as Standard English (Adger, Christian, and Wolfram, 2007) but complicating factors such as mainstream power, society, and identity obscure language instruction in the classroom (Devereaux, forthcoming). After students understand the sociocultural constructs of grammar instruction in the classroom, students begin studying Standard English usage through a literacy practices framework (Beach, Thein, and Webb, 2012), using the knowledge students have of the English language and grammar as a springboard to Standard English writing. This session includes handouts and lessons for participants, detailing how to bring students innate knowledge of grammar to the surface and then transferring that knowledge to their writing.

Evidence

Sometimes in education we know what won’t work but are unsure of what will work. Unfortunately, this has been the case regarding grammar instruction for decades. In 1963, a research study conducted by Roland J. Harris reported that grammar instruction can have a “harmful effect” on students’ writing (Kolln, 1996). From that study forward, grammar instruction has never really recovered in the secondary English classroom. However, the grammar instruction of Harris’s study (and the Elley study of 1976 and the work of Hillocks in 1986) is based in traditional “drill and kill” grammar instruction—a decontextualized, rote memorization, worksheet-driven grammar instruction void of context or real-world application. The last two years has seen a revival of grammar studies; however, these studies do not examine grammar in the decontextualized ways that studies of the 1960s and 1970s did. Debra Myhill and her colleagues (Jones, Myhill, and Bailey, 2013; Myhill, Jones, Watson, and Lines, 2012) have recently revived the empirical study of grammar instruction in the classroom, finding that when you teach grammar in the context of literature, student writing, and play, students’ writing improves. This session intends to contextualize some of Myhill et al.’s findings in the classroom through lesson plans and handouts. References Adger, C.T., Wolfram, W., & Christian, D. (2007) Dialects in school and communities (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Beach, R., Thein, A.H., & Webb, A. (2012). Teaching to exceed the English language arts Common Core Standards: A literacy practices approach for 6-12 classrooms. New York, NY: Routledge. Curzan, A., & Adams, M. (2012). How English works: A linguistic introduction. Glenview, IL: Pearson. Devereaux, M.D., & Wheeler, R.S. (2012). Code-switching and language ideologies: Exploring identity, power, and society in dialectally diverse literature. English Journal, 102(2), 93-100. Devereaux, M.D. (forthcoming). Teaching About Dialect Variations and Language in Secondary English Classrooms. New York, NY: Routledge. Jones, S., Myhill, D., & Bailey, T. (2013). Grammar for writing? An investigation of the effects of contextualised grammar teaching on students’ writing. Reading and Writing, 26, 1241-1263. Kolln, M. (1996). Rhetorical grammar: A modification lesson. The English Journal, 85(7), 25-31. Lindemann, E. (2001). A rhetoric for writing teachers (4th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford. Myhill, D. Jones, S. Watson, A., & Lines, H. (2013). Playful explicitness with grammar: A pedagogy for writing. Literacy, 47(2), 103-111. Purcell-Gates, V. (2002). “…As soon as she opened her mouth!”: Issues of language, literacy, and power. In L. Delpit & J.K. Dowdy (Eds.), The skin we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom (pp. 121-141). New York, NY: The New Press.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Michelle Devereaux is an Assistant Professor of English and English Education at Kennesaw State University. She joined the English Education faculty in 2010 after five years as a high school English teacher in Georgia and Virginia. Her research focus is language and its relation to power, society, and identity both in the classroom and in students' lives. Other interests include the form and function of the English language, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, and issues of equitable education. She has a forthcoming book with Routledge titled Teaching About Dialect Variations and Language in the Secondary English Classroom: Power, Prestige, and Prejudice.

Darren Crovitz is Associate Professor of English/English Education at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Kennesaw, GA. He earned his Ph.D. in English Education from Arizona State University in 2005 and also holds an M.A. in Literature from the University of Central Florida. Dr. Crovitz has published in the fields of media/visual literacy, writing and vocabulary instruction, and digital technology in the English Language Arts classroom. He is co-author of Inside Out: Strategies for Teaching Writing (2012) from Heinemann.



Keyword Descriptors

Language, grammar, grammar instruction, grammar in context, student writing, language in context, socio-cultural language study

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-2-2015 1:15 PM

End Date

3-2-2015 2:30 PM

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Mar 2nd, 1:15 PM Mar 2nd, 2:30 PM

Tapping into What They Know: Contextual Grammar Instruction and Student Writing

Ballroom E

Grammar instruction is critical to at-risk students' confidence in both their postsecondary and career readiness. This session details how to bring students' innate knowledge of grammar to the surface and then transfer that knowledge to their writing. Participants will receive lesson plans and handouts in this session.