Dotting, Slanting and Crossing Lines: Sentence Diagramming as a Scaffold to Teacher Candidates’ Metalinguistic Awareness

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The Assembly for the Teaching of English Grammar


The field of English language arts (ELA) teacher education generally agrees that grammar and usage should be taught rhetorically and in context (Crovitz & Devereaux, 2016, 2020; Devereaux & Crovitz, 2018; Elbow, 1981; Weaver 1996a, 1996b, 2007); yet, a teacher’s lack of grammatical content knowledge can affect this theoretical approach to grammar instruction. After recognizing a lack of grammatical knowledge among their four middle-grade ELA teacher candidates (TCs) at a southern regional university, two teacher educators conducted an action research project analyzing grammatical knowledge growth in relation to confidence level through the intervention of sentence diagramming. This study asserts that when ELA TCs learn the purpose of dotting, slanting, and crossing lines in sentence diagrams, metalinguistic awareness of sentence structures and parts of speech is gained. Pre- and post-test data, participant surveys, and summative assessments indicate that sentence diagramming supports TCs’ grammatical knowledge and, subsequently, the growth of their pedagogical content knowledge.

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