Parents, Don’t Worry If Your Child Knows More About Grammar | Debra myhill
ohAn unintended consequence of school closures and distance learning has been the emphasis on teaching grammar. While supporting their children in home learning, many parents faced their own lack of knowledge of the basics. What exactly is a forehead adverbial, you may ask, or how do you spot a continuous verb form in the past tense?
From my perspective, as someone who has researched the teaching of writing for over 20 years, this can only be a good thing as it brings up a lot of misunderstandings and confusion about grammar, that deserve to be discussed. As a nation, we remain both divided and uncertain about the usefulness of teaching grammar.
Much of this stems from the history of grammar in English schools over the past 50 years. In 1966, a large international conference of English educators in Dartmouth, USA, came to the conclusion that teaching grammar was unnecessary because there was no evidence that it benefited the teacher. children’s handwriting. This had a great influence on forming a strong voice in the UK against the teaching of grammar, and the subject was largely dropped from English lessons in the 1970s and 1980s. Public schools have kept it often – I remember, without much affection, the parsing and six column analysis lessons in my high school in the 1970s.
The introduction of a national curriculum in 1988 imposed the content of the English curriculum for the first time, and grammar was again a bone of contention. In fact, each of the five versions of the National Curriculum has included grammar, albeit to varying degrees. As a result, many parents today have not learned grammar on their own in their own school, which may account for some of the anxiety today. The latest version, without a doubt, gives it the greatest importance, and this is amplified by the grammar, punctuation and spelling test for 11-year-olds. But no version of the national curriculum has ever been clear on the rationale for its inclusion – what good is teaching grammar?
This lack of clarity is in part due to the distinction between implicit and explicit grammatical knowledge. Children know grammar even if they are not taught grammar. We all have a deep understanding of the grammar of our own language and use this understanding all the time to communicate, orally or in writing. We would all know that saying “a large red leather handbag” sounds wrong and could change it to “a large red leather handbag”, but few of us could explain the rules governing the order of adjectives. in English. It is implicit, not explicit, and therefore we cannot verbalize or explain our understanding. This difference between implicit and explicit understanding is at the root of a long-standing disagreement over the teaching of grammar: If we understand grammar naturally and implicitly, why do we need explicit knowledge of grammatical terminology? ? It’s a good question.
One response, supported by our research, suggests that this explicit knowledge helps develop an understanding of how the language choices we make shape meaning. Writing is a craft – using sentences, pictures, sentences and paragraphs to make the text do what we want it to do. Of course, writing a text is not only about grammar, but helping children understand how grammatical choices affect nuances of meaning demystifies the craft.
Let me clarify this with a simple example. In Arthur, High King of England, Michael Morpurgo’s account of the Arthurian legend, Morpurgo describes Arthur’s first sight of Guinevere: “It was his fingers, long, white and dancing, that I loved first. Notice the position of the adjectives here, a pattern of three after the noun, when he could have written: “It was his long white, dancing fingers that I liked first.” Moving adjectives after the noun draws attention to the adjective description and changes the pace of the sentence. The point here is not that one sentence is better than another, but the difference in how they describe that moment. Explicit teaching of how different grammatical choices create different effects is valuable and useful learning in writing.
This does not imply that when we write we are constantly muttering, sotto voce, “I think I am going to face an adverb here”. For the curious mind, an “adverbial to forehead” is when a sentence is added before the action, rather than later in the sentence, for example, “With great patience, she helped her son with his long division. “: I’m sure you use this wording all the time. Expert writers have already internalized these models and structures from their experience as writers and readers (and we must not forget the power of reading to support young writers). But children are not experts – they are still learning; and teachers introduce them to the art of writing. It’s hard to expect kids to grow up to be more confident and capable writers if we don’t show them how.
Teachers can draw attention to these grammar models without using the terms, and it is important not to let grammar get in the way of learning. If you are a parent who supports your child’s learning, you can very usefully read sentences aloud with your child and talk about the different patterns and accents in the sentences. But the terms are useful for discussing the choice of language, just as musical notation is useful terminology for teaching singing; or the terms “multiplication” and “division” for learning mathematics.
Research has shown that teaching how different language choices create different effects can have a real impact on children’s writing. We also have evidence that when these connections are not made; when children do not discuss language choices; and when children are taught stereotypical and senseless rules about “setting” up adverbials, they do not benefit from grammar instruction. The real question is not whether we should teach grammar, but what do children learn about grammar – do they learn that “good” writing means randomly inserting an adverb in front here or there; or do they learn how adverbs in motion alter what is highlighted or connected in a sentence?
When my youngest granddaughter was six, playing school with us, she taught my husband nominal expressions by having him draw a unicorn garden and label the things in it to show that he could. describe it clearly. Parents – accept that your children know something you don’t know and learn from them.