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Grammar teaching

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 17 April 2014
  • The following letter to the editor was submitted to The Australian for possible inclusion on Wednesday 16 April 2014 but it was not selected for publication.
  • Also on the topic of grammar, a recent article in The Conversation is recommended to ETAQ members. It can be found here.

Textbooks covering grammar

As your editorial suggests, textbooks that deal effectively with grammar would be a useful resource for teachers in schools (“A lesson learnt from Singapore”, 15/4).

It needs to be clearly understood, however, that grammar textbooks from the 1950s or 60s dusted off and tarted up with some colour print would not suffice. To be genuinely useful, new textbooks dealing with grammar would need to be properly aligned with the sensible approach to knowledge about language to be found in the English component of the Australian Curriculum.

In addition, the grammatical patterns of the language should be learnt in the process of working with texts that have value in their own right, both the ones that students read and those that they compose in response to them.

There is an overwhelming body of research evidence that shows that the way grammar was generally taught in schools prior to the 1970s did not really work well for the majority of students. Then, grammar was disconnected from other areas of the curriculum and students were often bored by arid exercises with deliberately faulty sentences that had no meaningful connection to any genuine writing.

Let’s have useful resources by all means, but we should be careful about unproductively trying to turn back the clock.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

Author: Garry Collins, AATE President
About: Garry Collins is the Immediate Past President of ETAQ and began a 2 year term as AATE President on 1 January 2014. A retired high school English teacher, he now works in the School of Education at the University of Queensland as a sessional tutor in English curriculum courses.
Tags: Curriculum matters
Axel 544 days ago
"There is an overwhelming body of research evidence that shows that the way grammar was generally taught in schools prior to the 1970s did not really work well for the majority of students. " But there is more research that shows that the way grammar was NOT taught in the 70s and 80s and beyond, worked for an even smaller proportion of students - with the result that today we have a whole lot of teachers who are themselves grammatical illiterates. How many teachers, for instance, are familiar with all the terms in this list of general grammar terms ? http://linguapress.com/grammar/list-of-terms.htm . And these are just essential terms, not the kind of terms that are known only to students whove studied linguistics or Chomsky

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