Research Synthesis: Grammar Instruction K-12
Grammar is the sound, structure, and meaning system of language. It is an important component of education because it is the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language (NCTE). Students who are native speakers of English already know English grammar. They recognize the sounds of English words, the meanings of those words, and the different ways of putting words together to make meaningful sentences. However, while students may be effective speakers of English, they need guidance to become effective writers. They need to learn how to transfer their knowledge of grammatical concepts from oral language to written language.
Research strongly suggests that the most beneficial way of helping students improve their command of grammar in writing is to use student’s writing as the basis for discussing grammatical concepts. Researchers agree that it is more effective to teach punctuation, sentence variety, and usage in the context of writing than to approach the topic by teaching isolated skills. Numerous studies show that traditional instruction of grammar is even detrimental because it takes time away from activities that are of benefit such as writing and reading (Feng & Powers).
It is the belief of the North Allegheny English Language Arts Department that providing grammar instruction that is separate from writing instruction does not improve students’ writing competence. Traditional drill and practice is the most meaningful to students when it is anchored in the context of writing assignments or the study of literary models (Chin). It avoids the artificiality of studying sentences in isolation and helps make grammar relevant and alive.
As a result, the North Allegheny English Language Arts Department supports the latest research by teaching grammar as a meaning making, communicative activity, and by following direct instruction of grammar with application to writing. Since students benefit much more from learning a few grammar rules thoroughly than from trying to remember many terms and rules, teachers will teach a minimum of grammar for maximum benefits and will focus on the grammatical concepts that are essential for the clear communication of meaning. Teachers will identify student weaknesses early in the year through baseline writing and concentrate on improving those skills throughout the year. In conjunction, teachers will use a spiraled approach to grammar from grades K-12 so that students are building on prior knowledge. Because grammar instruction fits naturally during the revising, editing, and proofreading stages of the writing process, teachers will work to integrate lessons during these stages. Teachers will highlight mistakes and errors in student writing rather than correcting them each time and students will be held accountable for the ongoing editing of their own work.