Teaching Grammar for
Writing: Creative
Imitation
Helen Lines
[email protected]
Centre for Writing Research
Aims of Workshop
 To outline research findings showing positive effect of
teaching grammar for writing;
 To illustrate key pedagogic principles underpinning
grammar for writing, with a focus on using authentic texts
for creative imitation;
 To develop confidence in embedding grammar creatively
within the teaching of writing.
What does grammar mean to you?
Noun
Adjective, adjective
Verb+ing, verb+ing, verb+ing
Noun, noun, noun, noun
Verb+ing, verb+ing, verb+ing
Adjective, adjective
Noun
What teachers in our research said
Humiliation
Tedious, dry (as a camel’s arse in a sandstorm)
Correcting, labelling, learning by rote
Rules, exceptions........Choices, possibilities
Exploring, expanding, changing&chopping
Creative, engaging
Empowerment
the world, haven’t you?)
(use words well, then you’ve won
What teachers in our research said

In terms of grammar teaching my heart
sinks; in terms of teaching the children
about language, it doesn’t, and that’s the
distinction.
The Exeter Grammar for Writing Project
Grammar meant:


Developing knowledge about

Learning grammar rules;
language;

Correcting grammar errors;
Using metalanguage to talk

De-contextualised exercises.
about language;

Grammar did not mean:
Making connections between
grammar and writing.
The research design
A randomised controlled trial
Lesson
Observations
Writing
outcomes
16 Intervention classes were taught 3
schemes of work supporting contextualised
grammar knowledge
Pre and post tests compared to
16 comparison classes
Teacher
interviews
embedded in a
qualitative study
Student
interviews
The Intervention

Designed 3 schemes work (1 per term) focusing on a different
written genre: Narrative Fiction; Argument; Poetry

Grammar features which were relevant to the writing being taught
were embedded into the teaching units

Intervention group had detailed teaching materials for each
lesson

Comparison group addressed same learning objectives and
produced same written outcomes, but had no lesson plans
Contextualised grammar teaching

A rhetorical view of grammar – exploring how language works

Investigating how language choices construct meanings in
different contexts

The teaching focus is on writing, not on grammar per se

The teaching focus is on effects and constructing meanings, not
on the feature or terminology itself

The teaching goal is to open up a repertoire of possibilities,
not to teach about ‘correct’ ways of writing
We shall go on to the end. We shall
fight in France. We shall fight on the
seas and oceans. We shall fight on
the beaches. We shall fight on the
landing grounds. We shall fight in the
fields and in the streets. We shall
fight in the hills; we shall never
surrender.
Which modal verbs can you spot? What feeling or effect are the speakers trying to
create by using them?
Does using ‘shall’ have a slightly different effect than using ‘will’?
My fellow citizens, the dangers to
our country and the world will be
overcome. We will pass through
this time of peril and carry on the
work of peace. We will defend our
freedom. We will bring freedom to
others. And we will prevail. May
God bless our country and all who
defend her.
From Childhood Tracks by James Berry
Eating sheared ice made into ‘snowball’ with syrup in a
glass...
Drinking cool water from a calabash gourd on worked land
in the hills...
Smelling a patch of fermenting pineapples in stillness of
hot sunlight...
Hearing the laughter of barefeet children carrying water...
Seeing children toy-making in a yard while slants of
evening sunlight slowly disappear...


Read the poem aloud. Can you hear that each ‘sentence’ is
not actually a complete sentence but sounds ‘unfinished’?
Why do you think the poet has used this pattern of each line
starting with a non-finite (-ing) verb and ending with ellipsis...?
Write a final line for the poem that ‘resolves’ the poet’s
childhood memories by using a finite verb.
Key teaching principles

Grammatical metalanguage is used, but it is explained through examples;

Links are always made between the feature introduced and how it might
enhance the writing being tackled;

Discussion is fundamental in encouraging critical conversations about
language and effects;

The use of ‘creative imitation’ offers model patterns for students to
play with and then use in their own writing;

The use of authentic examples from authentic texts links writers to
the broader community of writers;

Activities support students in making choices and being designers of
writing;

Language play, experimentation, risk-taking and games are actively
encouraged.
Did it work?

Statistically significant positive effect for intervention group

Intervention group improved their writing scores by 20% over
the year compared with 11% in the comparison group.

The grammar teaching had greatest impact on able writers

Able writers in the comparison group barely improved over
the year

Teachers’ subject knowledge of grammar was an influencing
factor
Creative Imitation
 to scaffold students’ learning about language
 to build students’ ‘repertoire of choices’
 to deepen students’ understanding of the
author’s craft
Rottweiler Syndrome
‘Add in adjectives and like nouns
and adverbs and verbs, because ...
if you do that then it makes it more
interesting because ... it’s like
describing the words, the sentence
better.’
Instead of just plain words like, ‘I
was kicking my legs back and
forth’, you can say, ‘I was hastily
moving my legs back and forth.’
Nouns and noun phrases
for description in
narrative fiction
fire
a flash of fire
the irresistible course of the
fire
flames
small flames
the heart of flame
smoke
acres of black and yellow
smoke
the dark canopy of leaves and
smoke
Verbs for description in
narrative fiction
festooned
thickened
stirred
crawled
dividing
increasing
touched
scrambled
rolled
leapt
clung
crept
laid hold
began to gnaw
flapped
swinging
flaring
Smoke was rising here and there among the creepers that festooned the
dead or dying trees. As they watched, a flash of fire appeared at the root of
one wisp, and then the smoke thickened. Small flames stirred at the trunk
of a tree and crawled away through leaves and brushwood, dividing and
increasing. One patch touched a tree trunk and scrambled up like a bright
squirrel. The smoke increased, sifted, rolled outwards. The squirrel leapt
on the wings of the wind and clung to another standing tree, eating
downwards. Beneath the dark canopy of leaves and smoke the fire laid
hold on the forest and began to gnaw. Acres of black and yellow smoke
rolled steadily toward the sea. At the sight of the flames and the irresistible
course of the fire, the boys broke into shrill, excited cheering. The flames,
as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly
toward a line of birch-like saplings that fledged an outcrop of the pink rock.
They flapped at the first of the trees, and the branches grew a brief foliage
of fire. The heart of flame leapt nimbly across the gap between the trees
and then went swinging and flaring along the whole row of them. Beneath
the capering boys a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with
smoke and flame. The separate noises of the fire merged into a drum-roll
that seemed to shake the mountain.
From Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Write a paragraph that
shows your reader the
intense heat of the fire
and how quickly it
spreads. Make the
nouns/noun phrases and
verbs do most of the
work.
Write a paragraph that
shows your reader the
strength of the tornado
and how quickly it
moves. Make the
nouns/noun phrases and
verbs do most of the
work.
Identify the nouns and noun phrases. What
picture of the future do they create?
A squat grey building of only thirty-four
storeys. Over the main entrance the
words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY
AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a
shield, the World State's motto,
COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Identify the noun phrases. What picture of
the future do they create?
It was a bright cold day in April, and the
clocks were striking thirteen. Winston
Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast
in an effort to escape the vile wind,
slipped quickly through the glass doors
of Victory Mansions, though not quickly
enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust
from entering along with him.
Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell
MIRROR
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Sylvia Plath
Imitating Sentence Patterns
Grammar is what gives sense to language…
Sentences make words yield up their
meanings. Sentences actively create sense
in language and the business of the study of
sentences is the study of grammar.
David Crystal, Rediscover Grammar
Conscious manipulation of syntax deepens
engagement and releases invention.
Ted Hughes
What students in our research said

“I think a simple sentence and a short sentence are just the
same but some people say it’s short and some people say it’s
simple.”

“A simple short sentence could be like snappy but a long, slightly
longer complex sentence is used like to describe things and
stuff.”

“One word sentence is just like for a rhetorical question, like if
you’ve got a bit and then you say, ‘Why?’ it’s a quite good effect.”

“I don’t particularly like full stops, I prefer commas. When it’s the
end of a sentence, it’s not like much is going to happen next but
when there’s a comma you think, oh, something’s going to
happen next.”
Back to basics

What is the difference between a
phrase, a clause and a sentence?
Finite Verbs

Necessary to create a main clause and
therefore a sentence.

They are inflected for person, number and tense
(so changing the tense of a passage is an easy
way to find most of them).

Modal verbs are also finite (would, could, may
etc).

Imperatives are finite (Stay! Sit! Eat!).

In a string of verbs, the first verb is the finite one.
Find the finite verbs…
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were
striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into
his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind,
slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory
Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a
swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell
The Sentence
Simple sentence
◦ one clause containing a finite verb (main
clause)
Compound sentence
◦ two or more coordinated main clauses
Complex sentence
◦ one main clause and one or more
subordinate clauses
Identify the simple sentences
I was just pushing the lower half of the ladder back up when I
heard it. There was someone at the front door. I held my breath.
It was OK. They couldn’t get in. I slid my hand into my pocket to
make sure the key was still there. It wasn’t. I’d left it in the front
door. I could hear it turning in the lock now. I raced back up the
ladder and hauled it after me. When I reached down to pull the
hatch back up, I could hear someone coming up the stairs. I
quickly pulled the hatch back into place and scrabbled over to
the water tank, holding my breath.
(From Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce)
Count the subordinate clauses
That was when Iorek moved. Like a wave that has been building its
strength over a thousand miles of ocean, and which makes little stir in the
deep water, but which when it reaches the shallows rears itself up high
into the sky, terrifying the shore-dwellers, before crashing down on the
land with irresistible power - so Iorek Byrnison rose up against Iofur,
exploding upwards from his firm footing on the dry rock and slashing with
a ferocious left hand at the exposed jaw of Iofur Raknison.
It was a horrifying blow. It tore the lower part of his jaw clean off,
so that it flew through the air scattering blood-drops in the snow many
yards away.
(Description of the bear fight in Northern Lights by Philip Pullman)
How did Philip Pullman do that?
Like a wave that has been building its strength over a
thousand miles of ocean, and which makes little stir in the
deep water, but which when it reaches the shallows rears
itself up high into the sky, terrifying the shore-dwellers,
before crashing down on the land with irresistible power –
so Iorek Byrnison rose up against Iofur, exploding upwards
from his firm footing on the dry rock and slashing with a
ferocious left hand at the exposed jaw of Iofur Raknison.
‘Conscious control for effect’
And it seemed to happen so slowly, but there was nothing she
could do: her weight shifted, the stones moved under her feet,
and helplessly she began to slide. In the first moment it was
annoying, and then it was comic: she thought how silly! But as
she utterly failed to hold on to anything, as the stones rolled
and tumbled beneath her, as she slid down towards the edge,
gathering speed, the horror of it slammed into her. She was
going to fall. There was nothing to stop her. It was already too
late.
The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman
Imitating Sentence Patterns
in Persuasive Writing
Arrange these 6 sentences from a WaterAid campaign leaflet
in the order you think is the most persuasive.
Water is just the beginning...
2.5 billion people don't have access to adequate sanitation, almost
two-fifths of the world's population.
Safe water changes everything.
At WaterAid, we believe water is the beginning of a better world.
Access to safe, clean water transforms people's lives: it can prevent
disease, save time, empower women and keep children in school.
We believe that everyone, everywhere should have access to
safe, clean water.
Pattern of 3
The world is too little aware of the waste of life,
limb and land which anti-personnel landmines
are causing among some of the poorest people
on earth.
Repetition
They strike the wife, or the grandmother,
gathering firewood for cooking. They ambush
the child sent to collect water for the family.
Blunt simple
sentence for
summing up or
emphasis
For the mine is a stealthy killer.
Rhetorical Question
How can countries which manufacture and
trade in these weapons square their
conscience with such human devastation?
Complex sentence
to balance ideas or
add detail
Even if the world decided tomorrow to ban
these weapons, this terrible legacy of mines
already in the earth would continue to plague
the poor nations of the globe.
Planning Task
Choose one of the extracts.
Which language features do you think are
most effective?
 Select one language feature that you are
confident with and that you think your
students could imitate. How might this
benefit their writing?
 How could you teach it, making use of the
text model?

Schemes of Work
Published by NATE: free to NATE members;
£7.50 each to non-members.
http://www.nate.org.uk/page/grammarschemes
Descargar

Document