Tuesday 24 October 2017

Make grammar fun and kids will get it says new research

Alison Kershaw

Children who are taught grammar in a fun way are more likely to see their writing skills improve, research found today.

Pupils who were shown how to experiment with language saw their marks improve almost twice as much as their classmates over a year.

Researchers at Exeter University conducted an experiment involving around 700 pupils in mixed ability classes at 31 secondary schools in the South West and the West Midlands.

Half the pupils were put into a class following lessons set by the researchers.

The other half followed regular lessons drawn up by the teacher.

Both groups took a test before and after the experiment, and studied the same three topics: the opening of a story, a written speech and three types of poem.

The first group were set tasks including re-writing punctuation in sentences to change the meaning, or using one word or verbless sentences in poetry.

One of the exercises included changing the punctuation of the sentence "a woman, without her man, is nothing," to "a woman. Without her, man is nothing," to see how it changed the meaning.

The second group followed standard teaching methods, which look at different grammatical terms.

The findings showed that at the end of the year, the pupils in the researchers' group had improved their writing scores by 20%, while those in the other group had improved by 11%.

"This represents the first robust statistical evidence for a beneficial impact of the teaching of grammar in students' writing attainment," concludes the paper, which is being presented at the British Educational Research Association's (Bera) annual conference in London.

Able writers in the research group benefited more from the experiment, the report says.

Professor Debra Myhill, who led the research, said: "It's not just about teaching pupils to use grammar accurately.

"Accuracy is really important, but it's not sufficient. You can have a really accurate, but dull, piece of writing.

"This is about using the language creatively; being able to manipulate grammar for effect, and giving children power over the use of language."

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