Grammar: an English teacher’s newest metalanguage

If you are an English teacher, and you didn’t already know, the new NSW K-10 English Syllabus requires us to explicitly teach some basic grammar stuff. It’s all come from the Australian Curriculum content (with its somewhat goofy division of English into three strands – Language, Literacy and Literature) and the lady responsible for writing the grammar component is the very wise Beverly Derewianka – she also does the NAPLAN stuff. NSW being the wise state that it is (I’m biased, of course) has acknowledged that these strands shouldn’t be (and never are) taught separately, that’s part of the reason why we have a Syllabus … plus we also have some awesome content and skills that we didn’t want to lose.

Anyway, Bev has written a wonderful book called ‘A Grammar Companion’ (get the updates edition) which is SO user-friendly for teachers just starting out with grammar. I love the book because it has diagrams and pictures (haha) but also because she focuses on the ‘text’ level – which assumes we are English teachers and not ‘literacy experts’. She tackles the finer points of grammar in such a way that we can see how grammar is just another metalanguage for English teachers and students of English – understanding texts at the word, clause and sentence level helps us to better appreciate how meaning is shaped by composers and the effect this has on responders.

Most of the English teachers that I know who are my age are freaked out about having to learn grammar – because we didn’t learn it by rote when we were at school, we barely even identified nouns, verbs etc – so I’m thinking I should to make a series of videos or podcasts or blog posts just going through the stuff that has the potential to be confusing (like clauses and cohesion). Just so we can see how grammar can help us better appreciate literature too … like what does Hemingway do at the sentence level that is different from Orwell? What do you reckon? Actually – it wouldn’t just be for English teachers, since a knowledge of the fundamentals of grammar can help all teachers to better support their students’ reading and writing. After all, literacy isn’t just the domain of the English teacher! 😉

PS: Sorry for the incorrect grammar in this post if you spot it – I didn’t proof-read. Oops!

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2 thoughts on “Grammar: an English teacher’s newest metalanguage

  1. Pingback: A crisis in confidence « allaboutwordswa

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