Teaching Children Grammar 'Doesn't Help Them to Write'

Daily Mail (London), January 19, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Teaching Children Grammar 'Doesn't Help Them to Write'


Byline: LAURA CLARK

THERE is 'no evidence' that teaching the rules of grammar helps children learn to write, researchers claimed yesterday.

They said learning about sentence structure should be axed from English lessons.

The findings of the Governmentfunded study come amid mounting concern at poor writing standards among school-leavers.

Employers estimate they spend [pounds sterling]1billion a year putting right the shortcomings of recruits in basic skills they should have learned at school.

But the conclusion of the researchers at York University was dismissed by the former chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead.

He declared he was ' unpersuaded' by their verdict and warned against undermining tried and tested methods.

'This is just one more in a long line of studies that purports to undermine the teaching of traditional grammar,' he said.

'It is vitally important that children understand basic grammar and they will not be able to write properly if they don't.

'How can you teach somebody to write if they don't know what a noun is or an adjective?

'Quite apart from anything else, you need the vocabulary to teach writing.'

The researchers undertook-what they claimed to be the largest-ever review of studies on the effects of teaching grammar.

They said they failed to find evidence that teaching the grammar of word order or syntax - the way words are put together to form sentences - helped five- to 16-year-olds write more fluently or more accurately.

Their report said the 'clear implication' was that teaching syntax 'should cease to be part of the curriculum'.

Instead, more emphasis should be put on 'sentence combining', where pupils are taught to merge short sentences into longer ones.

Schools should also 'give more credence' to the theory that pupils 'learn to write by writing'.

Professor Richard Andrews, from York University, said the findings did not mean teaching formal grammar was 'not interesting or useful in its own right'.

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Teaching Children Grammar 'Doesn't Help Them to Write'
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