Functional Grammar: A Change in Writer's Self-Perception

By Black, Anne-Marie; Bannan, Simone | Practical Literacy, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Functional Grammar: A Change in Writer's Self-Perception


Black, Anne-Marie, Bannan, Simone, Practical Literacy


St Peter's Catholic Primary School is situated in Caboolture--approximately 100 km north of Brisbane (Queensland). The school is administered by Brisbane Catholic Education. The school has a full-time Principal, Assistant to the Principal--Administration (APA) and Assistant to the Principal--Religious Education (APRE). There are 60 teachers and school officers. St Peter's Catholic Primary School is a co-educational Prep to Year 7 school catering for a student population of 595.

An action research project was conducted at St Peter's Catholic Primary School in 2009. A total of 19 Year 2 and 26 Year 4 students were involved in the project (45 students in total).

Aim of the Project

This action research project aimed to explore how incorporating a functional grammar metalanguage into classroom literacy experiences affects the writing self-perceptions of students in Year 2 and Year 4 at St Peter's Catholic Primary School (Caboolture).

Links to NAPLAN results

At St Peter's Catholic Primary School, there is a culture that curriculum decisions and innovations are data informed and data directed. Therefore, at the end of 2008 school data were analysed and the area of writing noted as a direction for future staff professional development.

The 2008 Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing results (for writing) for students at St Peter's Catholic Primary School are presented in Table 1 below.

At St Peter's Catholic Primary School, students in Years 5 and 7 in 2008 achieved above the national average in writing. However, the students in Year 3 2008 did not. As the NAPLAN testing occurred early in Year 3, test results were considered indicative of the teaching students had been exposed to in the previous years of schooling. Therefore, the teaching of writing that occurred in Year 1 and 2 was reflected in the NAPLAN Year 3 test results. Therefore based on this notion, Year 2 was chosen for inclusion in the research cohort. The current Year 4 class was also chosen for this project as they were students who sat the 2008 NAPLAN writing assessment.

A motivation of engaging in this study was to highlight to the school staff community that non-NAPLAN testing years should be used to focus seriously on the literacy skills that would be advantageous when students move into NAPLAN testing year levels. We planned on taking a proactive attitude towards NAPLAN testing. We identified an area of student academic need based on data, and then modified our teaching of literacy to best meet this need. This ensured the teaching of literacy was specifically tailored for students and not a generic year level program.

Why Functional Grammar was chosen for the project

Early in 2009, all 30 teaching staff at St Peter's Catholic Primary School attended a Functional Grammar Workshop facilitated by Dr Beryl Exley. This workshop was conducted with staff over a series of professional development twilight sessions after school. The Professional Development on Functional Grammar (workshop attendance, follow-up readings, and between module activities) totalled 54 hours.

A literacy consultant had been engaged to work with staff at St Peter's Catholic Primary School in 2009. Staff at each year level met with the literacy consultant at the end of Term 1 to clarify any questions relating to aspects of functional grammar. During this time teachers discussed how aspects of functional grammar could be included into daily pedagogical practices.

We planned to integrate functional grammar aspects into their weekly Literacy Block activities. Following discussion, it was decided students in Years 2 and 4 would be introduced to the grammatical aspects of participants, processes and circumstances for this project. For consistency of meaning, these terms were defined and are presented in Table 2.

Through consultation with Dr Beryl Exley, a colour coding system was adopted for use during text deconstruction/reconstruction activities. …

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