Syntax Development in the School-Age Years: Implications for Assessment and Intervention

By Nelson, Nickola Wolf | Perspectives on Language and Literacy, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Syntax Development in the School-Age Years: Implications for Assessment and Intervention


Nelson, Nickola Wolf, Perspectives on Language and Literacy


Teachers and clinicians who are confident about how to help students with dyslexia improve reading decoding skills may be less certain about how to help those same students improve their oral and written syntax and grammar. This article provides a brief overview of what teachers and clinicians (referred to collectively here as "instructors") need to know and might do to foster students' syntax and grammatical skills for comprehending and formulating grade-level sentences and discourse.

Foundations for the Development of Syntax and Grammar What do instructors need to know to help students improve their syntax and grammar?

As a general rule, knowing about normal development provides a good blueprint for deciding what to target for children with special needs. Instructors need specific knowledge and skills for assessing and describing a particular student's patterns of abilities and difficulties. Examiners can use developmentally sensitive formal and informal assessment techniques to describe three overlapping levels within what Vygotsky (1978) referred to as the zone of proximal development. These are 1) aspects of language that children know and related skills they can apply automatically (i.e., consistently and fluently) in everyday contexts; 2) aspects of language children know only partially and related skills they can demonstrate only under certain supportive conditions, but not reliably or automatically; and 3) aspects of language children have not yet learned and related skills they are unable to demonstrate, no matter how optimal the conditions. It is the middle level, which constitutes the student's developing edge of competence, that expert instructors identify as the best point for focusing initial intervention efforts.

To explore how children learn complex syntax and to monitor their ongoing development, it is necessary 1 ) to consider the cognitive-linguistic demands that grammatically complex sentences place on children's systems, 2) to understand the developmental progression of complex syntax, and 3) to recognize signs that students with dyslexia need targeted intervention in syntax. With this background knowledge, instructors can better determine how to help students improve sentence-level skills.

What is the essence of complex sentence formulation and comprehension?

To understand the demands of complex syntax, whether in listening, reading, speaking, or writing, one must be able to analyze forms of syntactic complexity. The essence of demonstrating skill with grammatical complexity in speaking or writing is to incorporate more than one sentence-level proposition into a single sentence. In a reciprocal fashion, the essence of demonstrating skill with grammatical complexity when reading or listening is for students to apply their grammatical knowledge to unpack the components of a complex sentence. The only way to observe the success of this comprehension process is to ask students to act out, paraphrase, or demonstrate in some other way what they understand about the relationships among the individual components (i.e., clausal propositions) of a complex sentence.

A proposition equates to the basic meaning of a simple sentence. Grammatically, a basic sentence incorporates at least a subject and a verb. Semantically, the subject may be an actor, agent, experiencer, or the person being addressed by the speaker, in which case the subject may be understood. A verb phrase describes actions, experiences, or intentions of the subject and provides information about temporal relationships, such as the present progressive, "She is help/'ng" versus the past perfect, "She had helped," as well as mood, such as "He would have helped if he could have." Other sentences might require additional elements to complete the meaning of the basic proposition. Some verbs semantically require both an object and recipient of an object, such as "He gave the princess the secret code." Others require subject attributes or identities, such as "He is so brave" or "She is a superhero. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Syntax Development in the School-Age Years: Implications for Assessment and Intervention
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.