Debra Myhill and the Grammar for Writing pedagogy
For more practical ideas, explore sample lesson plans and schemes
The Grammar as Choice Pedagogy
At the University of Exeter’s Centre for Research in Writing, we have been investigating the contested issue of grammar teaching over many years and across a cumulative series of research studies. The research we have carried out is underpinned by a view of the importance of teaching grammar in the context of children’s writing, not as a body of separate knowledge learnt for its own sake. Our research promotes the idea of Grammar as Choice, rather than grammar as being simply about rules and correctness. It focuses on being explicit about how language works, and about how different language choices construct meanings in different contexts, using the correct grammatical terminology as part of that explicitness. But the fundamental teaching focus is on the writing being undertaken rather than on a grammar feature or terminology itself. Based on our research findings, we believe that an effective pedagogy for writing should include explicit grammar teaching which draws attention to the linguistic choices and possibilities available to children and which has at its heart the creative shaping of text.
The LEAD Principles
So what is the Grammar as Choice pedagogy? To help make this practical for application to the classroom, we have explained the pedagogy in terms of four principles, which we have called the LEAD principles. These principles are explained in the following Powerpoint with audio - The LEAD principles.
The LEAD Principles in Practice
Below are some ‘mini-powerpoints’ which exemplify the LEAD principles through one classroom activity.
These PowerPoint resources use short extracts from published texts to show how grammatical features create meaning and achieve effects in writing. They can be used to build students’ understanding about how language works and as models for students’ own writing. Detailed slide notes are provided to support classroom discussion of the links between grammar and meaning.
Each PowerPoint title shows the grammar-writing focus and the text model used, to help teachers decide which might be applicable to their students.
Text Models for Writing Fiction PowerPoints:
- Choosing Proper Nouns For Naming Characters (Matilda, Roald Dahl)
- Creating Character Through Inner Reflection (Private Peaceful, Michael Morpurgo)
- Creating Characters Through Strong Visual Detail (Kensuke's Kingdom, Michael Morpurgo)
- Creating Descriptive Detail in Long Sentences (Railhead, Philip Reeve)
- Describing a Setting in Narrative Using Prepositional Phrases (Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck)
- Establishing a Setting Through Noun Phrase Choices (Skellig, David Arnold)
- Establishing Genre and Setting with Proper and Concrete Nouns (Railhead, Philip Reeve)
- Intensifying the Action in Narrative Through Verb Tense Choices (Private Peaceful, Michael Morpurgo)
- Positioning the Reader Through Language Choices (Coketown, Charles Dickens)
- Prepositional Phrases for Describing Setting (Charlotte's Web, E.B. White)
- Using Expanded Noun Phrases for Detailed Description (The Nowhere Emporium, Ross MacKenzie)
- Using Repetition to Emphasise Character and Plot (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
- Using Verbs to Show Not Tell (Matilda, Roald Dahl)
- Varying Sentence Forms to Emphasise Characters Emotions (Macbeth, Shakespeare)
- Varying Sentence Patterns and Rhythms to Emphasise Meaning (The Promise, Nicola Davies)
- Listing facts succinctly in information texts(Incredible Journeys, Levison Wood)
- Describing succinctly in information texts, using noun phrases in apposition (Incredible Journeys, Levison Wood)
- Linking and contrasting ideas in a speech using co-ordinated clauses (Greta Thunberg)
- Making information detailed and precise by using expanded noun phrases (In Focus, Libby Walden)
- Making language choices to write like a scientist (Think of an Eel, Karen Wallace; Big Red Kangaroo, Clare Saxby)
- Manipulating sentences to reinforce key messages in a speech (Malala Yousafzi)
- Positioning the reader with adverbials in campaign texts (RSPCA website)
- Providing layers of detail in an information text using subordinate clauses (In Focus, Libby Walden)
- Strengthening the message in a campaign with imperative sentences (World Wildlife Fund)
- Using tricolon for persuasion in campaign texts (RSPCA website)