Introducing functional grammar to a fourth grade English language arts classes
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Traditional grammar instruction at the elementary level tends to focus on isolated linguistic features such as the eight parts of speech and sentence types. This type of instruction omits an important part of writing which is the interrelatedness between grammatical structures and meaning. Using a Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) framework, this mixed methods study examined the use of SFL-inspired writing instruction in fourth grade classrooms over the course of the fall semester to develop students’ descriptive writing. A sample of 24 students representing three ability levels was randomly selected for detailed text analysis. Writing samples from each student at three separate time intervals were collected and evaluated. Both quantitative and qualitative examination of students’ essays revealed a significant improvement in students’ descriptive writing over time. These improvements were linked to greater command of the linguistic elements that were the targets of instruction. Stabilization in writing progress was observed when instruction focused on test preparation. Implications are discussed.