Teaching Grammar Effectively in Primary Schools. David Reedy and Eve Bearne, United Kingdom Literacy Association.
This is one of the clearest and most practical books on this topic I’ve seen, and will be of immediate help to many primary teachers. There is a very clear pattern of progression in topics covered from Years 1 to 6, and an interesting teaching system known as REDM – reading and investigation, explicit teaching, discussion and experimentation, and making controlled writing choices.
The last of these is the ultimate aim of teaching grammar – it puts children in control of what they do, and enables them to make informed decisions rather than guessing. Each topic comes with a complete teaching plan, including activities for practice and a “terminology check.” I was grateful to this for the clearest explanation I've seen yet of the term "modal verb" - a verb that operates with another, adding to its meaning, but didn't so much like its use of the term "stative" for verbs that don't convey an action. "Stative" is a hideous and misleading term invented by linguists who prefer one word to a clear phrase. The French call them "verbs of state". We should not use adult terminology with young children until they can understand it, and should not use that particular term at all. The obvious interference from everyday language is that these verbs state something.
There is good advice on paragraphing, but I'm not convinced that letting children work out how punctuation works is a good idea at all - a good many will never do so. I tackle this point in Go-to Grammar. I've bought this book, though, for its ideas on helping children to extend their sentence construction.
Towards an Understanding of How Children Read and Spell Irregular Words. Sarah P McGeown, Rhona S Johnston and Gerri E Moxon. Journal of Research in Reading, Vol37, 1, 2014.
An interesting study of the factors that predict children’s scores on a test of reading spelling irregular words that showed the best predictor as…their ability to phonically regular non-words, and their scores on the British Ability Scales spelling test. The other items tested, vocabulary and their recognition of book titles (used as a measure of reading frequency) did not correlate anything like as highly with success.
The authors’ contention that irregular words in English are quasi-regular is supported by studies of the history of language, most recently and notably by Crystal’s Spell it Out. However, their suggestion that the fact that regular word spelling and decoding predict the decoding of irregular words is more difficult to prove. Fluent readers and spellers need to be good at both, as English has a high level of irregularity in spelling, but by no means all children develop what one of their reference points, Share, describes as “a self-teaching mechanism”. For many weak readers, slow processing of regular material goes alongside complete inability to cope with irregular words, even of very high frequency. It is also true that most irregular words in English do not depart wholly from the normal correspondence of letters and sounds – the letters always tell us something, even if not everything. Who and the are probably the least regular words, where only one letter in three gives us the sound we would expect most frequently.
The authors are frank about the limitations of this study, including the use of the title test as an indicator of reading frequency. They have, though, done us a great service by providing evidence of the links between regular and irregular patterns, and of the patterns that exist in irregular words. These can and should be explained and taught.