Reimagining a Place for Grammar in Language Arts Instruction

Gartland, Lauren, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Smolkin, Laura, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This three-manuscript dissertation includes a linking document and three manuscripts crafted around the central topic of grammar instruction. The three papers presented herein represent an intellectual journey I began when working as a teaching assistant with University of Virginia preservice Elementary Education students. At that time, I became aware of the students' lack of comfort with grammatical concepts. It has been my goal in this work to ascertain the nature of preservice elementary education students' grammar knowledge, to discover the historical source of their insecurities, and to consider existing pedagogies they can implement to foster greater pedagogical competence for themselves and the young children they will teach. The first paper describes an empirical study I completed to examine preservice students' grammatical knowledge. In that work, I discovered not only that the students had considerable trouble explaining the grammatical features of the targeted sentences, but also that they frequently demonstrated an uneasiness with the task by stating upfront that they were not confident in their grammar knowledge. The second paper presents a highlighted history of grammar instruction. Through the historical documents I reviewed and the studies, books, and papers I read, I determined that many of the untenable pedagogical practices associated with grammar had their origin in the rise of prescriptive grammar during the 18th century. Objections to those practices led to a reduced grammar emphasis in U.S. Schools; that trend has now been reversed with the appearance of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS; National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). The third paper is designed to inform a larger, teacher audience of my historical findings as well as practices I reviewed that have the potential to foster children's in-depth grammar knowledge.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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