The Effects Of Sentence Combining Instruction On The Growth Of Syntactic Fluency In Adult Basic Writers (18-25)

Whitt, Lena Massey, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Strzepek, Joseph, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Callahan, Carolyn, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Crook, Patricia, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The purpose of the study was to determine if basic writing students showed greater growth in syntactic fluency by the use of sentence combining or by the use of traditional methods of teaching grammar, mechanics, and sentence structure.

The subjects of the study were 76 freshmen students at Virginia State University enrolled in four classes of non-credit Basic Writing for one semester. Two teachers each taught an experimental class and a control class. Both the experimental and the control group spent approximately 50% of the class and homework assignments on writing process strategies. The remainder of the time was spent on the practice of cued sentences and open exercises in the experimental group and on traditional skill exercises in the control group. Syntactic maturity was measured by T-unit length, clause length,and number of clauses per T-unit on pre and posttests of (1) the Aluminum rewriting test and (2) descriptive and narrative essays.

The experimental group using sentence combining showed significant differences on three factors of syntactic maturity on both the Aluminum and essay tests when compared to the control group. The MANOVA analysis established method of instruction as the significant factor accounting for growth in syntactic maturity.

Both the experimental and control groups showed a significant increase in the number of words written, but no significant increase in syntactic maturity occurred in the control group. Therefore, even though verbal fluency increases, syntactic growth does not necessarily follow; a specific method of addressing sentence structure problems must be a major objective of instruction.

When Aluminum and essay posttests results of the experimental group were compared, a significant difference in the syntactic growth on the two tests was indicated. For example, on Words per T-unit, this difference is equivalent to four years of normal growth based on Hunt's norms (1965; 1970). This difference suggests that basic writing students carry over the sentence combining techniques faster to the rewriting tasks of the Aluminum test than they do to their first draft, essay tasks.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
English language--Sentences--Study and teaching (Higher)--Methodology, English language--Rhetoric--Remedial teaching--Methodology
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