Does the way we teach grammar need to change?

In this week’s Tes Podgaogy, we’re joined by Dominic Wyse, a professor of early childhood and primary education at UCL. He discusses his latest research on grammar, and how he believes teachers should approach writing
23rd March 2022, 1:27pm

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Does the way we teach grammar need to change?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/video-podcasts/teaching/does-way-we-teach-grammar-need-change
Grammer,

Do you know what an auxiliary verb is? How about a subordinate clause? Or even a schwa? 

Does it matter? 

Ask the Department of Education, and they’ll tell you yes: these sorts of technical grammar terms have been a part of the primary national curriculum since 2014. Ask Dominic Wyse, a professor of early childhood and primary education at the UCL Institute of Education, and he’ll give you a very different answer. 

In this week’s episode of Tes Podagogy, he outlines the problems with the current approach, and what, he believes, the curriculum should focus on instead. 


Listen to more Tes Podagogy:


Research published by Wyse, and other academics from UCL and the University of York, analysed a specific approach to teaching grammar, Englicious, and found that extensive grammar teaching was not the best way to improve writing. It’s not a wide-scale study, but is backed up by a range of other research, says Wyse.

“There is, of course, a huge amount of research about literacy, about writing. We know from previous research that formal grammar teaching has not had a positive impact on narrative writing, and that’s partly why we wanted to do the research because nobody had tried the Englicious intervention,” he says. 

“If the claim [from the government] is that teaching grammar helps narrative writing then indeed, it must help writing.  Unfortunately, there was almost no effect on progress in the English writing tests we used as a standardised measure.”

As a result, Wyse is calling for an in-depth review of the grammar requirements in England’s national curriculum to ensure pupils receive “the teaching of writing they deserve”. 

“We all agree that children need to learn to form grammatical sentences. So the debate is not about whether they need to, the debate is how can we most effectively help that,” he says. 

“I can almost hear teachers’ hearts sinking because there’s a legitimate feeling that we do change these things rather frequently. Well, my great new idea is, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: let’s evolve it, let’s be sensible, professional people. Let’s say this works, we need to change this, and then you could evolve it.”

In the podcast, Wyse goes on to discuss whether grammar should be taught at all, and how teachers should approach writing.

You can listen to the podcast below or find it on all major podcast platforms.

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