Children need tools not rules

4th February 2005 at 00:00
The headline "Leave grammar out of English lessons" did a disservice to the research it reported by forcing the findings into the old polarisation between "grammar good" and "grammar bad" (TES, January 21). Neither position is helpful in understanding what we should teach to give children greater control over language. The term "formal grammar" conjures up all that was bad about grammar teaching 50 years ago. The explicit teaching of grammar focuses on linguistic form, but that doesn't have to be formal. It should be interactive, engaging and related to the making of meaning and the understanding of effect.

Grammar offers insights into expression and the power to shape thought, enabling pupils to say things more precisely and explicitly. It helps them to bend and shape language to say the very thing they mean. The task for the teaching profession is to find how best to teach grammar as a set of tools rather than an inert set of rules.

Sue Hackman National director Key Stage 3 National Strategy Centre for School Students 60 Queens Road, Reading

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