It’s one of those courses

There are those courses that you attend and think this will be beneficial if there are just one or two ideas that I can take away from each session and apply to my teaching. Then there are courses like this PETAA ‘Grammar and Teaching’ course being presented by Jo Rossbridge that now only has two of the twelve weeks to go. It has changed how I exist in this world. Before ‘G& T’ I  reacted intuitively to how people spoke and wrote. Now I constantly analyse speech, writing and most forms of communication in light of how it is being constructed to make meaning.  I wonder about the author, their purpose for writing and the background to the text.

As we near the end of the course, there is Task 3 looming. We feel as though we are on a quest, overcoming challenges one at a time only to find that each new trial requires us to remember and apply all that has gone before us during this three month crusade. The trail is still on an upward gradient. There is no easy downhill road at all. Joanne Rossbridge’s quality teaching is the model and explicit scaffolded teaching of grammar using rich texts is what she expects to see from us. But wait there’s more! Not only do we have to produce a program, which we must use, of high quality lessons to help our students develop an understanding of grammar, we have to include a rationale explaining our choices for our pedagogical approach. We have been going through the prescribed readings each week that are relevant and can be linked to our task, but even some of these are almost beyond our comprehension.

Meanwhile the new learning continues. This is a recent view of the register of tenor. Chapter 4 of our text,  A New Grammar Companion for Teachers by Beverley Derewianka called Language for interacting with others was not in the first edition. This apparently, is a modern area of learning where not a great deal of research has been done. Last week we learnt about patterns of interactions, the structures of speech functions – commands, questions, statements and offers. This week, on the same topic, we learnt  about words that we use to express attitudes, good or bad – words of evaluation. These include words that; express feelings to build up empathy and suspense (affect), words that are judgemental of human behaviour (judgement) and words that evaluate the quality of things (appreciation)

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Fig. 4.6 A framework for analysing attitude categories – from ‘Grammar and Meaning’ by Sally Humphrey, Louise Droga and Susan Feez

‘Words of evaluation’ can be given gradations of meaning or adjusted to be more or less forceful and focused by adding an intensifier   (e.g. terribly, deeply, very, less, more) or using repetition, comments or words of modality.

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Fig. 4.8 ‘Resources for grading explicit attitudes’ – from ‘Grammar and Meaning’ Humphrey Droga and Feez PETAA

Again we must ask ‘why’. Why do we need to make our students aware of these grammatical features? Beverley Derewianka on page 120 of A New Grammar Companion for Teachers says – Students need to be able to identify when a text is attempting to persuade them to a particular point of view or position them in a particular way. This often happens through the language choices of the speaker or writer (e.g. obsession, mongrel, eyesore, monstrosity, cult). Persuasive language might be more obvious in text types that seek to influence (e.g. exposition, advertisements, editorials, stories) but can also occur less obviously in more ‘objective’ text types. 

Our students, especially our EAL/D students need to be explicitly taught the subtleties and variations of meaning in expressive language. How else will they be able to interpret nuances of meaning when they observe and participate in interactions with others?

3 thoughts on “It’s one of those courses

  1. It sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you in the weeks ahead, writing a program using your new knowledge and presenting it to your students. You have said that much of what you have done is incomprehensible. I hope you are able to make it comprehensible for your students. I hope you will share some of your work with us here.

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    1. Hi Norah …Its not the actual lessons that are incomprehensible its thee heavy readings. They are not very user friendly for the mainstream teacher but they include important work of academic researchers like Halliday, Bernstein and Williams that have led us to be more aware of what we need to explicitly teach and why with regard to communication, meaning and grammar.
      And yes, as I sit here, thinking of what to include in my rationale for my assignment I am keeping my students at the forefront so I can help them with their learning of English.
      Thanks for all your communication, interest and support along the way. Shall definitely share my program. Have already planned overview and started to introduce beginning concepts and vocabulary to my Stage 2 classes.

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      1. The readings do sound heavy going. I think that is often what makes implementing the findings of research difficult for busy teachers. I appreciate that you are helping others with your interpretation of and practical suggestions about what you have been learning. I think it is great to have an avenue for discussion in which others can participate. The experiences of others can help develop understanding. Explicit teaching is all the go at the moment, and I agree that it is very important. It is extremely important for a teacher’s knowledge to be explicit, otherwise they have little chance of making it explicit for students. As stated earlier, I look forward to hearing more about the implementation of your program and students’ learning. I appreciate that you are including me, as observer and learner, in your journey.

        Liked by 1 person

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