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)
‘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.
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?