Bunthorne's Blog

Stewart McGowan's blog

Towards a grammar scope and sequence

Why is it that English teachers, when they get hold of a ‘reading visual texts’ resource are happy to play with it, talk about vectors and salience and gaze, in a way that they won’t with grammar?

I mean, if I were to say that I prefer the term ‘focal point’ to ‘salient features’people might not agree with me but it’s not going to cause a ruckus. But if we move from a visual grammar like this to a grammar of English…

I think it’s about time we re-imagined grammar. There’s still too much of the old ‘what are the rules’ thinking rather than the ‘how is meaning being made here’ thinking. I had this point driven home when I was visiting my old school on Friday. We were working with the primary staff on a secondary scope and sequence that’s designed to make sure that we are up to speed on the language outcomes in the new syllabus. And I kept running into people who found the very idea of grammar frightening. A DP with an English background who’d marked NAPLAN, Primary exec, other English teachers, all looking like rabbits in the headlights at the very mention of the G word.

Time to get over it, I reckon. Time to say, ‘anytime I’m talking about how meaning is being made, that’s a part of grammar.’ Vectors and salient features? That’s a grammar of visual text. Motifs, use of performance space, taking focus? That’s a grammar of performance.

Mel Dixon’s got a great quote in one of her workshops about how we need to see grammar not as something distant and unteachable but as a resource for the creation of meaning, a metacognitive strategy that can assist our students – and us – to do what we do with text in a more considered and effective way.

I’ll be doing some more work on this during the week and I’ll post the details here. The goal is to get English teachers used to the idea that we are confident and capable users of language and that we can happily ignore any latinate nonsense that doesn’t help us understand what is is that we do. An update soon!

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