Tackling text types through grammar
Keywords:Academic writing, Teaching writing, functional grammar, text analysis, English language learners, reader-writer interaction
This article addresses the challenge of writing instruction in a standards-based environment where students are accountable for mastering different genres and text types. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), now adopted by the majority of states in the USA, provide exemplars of successful papers in the different disciplines, but offer no guidelines for teaching, particularly to inexperienced writers or English language learners. Since a text in any genre can be developed in a limitless variety of ways, students need a methodology for analyzing effective texts, and for developing their own. This article proposes that focusing on grammatical choice offers an entry point into understanding the craft of Explanations and Arguments. To illustrate, four samples of high school writing are analyzed from the published CCSS exemplars: two Explanations and two Arguments, all with very different purposes and development. The analysis demonstrates the central role that grammar plays in constructing these differences. Specifically, the analysis focuses on information management across noun groups for the Explanations, and on verb choice and modality for the Arguments. Drawing on functional grammar insights, this article proposes a pathway for students from the analysis of model texts to the effective construction of their own.
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