Research on the effects of learning about grammar

  1. Writing (syntax)
  2. Spelling
  3. Grammar growth during school years
  4. Listening and comprehension
  5. Scientific method and thinking skills


1. Writing (syntax) is improved by:

  • focussed integrated teaching

  • sentence combining

    • Hillocks, G. and Mavrognes, N. (1986). Sentence combining. In Hillocks, G.(ed.), Research on Wrtten Composition: New Directions for Teaching. Urbana, IL: NCTE. 142-146.
    • Andrews, Richard, Carole Torgerson, Sue Beverton, A Freeman, Terry Locke, Graham Low, Alison Robinson & Die Zhu. 2004. The effect of grammar teaching (sentence combining) in English on 5 to 16 year olds’ accuracy and quality in written composition. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education – Research Evidence in Education Library.
  • unintegrated grammar teaching (but only for some children)

    • Bateman, D. R. and Zidonis, F. J. (1966). The effect of a study of transformational grammar on the writing of ninth and tenth graders. Champaign, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • – but not, for most children, by unintegrated grammar teaching

2. Teaching about morphology improves spelling

  • 2006. Nunes, T. and Bryant, P.  Improving Literacy by Teaching Morphemes. (London: Routledge)
  • 2005. Hurry, J. (2005) Why morphology matters and comprehension counts. Discussion paper for QCA’s “English 21” inquiry.
  • 2005. Hurry, J; Nunes, T; Bryant, P; Pretzlik, U; Parker, M; Curno, T; and Midgely, L.  Transforming research on morphology into teaching practice. Research Papers in Education 20. 187-206.
  • 2004. Bryant, P., Nunes, T., and Bindman, M.  The Relations Between Children’s Linguistic Awareness and Spelling: The Case of the Apostrophe. Reading and Writing 12. 253-276.
  • 2002. Bryant, P., Devine, M., Ledward, A., and Nunes, T.  Spelling with Apostrophes and Understanding Possession. British Journal of Educational Psychology 67. 91-110.
  • 1997. Nunes, T., Bryant, P., and Bindman, M.  Learning to Spell Regular and Irregular Verbs. Reading and Writing 9. 427-449.

3. Grammars continue to grow through school age.

  • Chomsky, C. (1969). The  acquisition  of  syntax  in  children  from  5  to  10. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Perera, K. (1984). Children’s Writing and Reading. Analysing Classroom Language. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Perera, K. (1990). Grammatical differentiation between speech and writing in children aged 8 to 12. In Carter, R.(ed.), Knowledge About Language and the Curriculum. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 216-233.

4. Teaching pupils grammar improves their listening and comprehension skills

  • Dabrowska, E. (1997) The LAD goes to school: A cautionary tale for nativists. Linguistics 35, 735-766.
  • Chipere, N. (2001). Variations in native speaker competence: Implications for native language teaching. Language Awareness 10. 107-124.
  • Chipere, N. (2003). Understanding Complex Sentences: Native Speaker Variation in Syntactic Competence. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Street, J & Dabrowska, E. (2010) More individual differences in language attainment: How much do adult native speakers of English know about passives and quantifiers? Lingua 120, 2080-2094

5. Investigative grammar teaching helps children to understand the scientific method.

  • Fabb, N. (1985). Linguistics for ten-year-olds. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 6. 45-61.
  • Honda, M. (1994). Linguistic inquiry in the science classroom: “It Is Science, but It’s Not Like a Science Problem in a Book”. MIT Occasional Papers in Linguistics 6. 1-262.
  • Honda, M. and O’Neil, W. (1993). Triggering science-forming capacity through linguistic inquiry. In Hale, K. & Keyser, J.(eds.), The View From Building 20: Essays in Linguistics in Honor of Sylvain Bromberger. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 229-255.

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