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Early Language Key to School Success

Language Magazine – Kim Echart

“Language, in other words, supports academic and social success, says Amy Pace, an assistant professor in the University of Washington Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, which led the study, published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly. The study was the first to look at a comprehensive set of school readiness skills and to try to determine which, of all of them, is the most solid predictor of a child’s later success. Language—the ability to fluidly learn words and to string them together into sentences—was the hands-down winner, said co-author Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University.” (more)

Grammar: The Skunk at the Garden Party

Edutopia – Mathew M. Johnson

“Grammar can produce anxiety for teachers because it’s maddeningly hard to teach effectively and has a lot of intimidating terminology like dangling modifiers and adverbial clauses, and every rule has exceptions. Further complicating matters is the fact that there’s great doubt about whether many traditional methods of teaching grammar—like the direct teaching of grammatical terms or use of grammar worksheets—work at all. In 1963, researchers argued that “the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing,” and over 250 studies since that time, as well as a meta-analysis from the Carnegie Corporation in 2011, have widely supported that statement.” (more)

What’s The Middle Ground Between Grammar And Voice When Teaching Writing?

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“There’s very little research on how to effectively teach writing and few pre-service teachers explicitly learn how to teach it in credentialing programs. And yet good writing has become a central skill for most subject areas, including math and science, where teachers are now asking students to explain their thinking. Many teachers use model texts and writing assignments rooted in students’ lived experiences to give kids practice writing. Proponents of this approach say too much focus on grammar and sentence structure stunts the individual’s voice. On the other side of the debate are people like Judith Hochman, who believes writing should be taught starting at the sentence level.”(more)

Using Music And Rhythm To Help Kids With Grammar And Language

KQED News Mind/Shift – Robert Siegel and Andrea Hsu

“Gordon has previously published research showing a correlation in children between good rhythm skills and a good grasp of grammar. She found children who can detect rhythmic variations in music have an easier time putting sentences together. “One thing that rhythm and grammar have in common is that they both unfold over time, and our brains form expectancies about what’s coming up based on what we just heard,” says Gordon. Consider the following sentence: The boy read the book that his mother gave to him. “When we hear ‘The boy read,’ then we’re expecting an object after that,” Gordon says. “Then when we hear ‘The boy read the book that,‘ then we’re expecting an additional clause – something else about the book.” By age 5, Gordon says children typically understand and use complex sentences. But studies have shown that about 7 percent of children have what’s known as specific language impairment or developmental language disorder, which hinders their language skills even though they have IQs in the normal range and don’t have autism or hearing impairment.”(more)

Ditch the grammar and teach children storytelling instead

The Guardian – Tim Lott

“A report in the Times has quoted a secondary school teacher who complained that their year 7 intake no longer knew how to tell a story. “They knew what a fronted adverbial was, and how to spot an internal clause, and even what a preposition was – but when I set them a task to write a story, they broke down and cried,” reported the teacher. The fact that no importance is placed on storytelling makes me very frustrated not only because it puts so little value or emphasis on children’s creativity, but also because storytelling is more than simply an art – it is a crucial skill for life and commerce.”(more)

Statistical approach suggests toddlers’ grammar skills are learned, not innate

Medical X-Press – Alex Shashkevich

“Children’s ability to understand basic grammar early in language development has long puzzled scientists, creating a debate over whether that skill is innate or learned with time and practice. A new Stanford study, recently published in Psychological Science, helps build evidence for the latter. Analyzing toddlers’ early language with a novel statistical approach, associate professor of psychology Michael Frank found that rule-based grammatical knowledge emerges gradually with a significant increase around the age of 24 months. The new study, titled “The Emergence of an Abstract Grammatical Category in Children’s Early Speech,” also points out the need to gather more data that track children’s speech over time, which would help make future research more precise.”(more)