Grammar as Resource: Writing a Description
- ISSN: 0034527X
This article presents a functional grammatical analysis of the writing that 128 seventh and eighth grade students produced in response to their science teacher's directive to describe a picture. It identifies the register elements of this task, demonstrating that relational verbs, expanded noun phrases, verb tense, and clause themes are grammatical features that are functional for describing. The paper also identifies the grammatical difficulties that this task posed for students who include English language learners and speakers of non-standard dialects. Functional analysis can suggest the grammatical issues that are most relevant for a particular kind of assignment, providing teachers with information about the grammatical resources that enable students to construct more effectively the genres expected in academic contexts. This study also shows that through their grammatical choices, students display different orientations to the assignment. Some demonstrate an understanding of expectations for analytical writing, while others reflect more personal orientations. Information about how grammar contributes to the realization of particular school-based genres is seldom made explicit to students. With an understanding of the register features of academic writing tasks, teachers can help students use the grammatical resources available to them to expand and develop their writing skills.