Teacher’s conversation about students’ writing of narrative texts in early school years
In the vast majority of models for teaching writing, explicit teaching about the structure and function of a language is included (Ivanič, 2004 ) and such teaching is also increasingly emphasized in different countries’ policy documents (Chen & Jones, 2012; Chen & Myhill, 2016 ). In Sweden, writing has also been given a more prominent place in the latest policy documents from 2011 onwards. It is also partially reflected in the teaching materials for, for example, the early school years (Magnusson, 2018 ). The requirements for narrative texts tested in the national exam for grade 3 in Sweden are an overall global text structure and local formality aspects (see also Liberg, Folkeryd & af Geijerstam, 2012 ).
In previous studies, we have shown that students in the early school years use a significantly larger repertoire of linguistic resources to write both narrative texts (af Geijerstam, 2014; Nordlund, 2016 ) and non-fiction texts (Liberg, 2014; Folkeryd, 2014). For narrative texts, this concerns, for example, resources such as dramaturgical curves, different types of narrative perspective and focalization, and expression of sense impressions and connections (time, cause, opposite). Nevertheless, teachers in the early school years thus have no support in either guidance documents or teaching materials to get students to build on such linguistic resources that many of their students already use in their narrative texts. Therefore, with our study, we want to contribute to increased insights by investigating how a group of primary school teachers change their way of talking about students’ narrative texts after a short further training on such linguistic resources, which previous research points out as important to highlight in writing teaching. The study is based on previous research that has shown that a greater breadth in teachers’ view of written language ability contributes to better-supporting students’ writing. However, this previous research has only exceptionally concerned students and teachers in the early school years.
As stated above, explicit teaching about the structure and function of a language is included in the vast majority of models for teaching writing. Here we will give an account of previous research that concerns partly how well such explicit teaching can contribute to students’ writing development and what it requires in terms of teacher knowledge, partly what the content of such teaching can be.
Students’ writing development and teachers’ meta-linguistic ability
Explicit teaching where metalanguage is used and the effects it produces have been studied by several. However, these studies are not always so comparable because the content and context of teaching differ (Macken-Horarik, Sandiford, Love & Unsworth, 2015 ). Common forms are either traditional grammar teaching based on Latin grammar and which is not part of a writing situation, or different types of functional grammar teaching embedded in different kinds of communicative situations such as writing. In the latter case, the content of grammar teaching is often based on rhetorical grammar or on systemic-functional linguistics (SFL).
Andrews, Torgerson, Beverton, Freeman, Locke, et al. ( 2006) points out that there is no support for an isolated traditional grammar teaching supporting students’ writing. While Myhill, Jones, and Watson ( 2013 ), Chen and Jones ( 2012 ), and Myhill and Watson ( 2014 ), on the other hand, show that teaching that links grammatical knowledge to actual writing provides evidence for a clear relationship between the use of a metalanguage and improvement in writing. More specifically, Moore and Schleppegrell ( 2014 ) show how metalanguage based on SFL supports student learning. The student’s ability to speak explicitly about the structure and function of a language, a meta-linguistic ability, is also a way for a teacher to understand what students know about a language (Chen & Myhill, 2016 ).