Learning to use systemic functional grammar to teach literary analysis: Views on the effectiveness of a short professional development workshop

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McCrocklin, Shannon
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Slater, Tammy
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The Department of English seeks to provide all university students with the skills of effective communication and critical thinking, as well as imparting knowledge of literature, creative writing, linguistics, speech and technical communication to students within and outside of the department.

The Department of English and Speech was formed in 1939 from the merger of the Department of English and the Department of Public Speaking. In 1971 its name changed to the Department of English.

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  • Department of English and Speech (1939-1971)

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As students’ academic language ability grows, they are expected to move from summarizing or retelling works of literature to studying texts critically. With this comes the demand for more developed literacy skills or, as those working from a systemic functional linguistic perspective would argue, an increase in the students’ resources for making meaning in an ever-widening variety of contexts (Derewianka, 2001). English language arts (ELA) teachers in the United States today are challenged with the task of developing this literacy to meet Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). Specific standards for literacy development include teaching students to understand how to uncover what is important in a text and to describe and argue the explicit evidence and inferences that support their opinions as well as to analyze the connection between an author’s word choice and the meaning of the text. Throughout the schooling years, teachers are required by the Common Core to move students from enjoying literature in the younger grades to studying literature from middle school onwards, and in doing so teachers must aim to develop students’ ability to argue and support ideas and opinions in literature classrooms as well as develop literacy skills across all areas of the curriculum. In other words, ELA teachers have the challenging task of helping students engage in literature while also developing literacy skills for use across the curriculum. This can be an especially ambitious task when their students are also learning the English language.


This is a manuscript of a chapter published as Slater, T., & McCrocklin, S. (2016). Learning to use simplified systemic functional grammar to teach literary analysis. In L.C. de Oliveira & M. Shoffner (Eds.), ELA teachers and ELL students: Preparing English language arts teachers to teach English language learners. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2016