Language conventions

Language is used to express and connect ideas so as to enable us to interact in the world and foster social interaction, create and maintain relationships, develop and project a personal identity, express opinions and engage in the views of others.

Control of spelling, grammar and punctuation is required by students in all curriculum areas for the development of clear and effective speaking and listening, writing and reading. Students need to understand that choices in grammar, punctuation and vocabulary contribute to the effectiveness of texts. To support understanding of increasing levels of complexity and abstraction in texts, explicit teaching is required in relation the features of language, for example, sentence structure, multimedia elements, vocabulary, illustrations, diagrams, graphics, punctuation, figurative language, imagery, connectives, topic sentences and active and passive voice.

Choices in language features and text structures together define a type of text and shape its meaning. These choices vary according to the purpose of a text, its subject matter, audience and mode or media of production. Understanding language conventions enables students to describe how language works, to make meaning as they speak and listen, to read and to be able to use language to make meaning as they write. Understanding how language features vary according to purpose allows students to critically analyse texts in order to appreciate, interpret and create well–constructed texts.

Knowledge about the conventions of language needs to be taught:

  • explicitly
  • contextually
  • regularly

The teaching of language conventions needs to be supported by practical implementation of students’ knowledge and skills as they construct meaning.

Once students are conscious of how different linguistic structures are formed, they are in a better position to be able to manipulate these structures to create clear, well-structured, unambiguous sentences. And in their reading, they are better able to perceive meaningful chunks of language rather than to read each word as a discrete unit.

Derewianka, B. (1998). A Grammar Companion for Primary Teachers. Primary English Teaching Association, Newtown, p.3.

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