Many people will be aware of Haylock and Cockburn’s connective model of learning in mathematics. It is based on the idea that a developing
If we cannot make connections then we have to resort to trying to learn by rote. The more connected are our experiences, the more secure and the more useful is the learning. (Haylock with Thangata)
The four aspects of this diagram are linked by arrows in all directions which represent the talk that is the means by which children make the connections. When reading this, I was struck by the similarity with grammar teaching and learning. Debra Myhill’s literature reveiw of grammar teaching identified elements necessary for effective learning. Myhill talks about looking at grammar in context, offering the children patterns or models to base their ideas around. Without this, grammar becomes a very abstract idea and leads to misunderstandings. In very simplified terms this can be shown by the fact that when looking at word classes we don’t say that a word belongs to a particular word class, e.g light is a noun. It could be used as a verb, noun or adjective depending upon the context it is in.
The language in the model is about the technical terminology so we call a verb a verb rather than a doing word. This means that when children are talking and investigating a particular aspect of grammar we are using the terminology and actively encouraging them to name it in their talk, not as rote learning but as a way of describing what they are doing and what they are trying to achieve.
The images is an interesting aspect because we don’t have images for grammar but we could! The idea behind our Sentence Toolkit is that for each element we have a real tool that provides a way of linking what can sometimes be quite an absract idea to a concrete one. For example, we use a tape measure for expanded noun phrases and as we model ways of making noun phrases, we stretch our tape measure. This then brings in the fourth element which is an action. Here the stretching symbolises what is happening when we modify the nouns. Hammering our fist into our palm when we hear verbs reflects the necessity for a verb in a sentence and indicates where it is.
All of this brings us to our connective model of grammar learning. We have the context, terminology, symbol and action all connected by talk. Without all the elements, the connections will be shallower and the learning less useful to the children.
It provides us with a useful model that enables us to build rich learning experiences for children that will help them develop their writing and pass the grammar test.