“Explicit and meaningful: an exploration of linguistic tools for supporting Ells’ reading and analytic writing in the English language arts”
Moore’s dissertation examines how systemic functional linguistics (SFL) can be used to support ELL’s understanding of language within meaningful contexts. The dissertation consists of three manuscripts, each focusing on different aspects of a long-term, design-based research project. Chapter two, “Using a Functional Linguistics Metalanguage to Support Academic Development in the English Language Arts,” reports on research where classroom teachers used the SFL metalanguage to supports students’ writing of a character analysis, “a valued type of response genre in the ELA classroom” (31). Students learned options for turning up and turning down meanings and the process types (doing, being, sensing, saying). The students analyzed direct and indirect characterization. Characters’ attitudes are often told through being and sensing processes, while characters’ attitudes are shown through doing and saying processes. The setting was several high poverty elementary school classrooms where the majority of the student population is bilingual, Arabic being most students’ first language. The data gathered included: video, classroom artifacts, teacher logs, and student writing (28). Classroom videos were coded by “participant structure and content during observations” (29). This data was further narrowed down into “episodes of productive talk” within fourteen lessons (29). Moore mainly uses classroom transcripts to present findings. The research suggests the SFL metalanguage helped to foster “rich moments of classroom interaction,” which is atypical for ELLs in traditional instruction. SFL facilitated engagement with meaning as long as SFL was not used to merely identify parts of speech, like in traditional grammar.
The second manuscript focused on the teaching of argument through character analysis. The character analysis response genre was broken into three stages, Character Presentation, Character Description, and Character Judgment. Expanding on Toulmin’s notion of argument, Moore developed the stages of the character analysis genre to include: Claim, Orientation to Evidence, Evidence, Interpretation, and Evaluation (75). The research also called for more explicit definitions of analysis, dividing this complex writing task into interpretation and evaluation (75). The research took place in a similar setting. Moore used SFL textual and genre analysis to analyze and code the data. The most interesting findings had to do with natural and unnatural constraints upon teaching genre. Some constraints of genre, such as the general stages of a genre to achieve a social purpose, are natural, while imposing arbitrary constraints on genre, such as prescribing two sentences for evaluation are unnatural. Unnatural restraints can lead to confusion and error when writing.
The third manuscript provides insights into design-based research, a relatively unknown research methodology. DBR “uses both qualitative and quantitative methods in an effort to enhance educational innovations through iterative cycles of development, evaluation, and refinement” (125). DBR is very responsive to teacher-research. I find DBR particularly useful because it helps take “grand theories” and “orienting frameworks” and operationalize them into design principles that guide and reiteratively influence research. I would recommend this article to anyone interested in using the SFL metalanguage in the classroom, especially anyone interested in design-based research, as this is one of the first projects using DBR to design and then evaluate the research project.
Moore, Jason P. Explicit and Meaningful: An Exploration of Linguistic Tools for Supporting Ells’ Reading and Analytic Writing in the English Language Arts. Diss. U of Michigan, 2014. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.