This research addressed the writing difficulties experienced by French-speaking Québec high school students.
Our main objective was to develop a theoretical model combining the teaching of grammar with the teaching of writing, in addition to three specific objectives: to establish a profile of the grammatical errors made by high school students; to use this profile and the model to design teaching materials targeting the most frequent errors; and to test these materials in the classroom.
Students’ basic grammar knowledge is often inadequate, which hinders the acquisition of new knowledge.
The main result was a theoretical model combining the relevant factors (grammar principles and tools, student difficulties, the writing process, types of targeted learning activities, etc.) in order to analyze the issue and create teaching materials with a strong theoretical base. The student profile revealed the most common errors to be syntax errors (homophones, punctuation and complex sentence structure) and grammatical spelling errors (subject agreement and noun phrase agreement). The series of courses developed and tested in the classroom focused on homophones, joining sentences, verb agreements, coordination and the agreement of past participles with “avoir”. Average student writing performance improved, except in the case of verb agreements where it remained stable. However, interviews with the students showed a better understanding of verb agreement rules. The syntactic approach used in the research was of great benefit to weaker students.
The research reveals that students’ basic grammar knowledge is often inadequate, which hinders the acquisition of new knowledge. To implement the syntactic approach used in the research, teachers will need to receive training and guidance in the new grammar.
Marie-Claude Boivin, Université de Montréal
Deposit of the research report: June 2014