It is widely recognized that grammatical spelling is a pet peeve for Québec students.
A study conducted by researchers at Université du Québec à Montréal examined the acquisition and mastery of grammatical spelling among Québec students at the end of elementary school and the beginning of high school and students with learning difficulties, as well as students’ thinking processes when faced with making grammatical agreements.
A good knowledge of word classes helps students to succeed in making the correct grammatical agreements.
The study also looked at the pedagogical and orthopedagogical practices relating to the teaching of grammatical spelling that are currently used in the schools and classrooms of these students in four Québec regions.
The results of the study show that Grade 6 students perform and progress significantly better than Secondary 1 students in dictation tests, regardless of gender, region and linguistic context. Students with learning difficulties in special education classes in early high school make twice as many mistakes as those in regular classes. A good knowledge of word classes (noun, verb, etc.) helps students to succeed in making the correct grammatical agreements, as does the use of the syntactical procedures taught under the new French grammar. These skills are seen in Grade 6 and Secondary 1 students, but less often in students with learning difficulties: this is clearly an area in which remedial teachers need to work more with these students.
The results show that the concepts taught are adequate, but the approaches and methods used are traditional and do not sufficiently foster the development of appropriate reasoning skills. In this regard, the staff at the schools where the research was conducted, as well as the research team, all recommend increased teacher training (both initial and ongoing) on the progression of learning and on teaching approaches that are known to be effective.
Chantal Ouellet, Université du Québec à Montréal
Deposit of the research report: April 2014