Grammar teaching practices in Danish L1 classes

Submitted by: Mette Vedsgaard Christensen
Abstract: In this paper, we present key findings from a large national study on grammar teaching practices in upper secondary school in Denmark (Gramma3, 2018-19). The study explores how grammar teaching takes place and how teachers and students conceive grammar teaching in the three language subjects Danish (L1), English (L2) and German (L3). The study addresses an underexposed yet contested discipline in L1 education in Denmark, the status of grammar teaching in Denmark hence seems similar to what has been reported Myhill (2018) regarding the UK. In this paper, we focus on key findings from the L1 classroom.
The study finds its point of departure in a broad conceptualization of the notion of grammar teaching. We investigate grammar teaching both when it takes the shape of a decontextualized, explicit grammar instruction focusing on language as a set of rules, but also when grammar is taught through more functional or meaning-oriented forms. Traditionally, grammar teaching is linked to the study of morphology and syntax, whereas a meaning-oriented form of grammar teaching also may focus on the level of the text and on contextual factors involved in e.g. writing. In this study we aim at exploring the different levels and aspects of language in grammar teaching, hence we find inspiration in the notion of a multilevel-grammatics (Macken-Horarik, Sandiford, Love, & Unsworth, 2015).
The study is a focused ethnographic study (Knoblauch, 2005) with data consisting of coded classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students in Year 7 and 8 (age 13-15) from seven schools in Denmark (in total 260 lessons). In this paper, we focus on data from L1-classrooms (140 lessons).
In our study of grammar teaching practices in upper secondary, we find different and contrasting tendencies: in some schools, we see a minimal explicit focus on grammar and language, and in other schools, we see an explicit focus on grammar in texts or even context-involving activities. However, in most schools, grammar teaching almost exclusively takes place as a segregated activity, where the normal pedagogical principles and ideals regarding student-centred activities seem to be absent. As part of our presentation, we discuss the current grammar teaching practices within L1 education.

Knoblauch, H. (2005). Focused ethnography. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung, 6(3).
Macken-Horarik, M., Sandiford, C., Love, K., & Unsworth, L. (2015). New ways of working 'with grammar in mind' in school English: Insights from systemic functional grammatics. Linguistics and Education, 31, 145-158. doi:
Myhill, D. (2018). Grammar as a meaning-making resource for improving writing. Contribution to a special issue Working on Grammar at School in L1-Education: Empirical Research across Linguistic Regions. L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature, 18, pp. 1-21.