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Cognitive Linguistic Explorations of Writing in the Classroom


Rod E. Case, Gwendolyn M. Williams and Peter Cobin

Research into the analysis of classroom-based writing is replete with techniques and methods meant to bring clarity to the question of how to best conduct instruction and assessment. Findings and suggestions for practice are rooted in a philosophy that asks teachers and linguists to judge students’ writing against a pre-determined standard. Too often, the results do little more than inform teachers and researchers as to which students met the standard and which did not.

This book offers research into the analysis of classroom writing that does not use a set standard or rubric to assess student writing but instead relies on insights from cognitive linguistics to explore the connections between cognition and language in student writing. The result is a creative and linguistically driven analysis of classroom writing that allows the linguist or teacher to view student writing on its own terms.

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Chapter 4 Event Structures in Children’s Writing


Chapter 4

Event Structures in Children’s Writing

Antonio takes his clipboard with a sheet of lined paper and selects a blue pencil from the pencil bucket. He sits with his teacher, going through several rounds of conferences where they brainstorm a title and ideas for his story. Then it becomes his turn to put pencil to paper and write. He asks for the spelling of most words. After about 20 minutes he says he is finished. Here is his story.

Story 1 (Antonio 3/21, “The queen’s broken promise,” entire story)

queen go to the store

queen go to home

the queen go to home

The teacher’s job is to help Antonio write better stories than this. Where to begin?

One line of attack is for the teacher to select a good writing program, of which there are many, or more commonly to apply strategies from the combined set of writing programs with which the teacher is familiar. In fact, Antonio’s elementary school education of nearly five years consists of many teachers doing their best to teach him and his classmates how to write. This chapter does not set out to evaluate writing programs nor teachers’ implementation of them.

The approach taken in this chapter is a cognitive one: What is Antonio thinking during the time he is composing his story? What are the cognitive or linguistic challenges in this process? And perhaps...

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