Grammar for Writing
This page covers the first (efficacy) trial of Grammar for Writing, which tested whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions. To read about the second (effectiveness) trial - testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools - click here.
Grammar for Writing aims to improve writing by helping pupils to understand how ‘linguistic structures’ convey meaning. Grammatical rules are taught in the context of particular writing genres (such as narrative fiction, persuasive writing), rather than in the abstract. The programme can be delivered in small groups or to the whole class, and this evaluation looks at the impacts of both models.
Improving writing by developing pupils’ understanding of grammatical choices
Durham University, The York Trials Unit
Staff deployment & development
Language and literacy
In 2012, the EEF funded a number of programmes, designed to improve literacy outcomes for pupils at the transition from primary to secondary school. Grammar for Writing was chosen for this because previous evaluations have found that grammar interventions can have a positive impact on writing skills.
The first evaluation found some evidence of promise. Despite its short duration (4 weeks), it had a small positive impact when delivered to the whole class, and a larger impact when delivered to small groups – although this second result may have been due to the small group work rather than the intervention itself.
Following these results, the EEF funded a larger evaluation of a scalable version of GfW. This second evaluation focused solely on the whole-class version of GfW and on Year 6 pupils rather than pupils at the transition. It was also delivered over 6 weeks rather than 4. It found no evidence of an impact on pupils’ writing outcomes.
The difference in results between the two evaluations might be the result of the differences in delivery described above. It might also be partly due to implementation problems during the second trial: while teachers were generally satisfied with the programme, many adapted or left out key components such as using classroom discussions to explore the effects of grammatical choices.
Given uncertainty around the impact in the first evaluation and the lack of impact in the second, the EEF will be removing Grammar for Writing from the list of promising projects. We continue to be interested in grammar-based approaches to writing.
Grammar for Writing is not effective in improving general writing among Year 6 pupils when delivered as a whole class intervention over four weeks.
Grammar for Writing is modestly effective in improving writing as a small group intervention, although this is likely to be a result of small group teaching, rather than an intrinsic benefit of Grammar for Writing itself.
The evidence for Grammar for Writing from this evaluation is insufficient to recommend widespread adoption among Year 6 pupils.
Small group teaching amongst Levels 3c to 4b pupils does seem an effective strategy to increase writing skills.
Possible further research question: Is small group teaching for children at Levels 3c to 4b effective and costeffective over a longer time period?
Full project description
Grammar for Writing is a literacy intervention that aims to improve writing skills of Year 6 pupils by providing contextualised grammar teaching. It encourages pupils to improve how their writing communicates with the reader by making connections between a linguistic feature and the effect it has on writing, rather than by focusing on grammatical inaccuracies. It can be delivered as both a universal and targeted intervention.
In this evaluation, the programme was trialled as both a whole class and small group approach, with pupils expected to achieve between Level 3 and 4b at Key Stage 2. The intervention involved 15 guided writing sessions, delivered over four weeks, in June/July 2013, and involved 53 primary schools from four geographical regions across England. Teachers in intervention classes received three days of training in the Grammar for Writing approach.