Grammar: what is it and why is it important? A guide for parents
How this language element helps us communicate
The importance of good grammar is frequently emphasised by teachers. But what exactly do they mean, and how can parents help develop their child’s understanding of grammar? Here, we look at:
✓ What is grammar?
✓ Why is grammar important?
✓ What are the benefits of learning grammar?
✓ When are children taught grammar at school?
✓ What is Bedrock Grammar?
What is grammar?
Grammar is the system of a language – the ‘framework’ that governs how it’s spoken and written and helps it make sense. It’s the glue that holds everything together. Imagine a newspaper article without capital letters, punctuation marks, sentence breaks or spaces between words!
Grammar is a compulsory element of the English component of the National Curriculum, which means students have to understand and be able to use a range of specific grammatical features.
When you hear about ‘good grammar’, it means speaking or writing in a way that follows established guidelines. This includes sentence construction, punctuation and spelling.
When children learn grammar at school, they learn basic terms like noun, adjective and verb that many parents will recall being taught. However, other terms, such as conditional clauses and subordinating conjunctions may be more unfamiliar! Our grammar glossary explains grammar terms from the National Curriculum for English that your child might encounter. However, understanding grammar is more than being able to name parts of a sentence.
Why is grammar important?
Even in a world full of emojis, texting and slang, grammar still matters in many contexts. Learning key grammatical terms helps children write and speak effectively – grammar is a crucial part of helping people to understand you.
Grammatical errors can confuse the meaning of what is being communicated, and this can affect the way someone is understood and perceived. Poor grammar can detract from what someone is trying to convey and, worse, can confuse or even change the meaning of what’s being communicated.
Consider Lynne Truss’ famous illustration of the importance of commas in Eats, Shoots and Leaves. If you wrote, ‘let’s eat, Grandma,’ people would understand you were inviting her to a meal. But if you wrote, ‘let’s eat Grandma,’ you would sound much more sinister!
What are the benefits of learning grammar?
There is a lot of debate about whether children should learn the grammar of standard English in schools. Some people argue that being able to label a ‘fronted adverbial’ isn’t very helpful and we should focus more on creativity and expression. Others contend that teaching what is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of speaking devalues local dialects and privileges students from a certain background.
While the learning of grammar ‘rules’ doesn’t instantly make people better communicators, it can bring an understanding of how language works and help your child be a more reflective, more considered writer and reader. This useful framework can help your child convey exactly what they want to express. It helps with creative writing, persuasive speeches, formal letters – everything!
An understanding of grammar also plays an important role in reading at GCSE, in which students are asked to analyse texts. A secure understanding of the rules of the English language will help them identify and explain the choices writers are making. This could be how they’re using language for impact or maybe even how they’re ‘breaking the rules’ to create certain effects!
With grammar irrefutably still important, it’s easy to see why the National Curriculum attaches such importance to the understanding of grammar, and why a proficiency in it is essential in order to achieve the top grades at GCSE. It’s also a skill that has use beyond school: clear communication is critical at work too.
When are children taught grammar at school?
At Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2) children are introduced to basic spelling, grammar and punctuation (SPAG). The Year 2 SATs include a non-statutory SPAG test that many students complete (view the 2019 paper). During Key Stage 2 (Years 3-6) children learn – and need to show that they can understand and use – more complex grammatical terms. These include passive and modal verbs, and expanded noun phrases. The Year 6 SATs include a SPAG paper that assesses their understanding of how the English language works (view the 2019 paper).
At Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9), students build on their learning from primary school and start to develop their understanding of how language works, in reading, writing and speaking. By GCSEs – Years 10-11, also referred to as Key Stage 4 – lessons start to focus more on experimenting with language, analysing writers’ choices and developing students as writers.
You can familiarise yourself with some of the terms your child will be taught in our parents’ grammar glossary.
What is Bedrock Grammar?
Designed by English teachers, Bedrock Grammar is a learning scheme for students of primary and secondary school age. It’s split into two components: Grammar Foundations and Advanced Grammar.
These comprehensive and adaptive resources focus on improving your child’s understanding of grammatical features and their ability to use them in their own writing. Your child will meet each new feature in the context of original fiction before learning about the new grammatical concepts through our library of engaging video content. Learners then complete activities that help them demonstrate understanding, practise identifying grammatical features and explain their effect: all important skills that are tested from Years 3-11.
Writing is equally important, so scaffolded writing activities encourage learners to put what they’ve learned into practice. A pre-test at the beginning and a post-test at the end of each topic monitors learning and means you can easily track progress.