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Book: Language in Action

Chapter: 1. Theory Inspired Best Practices: Elementary Teachers Appropriate SFL Theory to Inform their Practice

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.40626


This chapter reports on the development of writing instruction among teachers who participated for 10 years in a theory-based writing intervention at an urban elementary school with multilingual population. The intervention was grounded on systemic functional linguistics (SFL) and the teaching and learning cycle (TLC). University researchers collaborated with teachers to develop a school-wide writing program with successful impact on teachers and students. Writing genre instruction evolved from focus on discourse structure with teachers exposing students to purpose and stages, to incorporating features of language related to the language metafunctions. The chapter traces the changes in instructional content and pedagogy of two teachers. The data includes classroom observations, teacher interviews, and students’ writing. There are four cycles of data from teachers teaching the same genre over time. The results show how in the early years, the teachers focused on teaching the purpose and stages. Their practices were highly dependent on what was discussed during professional development meetings. As teachers gained more knowledge of the theory and developed confidence in their teaching practices, instruction included testing their own understandings of the theory and increasingly focused on developing field and language, benefiting students’ products.

Chapter Contributors

  • María Estela Brisk ( - mebrisk) 'Boston College'