View Chapters

Book: Language in Action

Chapter: 2. The Role of Meaningful Sentence-level Metalanguage: Insights from Children’s Thinking with Functional Grammar

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.40627


Children learning English as they learn school subjects need opportunities to consider how language means as they engage in reading challenging texts. For that purpose, a functional metalanguage can help focus their attention and support comprehension as it also raises their language awareness. In this chapter we report on the ways the Systemic Functional Linguistics metalanguage of Process, Participant, Circumstance, Connector functioned in a fourth-grade classroom in a project that supported teachers in engaging children who were learning English as an additional language in talk about texts. We situated work with the metalanguage in instructional contexts to help teachers achieve curricular goals, making the theory and its tools useful to and usable by teachers. Here we report on the ways the teacher used the metalanguage to engage students in talk about language to construct meaning as they read together. We then report on think-alouds with challenging text and interviews that engaged children from the classroom in deconstructing sentences and sharing their perspectives on the ways functional grammar metalanguage can support them in reading with greater understanding.

Chapter Contributors

  • Mary Schleppegrell ( - mchleppegrell) 'University of Michigan'
  • Carrie Symons ( - csymons) 'Michigan State University'