UKLA Student Conference: Getting to Grips with Grammar

Our first UKLA Student Conference is focused on the knowledge and application of grammar across the primary phase.

This course will complement the sessions you are receiving through your teacher education course as well as the practice you are experiencing in school. The conference is also suitable for qualified teachers who wish to refresh their knowledge of grammar for the classroom.

Through the day there will be interactive sessions from:

  • Debra Myhill (Professor of Education at the University of Exeter) Establishing  Character and Setting in Narrative with Noun Phrases
  • Bas Aarts (Professor of English Linguistics and Director of the Survey of English Usage at UCL) Celebrating grammar: forget about the politics
  • David Reedy (Past President and former General Secretary of the United Kingdom Literacy Association ) Practical Approaches to Teaching Grammar in Context
  • Ian Cushing (Lecturer in Education at Brunel University) Standards, stigma and surveillance: raciolinguistic ideologies in the classroom

Saturday 6 November 2021 – 10am-3:30pm

Ticket prices:

-UKLA Member £5

-Non-UKLA Member £10

Click here to book your place

Presenter Bios & Session Information

Debra Myhill


Debra Myhill: University of Exeter

Debra Myhill is Professor of Education at the University of Exeter, and Director of the Centre for Research in Writing.  Her research interests focus principally on aspects of language and literacy teaching, particularly linguistic and metalinguistic aspects of writing, and the composing processes involved in writing.  In 2014, her research team was awarded the Economic and Social Research Council award for Outstanding Impact in Society. Over the past twenty years, she has led a series of research projects in these areas, in both primary and secondary schools, and has been involved in commissioned research or advisory roles for policy-makers and examination boards


Establishing  Character and Setting in Narrative with Noun Phrases


This session will be a combination of presentation and workshop activities exploring the  explicit teaching of grammar where a genuine connection is made between a grammatical form and its rhetorical or communicative effect in writing.  Drawing on multiple research studies in both primary and secondary schools, the session will focus on narrative writing and how to support young writers in understanding how to establish character and setting through thoughtful and appropriate description carried in noun phrases.  Alongside practical activities which encourage exploration of noun phrases in narrative, the session will also develop subject knowledge of the structure of the noun phrase.

Bas Aarts


Bas Aarts is Professor of English Linguistics and Director of the Survey of English Usage at UCL. His publications include: Syntactic gradience (2007, OUP), Oxford modern English grammar (2011, OUP), The English verb phrase (edited with J. Close, G. Leech and S. Wallis; 2013, CUP), Oxford dictionary of English grammar (edited with S. Chalker and E. Weiner, 2nd edition; 2014, OUP), How to teach grammar (with I. Cushing and R. Hudson; 2019), the Oxford handbook of English grammar (edited with J. Bowie and G. Popova; 2020, OUP), as well as book chapters and articles in journals. He is a founding editor of the journal English Language and Linguistics (CUP).


Celebrating grammar: forget about the politics


Since the introduction of the new National Curriculum some years ago there have been a number of powerful voices arguing against the teaching of grammar in schools. The arguments usually centre on politics. In my talk I will argue in favour of the teaching of grammar in schools. And while politics have certainly played a part in the debates on grammar teaching, I would like to keep away from the politics and make a case for the inherent value of knowledge of language in general, and grammar teaching in particular. Let’s celebrate and embrace grammar for what it is: a fascinating area of linguistics that appeals to a broad range of age groups, provided that it is taught well using up-to-date and age-appropriate resources  such as the Englicious platform (, created and developed at UCL especially for teachers.

David Reedy


David Reedy is a past President and former General Secretary of the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA). Until 2014 he was Principal Adviser for primary schools in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham as well as Co-Director of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust (CPRT). In 2019 David was elected a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching. His most recent publications are Talk for Teaching and Learning: The Dialogic Classroom (2021), Teaching Primary English: Subject Knowledge and Classroom Practice (2018), Teaching Grammar Effectively in Primary Schools 2nd ed (2020), all co-written with Eve Bearne, and Guiding Reading – A Handbook for Teaching Guided Reading at KS2 (2016) with Wayne Tennent, Angela Hobsbaum and Nikki Gamble.

David has worked at all levels in education, from Primary School class teacher to carrying out The Independent Review of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments at Primary 1  for the Scottish Government in 2019, and continues to work with schools nationally and internationally to develop evidence informed classroom practice.


Practical Approaches to Teaching Grammar in Context


This session will focus on practical activities designed to help young writers make effective choices in the texts they compose. Underpinned by the research findings outlined by Professor Myhill in the first session, David will focus on examples of creative grammar teaching at word, phrase, clause, and sentence levels.

Ian Cushing


Dr Ian Cushing is a Lecturer in Education at Brunel University London. His research challenges the racialised surveillance, stigma and punishment of language practices typically deemed ‘inappropriate’ for school, such as nonstandardised English. His most recent project, funded by a grant from the UK Literacy Association and in collaboration with practicing teachers and illustrators, is examining how children’s literature might be used as an entry point for facilitating critical conversations around language racism and raciolinguistic ideologies in schools. He edited a recent special issue for English in Education on the politics of grammar in schools, and his work has appeared in journals such as Language Policy, British Educational Research Journal and Language in Society.


Standards, stigma and surveillance: raciolinguistic ideologies in the classroom


Concepts such as ‘Standard English’, ‘appropriate language’, and ‘correct grammar’ are colonial and social constructs built by and based on the language patterns of the white bourgeoisie. Whilst ideologies of ‘standards’, ‘appropriateness’ and ‘correctness’ have long been a feature of educational policy in England, this session offers a contemporary critique through a raciolinguistic perspective. This perspective turns attention towards the listening practices of white authorities and policies, exposing how the language practices of racialised speakers come to be heard as deficient, lacking, deviant, and unsuitable for school. I draw on a cluster of data to do so, including policy and political discourse, teacher interviews, pedagogical materials, historical and contemporary Ofsted reports, grammar tests and workshops with young people.

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