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

Language in Action - SFL Theory across Contexts - María Estela Brisk

María Estela Brisk [+-]
Boston College
Maria Estela Brisk is Professor of Education at Boston College. Her research and teaching address writing instruction, genre pedagogy, bilingual education, bilingual language and literacy acquisition, and preparation of mainstream teachers to work with bilingual learners. She is the author of numerous articles and six books: Bilingual Education: From Compensatory to Quality Schooling; Literacy and Bilingualism: A Handbook for ALL Teachers; Situational Context of Education: A Window into the World of Bilingual Learners; Language Development and Education: Children with Varying Language Experiences (with P. Menyuk); Language, culture, and community in teacher education; and Engaging Students in Academic Literacies: Genre-based Pedagogy for K-5 Classrooms. Professor Brisk is a native of Argentina.


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.

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Estela Brisk, María. 1. Theory Inspired Best Practices: Elementary Teachers Appropriate SFL Theory to Inform their Practice. Language in Action - SFL Theory across Contexts. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Jun 2021. ISBN 9781800500044. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=40626. Date accessed: 14 Apr 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.40626. Jun 2021

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