The Role of Grammar in Developing EFL Freshman Students' Writing Skills

EFL Freshman students at the College of Languages and Translation are required to take a writing course (4 hours per week) in addition to a grammar course (2 hours). The aim of the present study was to find out whether grammar instruction had an impact on the development of freshman students' writing ability. For this purpose, two groups of freshman students participated in the study. The experimental group received a combination of writing and grammar instruction, whereas the control group received writing instruction only. Both groups were taught (writing and/or grammar) by the author. Before instruction, pretest scores showed a significant difference between the experimental and control groups in writing ability. The control group outperformed the experimental group. Then, both groups received the same writing instruction using the same textbook. The book consists of 12 chapters, each of which has a theme and is divided into the following parts: Exploring ideas, building vocabulary, organizing ideas, developing cohesion and style, some grammatical points, writing the first draft, editing practice, writing the second draft and journal writing. Students in both groups completed all of the skills, exercises and writing tasks in each chapter and wrote the same one-paragraph essays. In addition, the experimental group studied the following grammatical structures: Parts of speech, prepositions, prepositional phrases, transitive and intransitive verbs, linking verbs, regular and irregular verbs, adverb placement, information, tag, negative and yes-no questions, negatives, regular and irregular plurals, count and non-count nouns, use of definite and indefinite articles, pronouns, subject-verb agreement, 8 tenses, modals, infinitives and gerunds and relative clauses, pronunciation of –ed, -s and -es at the end of verbs and nouns, spelling of –ing, -ed, -es. Posttest scores showed that the experimental group made higher gains than the control group. Using a combination of writing and grammar instruction by the same instructor was significantly more effective than receiving writing instruction only. Grammar instruction proved to be an important factor in enhancing the writing quality of unskilled, low ability EFL students and resulted in a significant improvement in their post-test (achievement test) scores.

Prof. Reima Al-jarf
King Saud University
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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