Document Type

Student Research Paper


Spring 2020

Academic Department


Faculty Advisor(s)

Kathryn Caprino


Sentence diagramming, a dated form of instruction used in grammar classes beginning in the late 1800s, involves drawing lines and shapes to represent the grammatical structure of language. Wildly popular before the 1960s, the practice has since been eliminated from the national English/Language Arts standards due to its isolation from composition instruction. Haussamen (2003) reports that grammar instruction, such as sentence diagramming, completely separate from composition instruction, has no effect on students’ writing skills. Despite the history of sentence diagramming, there are a very recent few sparks of interest in sentence diagramming in education across the United States (Wilson, 2017). This study examined how effectively sentence diagramming instruction, alongside composition rather than as an independent unit of instruction, can improve middle level students’ writing. In a mixed methods research study, an eighth grade learner was instructed in sentence diagramming in order to analyze her own writing and professional writing. Conclusions from this study find that sentence diagramming has the potential to improve a writer’s clarity and comma usage. However, more classroom-oriented instruction is needed to examine the effects of sentence diagramming on the composition of all types of learners.


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