Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)


Education Specialties

First Advisor

Claire Waterman,

Second Advisor

Ally McDowell


This study examines associations between writing instruction with a focus on explicit sentence syntax and reading comprehension in a sample of students receiving special education services. While the outcome data does not show direct causation between student enrollment in a treatment writing course using Systemic Functional Linguistics and reading scores on state testing, the significant associations between variables imply possibilities for improvements in reading pedagogy. Reading comprehension depends on how accurately readers capture an author’s intended meaning while reading. Current research shows this has less to do with decoding words in a sentence, and more to do with recognizing communicative cues hiding in the syntax of sentences (Kush et al., 2015; Roberts, 2017; Hellbernd & Sammler, 2016). An awareness of how sentence parts correspond to the length and patterns of stressed syllables in words and phrases that appear in sentences helps readers control their voice inflection, allowing them to pause when necessary and regulate the pace of their reading, so that it emulates spoken speech (Buxó-Lugo & Watson, 2016). This is paramount since, as action theories of language suggest, tone of voice conveys intention, and meaning is found in underlying intentions (Hellbernd & Sammler, 2016). When writers learn the grammar behind speech functions, they make more informed choices to affect meaning while increasing their metalinguistic awareness of reading. Therefore, this study examines the reading performance of 75, 6th-grade participants after receiving 16 weeks of writing lessons focusing on the deliberate language choices of writers (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014).