For four years, Pat Paugh, a university teacher educator, and Mary Moran, a teacher researcher, collaborated on action research by systematically studying literacy development connected to the latter’s third-grade community gardening and urban farming curriculum. Their goal was to support an existing classroom culture that valued students’ development of literacy as a social practice for contributing to community and society, while also finding pathways for academic language instruction. Two social theoretical frameworks, Critical Pedagogy of Place (Gruenewald, 2003), and Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday, 1978) helped them bridge what was often dichotomized in the urban district as explicit language instruction vs. student-centered and relevant curriculum. This article illustrates how two aspects of the theory of functional grammar, genre and register, provided linguistic tools that supported Mary’s professional knowledge and her students’ linguistic growth. Together, Mary and her students connected their literacy learning to their involvement in their community.
Keywords: academic language, functional grammar, genre pedagogies, place-based pedagogies, urban classrooms