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The aim of this study is to argue that the essays of students from secondary education can deserve a reading different from the one customarily made, supported by normative grammar. It includes teachers’ understanding that, to start with, the student’s text is a timely and possible expression of an individual who, through language (Bakhtin, 1979), is in an evident process of formation of his conscience as a citizen, whose greatest prerrogative is to be the owner of his destination. This reading can be done by multiple paths: the argument latent in words (Koch, 2002; Abreu Suarez, 2000) or in the instantiation by which they occur along with others. I highlight here the choice of verbs, by which processes are created, allowing growth of line of argument (Halliday AND Matthiessen, 2004), within principles of coherence and cohesion, and also promoters of argumentativity in plots that the text is working out (Koch, 2005; Favero, 2006). My corpus consists of my students’ essays, from a public school in Baixada Fluminense, who answered the question / theme posed by me: Is the favela a place of bandits? Based on functional-systemic linguistics, I analyze the texts in a non-grammaticalized way ( grammar in the traditional sense), in which the text stands on its functionalism, as an entity that validates its exterior, its semantics, context and resulting argumentative phraseology. This analysis indicates that some texts are more elaborate than others: some achieve greater cohesion than others, which present disconnected sentences. This itself deserves a discussion because they were produced by students who are about to graduate as elementary school teachers. I problematize the context of secondary education of public school, presented by some commentators and also by statistical data for measuring progress or setbacks in its development. I conclude by reaffirming the role of the Portuguese language teacher. If he/she deals with students’ essays as more than just a curricular activity, he/she can be the main agent of students’ identity
awareness-raising process. He/she can help them see that they are a voice to be unquestionably firmed.