Want to get ready for grammar teaching next year? Wondering how you can introduce the grammar terminology to children so that it will stick? Want a copy of our new publication Sentence Toolkit for Teachers plus ideas to use in the classroom? Come and join us on the 10th May for our first Sentence Toolkit for Teachers day. This course is offered at a reduced rate so it is on a first come first served basis. Other dates are available.
Because grammar is about improving writing. And passing the test is a by product of good grammar teaching.
Because grammar will be boring for those who have to put up with 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 years of this.
Because grammar should be fun.
Because grammar teaching should take place in context with authentic texts and discussion about the impact.
Because preparation for the test is important but only needs 3 or 4 weeks.
Because if we don’t hold on to what is important in grammar teaching, no one else will.
Whilst I couldn’t agree more with Pie Corbett’s response to the new curriculum and Alan Peat’s letter about the new grammar, punctuation and spelling test, I am a pragmatist and have to deal with the fact that we have the test.
We have been running briefings for schools about the test and as a result of them have devised a few more resources. The first one is an overview of the grammar terminology and when children should be familiar with it. It obviously can not be down to Yr6 to learn and use it all – we need to share that responsibility out across the school. So we have drawn up a chart which details the vocabulary that we think children should be familiar with and able to use in each year group. We do want to make it clear that this is not the first time the children will have come across the term or played around with the idea. For instance children in Yr2 start to play around with complex sentences but they do not need to be able to use that terminology until Yr5. To see the overview click here. There is a downloadable version below the chart.
Linked to each year group are videos that explore the subject knowledge that teachers need to teach each aspect of grammar. These take the form of videos, links to Think Writing and examples of texts which offer the opportunity to teach that aspect of grammar.
Finally we asked Yr6 teachers to go through the test and draw up a list of challenges that children might face. Having done this we then asked them to come up with some strategies that they could use with children to help ensure that they do the best that they can when they sit down to take the test. These ideas are linked in the Yr6 column.
If you have any comments about our grammar pages, please do complete our very short survey (about 3 questions) and enter into the draw to receive a copy of our publications Think Reading and Think Writing.
It is so hard to have examples of a new test but no mark scheme or even any idea of the weighting of the paper. Our work with the new grammar test meant that we needed to examine it in a little more detail, and taking as read that we would rather not test grammar in this way, we do have some points that we would like to make. Sandra has written to Mr Gove with her thoughts. Below is a copy of her letter. We haven’t had a response yet but I am sure we will before the 10 days response time are up.
I understand that further information about the English grammar, punctuation and spelling test will not be released until December 2012 and that further sample questions will be available at that time. Before these are released, I would like to draw your attention to some areas of concern in the illustrative examples published in June 2012.
From the FAQs on the Department for Education’s website I notice that the ‘STA is carrying out a range of activities to ensure that the test is fair for all children’ as part of its duty in meeting the regulatory criteria of minimising bias. I feel strongly that the test should be fair and enable children to demonstrate what they know; it should not cause doubt and confusion. However, I believe there is some doubt over the fairness of the following sample questions.
Sample question 8.
Underline the subordinate clause in each sentence below.
I have no concern about the example given, or the first or third questions, but the second question is of concern. We teach children about subordinate clauses in many different ways: adding further information, noting the conjunction used to add information, noticing that each clause has a verb or verb phrase, considering how the clauses can be manipulated for effect.
In this example, there are three clauses, two of which are subordinate structures.
The twins asked Dad to turn up the heating as it was cold.
nominal clause, filling the direct object slot in the sentence, containing an adverbial clause: as it was cold
While many children will find the conjunction ‘as’ and use this to identify the adverbial clause, others may look for verbs to help them identify the clauses. I cannot speak for other areas, but in Devon many teachers are using the non-finite forms (infinitive, present and past participles) to help children vary sentence construction – even if the term ‘non-finite’ is not used with pupils. Therefore, children will have learnt that the infinitive can introduce a subordinate clause in a complex sentence. Using an example with three clauses will put doubt in their minds about which clause they should underline and may cause anxiety. I am sure that nobody wants that to happen.
Sample question 14
Add a suffix to this word to make an adjective.
There are many suffixes which can be added to words to make adjectives and our language is richer for this ability to transform words from one word class to another. Many children will know that they can change a noun to an adjective through adding, for example, -al, -ish, -ful, but they will also have been taught that they can add –ed and –ing, which, although often used in verbs, can be used in the adjective position to premodify a noun (the frightened child, the giggling toddler). The decision in this question seems to rely on the child not only knowing which suffixes can be used with ‘dread’ to make a real word, but also understanding the word class use and being able to imagine the word in a sentence, in an adjective position, to test it out.
As forms of the word ‘dread’ can be used as a noun (dread), verb (dread, dreads, dreaded, dreading) or adjective (dreadful, dreaded), or indeed adverb (dreadfully), without a context a child may feel that they could add any adjective suffix if it made a real word, e.g. –ing since the word dreading’ would sound right to them. I think it would be fairer for an eleven year old to have some sort of context to support them in their decision and would suggest ‘a dread_____ monster’. This may help them test out that ‘dreadful’ and ‘dreaded’ would make sense, but ‘dreading’ would not.
I am genuinely concerned that children experience as little confusion as possible in this test and hope my comments will be useful for those compiling further sample and actual test questions.
Primary Literacy Adviser
I intend to ask these questions in the next few staff meetings that I am running in schools just to see how adults will answer them. How did you fair with the grammar test?
Title based on a quote from Moliere
If you are working in Yr6 you are probably starting to think about the grammar test that pupils will now have to sit. Whilst it is Yr6 who will have to do the test, the implications are for everyone in school.
We have had a lot of requests for books/resources/practise papers but feel that until we have a bit more detail, we can’t do anything concrete. We know that publishers are selling books that practise grammar tests. However, just because grammar is being tested in a particular way does not mean that it has to be taught in an out of context, name the parts type of way.
So, how can we help?
We have decided to review and develop our grammar pages. For each aspect of grammar that children need to get to grips with, we have included a short video that explains the subject knowledge needed. We have then listed places where we have ideas for teaching the grammar, mainly Think Writing but also some of the more popular books about teaching writing such as Pie Corbett’s. Finally, we have chosem some texts from our texts that teach lists that specifically teach that element of grammar, linked to teaching sequences and some more detailed grammar lessons.
Would this help you? Please let us know via the comments including any suggestions that you have that would make it more useful.
For every work day in Janury we posted a warming up the word game on our Facebook page. One of the things that struck me was how many of the games could end up with children creating poetry out of the game. I do wonder if we should be doing 2 or 3 days of poetry at the start of evey unit to tap into the unused wordhoard that children have and to put words together in unusual ways whatever the text type.
This month we are posting grammar subject knowledge videos, about two a week. These are short videos that explain grammar for teachers and are made up of all the bits of grammar that we talk to teachers about regularly. The videos would be suitable for teachers and those training to be teachers, teaching assistants, one to one tutors and anyone else who supports children in developing their writing. They will be released on Facebook or they can all be seen on our website.
Sandra our resident grammar expert is making the videos using Smart Notebook and the smart recorder. What a powerful tool! We have worked out a series of videos which she is in the middle of making.
The first six are already up on our site, but what we would like to know is which aspects of grammar you would like explained. If you let us know by leaving a comment, we will create a video explaining it.