Grappling with Grammar

This week the Primary English Team has been grappling with grammar. The KS2 GaPS test coming up in summer 2013 has implications for schools, and we have been pondering potential problems with our lovely Subject Leaders at our Autumn Term CPD. Here team member Rachel Clarke waxes lyrical about one of her favourite grammar resources.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

For a while I lived near a garage where each petrol pump was adorned with a sign proclaiming, “Smile your being recorded.” It didn’t stop me filling up my car, but I did have to suppress my inner teacher – resisting the temptation to reach into my ‘school-bag’, take out a marking pen and correct the grammatical error. I know I’m not alone. I have a colleague who is unable to use her local chip shop due to an errant apostrophe in “Fish and Chip’s”. This example of ‘the greengrocer’s apostrophe’ is, unfortunately, common and to thousands of pedantic teachers a huge source of frustration.

If you are the kind of teacher who likes all sentences clearly demarcated with a full-stop and capital letter then ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation’ by Lynne Truss is just the type of book you will adore.

You could be forgiven for thinking that it is a simple rant about poor punctuation, with a bit of superior finger-wagging directed at those who commit grammatical misdemeanours. It isn’t. Lynne Truss writes with a light, humorous tone and shares literary and historical insights into the punctuation that we use.

With the implementation of the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test for Year 6 children this academic year, there is a potential new audience for Lynne Truss’s book – teachers who lack confidence with punctuation and grammar.

If you consider yourself grammatically challenged, then this book should be treated as a personal tutorial in improving your dots, stops and dashes. There are seven short chapters, and in each Truss provides a background to the evolution and use of punctuation marks using examples from literature, shop-signs and advertising posters, with the aim of showing how poor punctuation changes the intended meaning. For the less-confident grammarian, it is these examples that provide the tuition that many teachers would find supportive.

So, where did the book get its name?

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

I’m a panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Rachel Clarke,  Director: Primary English Education Consultancy Limited

Lynne Truss’s illustrated books for children:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves For Children: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference

The Girls Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes!

Twenty-odd Ducks: Why Every Punctuation Mark Counts!

We have a further post about grammar here.

We recommend more resource books for teachers on our Pinterest BoardsDo take a look at our previous blog Looking for a big resource in a small book? for further ideas.

Originally published on 19th October, 2012

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