I’m currently big on Graphic Organisers. It’s the way that graphic organisers make it easier for children to articulate their understanding that I particularly like. But also, it’s the way that a really good graphic organiser lends itself to a multitude of educational requirements. The Freyer model (sometimes called the Freyer diagram) is one such graphic organiser.
It’s that time of the year. You’ve looked at the children’s writing, checked your assessment grids and have established that there are a few gaps in learning.
We’ve all been there. But me saying so, doesn’t necessarily make you feel better. The children need to demonstrate that they can use the desired features and you need to find yet another way for them to do so. It’s not easy.
Not so long ago, I was asked to write a set of teaching materials that teach the key grammatical elements required by the national curriculum. Not, as is often the case, in the form of short stand-alone grammar activities. But by starting with a quality text that exemplifies a National Curriculum objective and culminates with children writing their own authentic text to exemplify their proficiency with the specified aspect of the curriculum.
So how, can Writing Mechanics help you close the writing gaps? Well simply, by allowing you to focus on one specific grammatical element with the confidence that at the end of the teaching sequence, your children will be able to demonstrate their understanding of grammatical features to write authentic texts for specific purposes and audiences. Perfect for this time of the year when you need to close the writing gaps.
To find out more about Writing Mechanics click here.
Rachel Clarke – Director, Primary English Education
Progression in Non-fiction texts
In a rare turn of events, I have rediscovered my long-neglected blog and decided to share my thoughts with those of you even mildly interested in hearing them.
I’ve been busy. I mean really busy. I’ve been working in schools, writing teaching materials and all too often chasing my tail as I try to catch up with myself. I’m not complaining. Having a lot to do is the dream position for those of us who are self-employed. And I’ve loved all the opportunities that have come my way since taking my online sabbatical. But it’s time to get back on the web and start sharing the fruits of my labours. Because I’ve made a thing. And I think it’s a thing a few of you might like. In fact, I think it’s a thing that might prove rather useful in your school.
After a busy week of training staff teams in creative and engaging ways to teach grammar, I thought I’d do a quick round-up of some of my favourite Primary English grammar ideas and resources.
Grappling with Grammar
Back in October 2012 I posted my very first grammar blog Grappling With Grammar and wrote about one of my favourite grammar books: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. I still love this book and I clearly still love the phrase ‘Grappling With Grammar’ as I’ve been using the title for my grammar subject knowledge course ever since. If you’ve not read Eats, Shoots and Leaves I recommend it highly as an entertaining read about grammar.
Dice are one of the most versatile resources to be found in any primary classroom. The roll of a die enables children to take control of their own learning, whilst the element of chance ensures fun and excitement that can’t be found in more formalised approaches to learning. In this short article I look at three ways to use dice to support spelling, grammar and punctuation
It’s definitely worth investing in some commercially produced classroom dice. TTS sell a variety of different dice, including dry-wipe and magnetic. I like the foam ones with PVC pockets which come in ‘giant’ suitable for for class activities and ‘working large’, and ‘regular’ for working at tables and in small groups.
Mark up some dice so that each face shows ‘s’, ’es’ or ‘ies’. Then provide children with a section of root words to be pluralised. Ask them to roll the dice and then choose a root word which is pluralised using the suffix shown on their dice. Children could be encouraged to record their findings in a table so that it is easier to spot the patterns determining how each word is made plural.
In KS1 children are required to use commas to punctuate lists. Once they enter KS2, the 2014 National Curriculum begins to introduce the idea that commas can be used to punctuate other units of grammatical meaning within a sentence. All of a sudden, using commas becomes tricky. Here, we discuss a few ways to ease the pain when teaching how to use commas with clauses.
Use key grammatical terminology
The big problem children have with commas is knowing where to put them! Punctuating lists with commas is fairly straightforward (see our post on commas in lists) but knowing where to use commas to mark where one clause ends and another begins is quite another story. Start at the beginning and ensure that they are able to identify the verb in simple sentences.
I wore my boots.
It was raining.
The cat was sleeping.
The mouse grabbed a snack.
If they’re not able to do this with ease, then once you start asking them to add commas to mark clauses in complex sentences they’re going to get in a punctuation pickle. Our Is it a Sentence? game is good for this, just ensure you reinforce the fact that a simple sentence is a clause, and every clause has to have a verb.
The 2014 National Curriculum asks that children learn to use commas in lists from Y2 onward. This article is a set of tried and tested teacher ideas for introducing and then consolidating the use of commas in lists.
The Standards and Testing Agency’s English grammar, punctuation and spelling test framework sets out that the use of the serial (or Oxford) comma will be penalised in lists of single items. Consequently, when introducing commas in lists you may then want to introduce the idea that ‘ands’ are frightened of commas so will never be seen in a sentence next to one. This won’t stop you and your class from encountering texts where the serial comma is part of the publisher’s house style but it will offer an opportunity to reinforce your own house rule – no commas next to ‘and’ in a list!
The 2014 National Curriculum asks that children learn to use apostrophes for singular possession from Y2 onward and apostrophes for plural possession from Y3 onward. Bearing in mind that apostrophes for contraction are also expected from Y2 onward, and that errors with apostrophes are common-place in the ‘real world’, it is little wonder that children find possessive apostrophes difficult to master. The introduction to Appendix 2 of the 2014 National Curriculum stipulates where content should be introduced but also that it may take considerable time to be embed; nowhere is this more apparent, than with the teaching of possessive apostrophes.
The bone belonging to the dog.
Understanding when an apostrophe for possession is necessary, requires children to understand the notion of possession or ownership. A first step then in understanding possessive apostrophes means that children must be able to identify ‘to whom the object in a sentence belongs’. Provide lots of sentences (with single actors), and ask children to identify to whom the object belongs. e.g.:
The 2014 National Curriculum requires children to start using inverted commas to indicate direct speech from Year 3 onward. This work should then continue throughout Year 4 so that children are able to accurately use the full range of punctuation when writing dialogue. Here are a few quick tips for teaching the use of inverted commas.
Create a speech progression
Writing dialogue correctly with all the punctuation in the right place and a new line for each speaker is challenging, and that’s without the demands of asking children to have interesting, engaging dialogue with a variety of synonyms for ‘said’. The 2014 National Curriculum recognises the challenge of speech, which is why both Y3 and Y4 have objectives relating to speech (see National Curriculum Appendix 2). As a teacher, year group, school have a clear idea about how children will progress through the writing of speech. I like to think:
Identify speech in texts
Write in speech bubbles
Use inverted commas
Use inverted commas and the correct punctuation with the reporting clause before the speech
Use inverted commas and the correct punctuation with the reporting clause after the speech
Use inverted commas and the correct punctuation with the speech broken by the reporting clause
Write dialogue punctuated correctly with a new line for each new speaker
I’ve made a handy classroom prompt for punctuating the three patterns of direct speech which you can find on the Resources Page. This is free to download and is handy if you need to remind yourself where the commas and capitals go in each pattern of direct speech.
The 2014 National Curriculum requires children in Y1 to be able to demarcate sentences with full stops, question marks and exclamation marks. By the end of Y2 children need to be able to use these punctuation marks whilst also recognising the sentence types with which they work: statement, question, exclamation and command. In this article I look at ways to introduce question marks in Y1 and Y2 and also how to reinforce their use throughout KS2.
Create a classroom ‘question display’ with the words why, what, who, where, when etc. on display. Add to this over time with further question words such as ‘how’ and ‘which’, and question phrases (or question stems) such as what is the most…how can I tell…who is the…