I had my thoughts before the test came out today, I thought: this is going to be easy, we’ll nail this. I thought: What a horrendous amount of time, money and energy to be spent on what is ultimately a guessing game – it could have been written in Spanish and the children would have still scored decent points just from ticking boxes. I thought: Is this really helping our children to improve their writing?
Admittedly, they all sound fairly negative thoughts. Grammar is important! Nothing frustrates me more than seeing signs for ladie’s clothes and garages offering MOT,s – on Sunday’s too! So, yes, grammar is important. But what exactly is it that’s important? Knowing an abstract noun from a common one? Knowing the difference between a phrase and a clause or where to use inverted commas (which, I was always led to believe were ‘single’ marks not “doubles”…)
More important than knowing these things is understanding these things. Having the ability to use them in writing, to use punctuation and sentence order to make writing more playful, more exciting is key. When we first sat the practice paper a few months ago, my group all scored very highly. Much higher than I at first anticipated. Then came a question asking the children to punctuate two simple sentences with capital letters and full stops. They failed! They could not do it. All our work on subordination and dashes and the use of commas to embed a clause/phrase had not worked. They weren’t able to punctuate a sentence with the most basic of marks. Why? Because this was application and not knowledge. Not box-ticking.
Our year sixes sat their grammar test today and, although I never really looked (I never look at a paper once they’ve finished it – no point), I could tell they were buoyant about it, they felt positive. A small selection of children sat the level six paper in the afternoon and, dare I say it, enjoyed the grammar test. It is a very mechanical process, almost mathematical one of them said. The additional task to prove if they could apply it however, was one of the most boring and 2-dimensional pieces I’ve seen for some years. It gave no scope or range for them to be able to show flair and creativity. A real shame.
The upshot of all this… my views are that many children up and down the country will score highly, they’ll prove that learning grammar as knowledge is not a bad thing – tick for Gove. ‘Ooh, you see, it’s not so bad; let’s have it every year.’ The spag test this year doesn’t count to the overall English level, just RAISEonline. I think next year, it will.
Don’t get too excited, but here is a piece of homework I set my group today. We have three groups and are focusing on some of the more tricky and intricate aspects of grammar so we can then feed it into our writing during the week.
Using the grammar in our writing is far more important than circling nouns and ticking verbs.
Feel free to use/abuse/tweak.
More to follow.
If you like it, please share or leave a comment. 🙂
A little late in coming but I’ve been busy with projects – some new, some recycled.
The mini-enterprise project. Working with year sixes on aspects of running a mini-business. They have to work in teams, partners and individually to work through a series of tasks (like the Apprentice but without the firing). This has worked really well in all the years I’ve ran it and gives the children a chance to showcase skills they might not always get to use in the classroom. We always finish with an interview, where each one of them has to have an individual chat with two professionals: sometimes local business people, sometimes teachers loaned from other school, sometimes governors. This is a brilliant ending to the project and gives them an opportunity to grow in confidence, perfect before our summer performance. I also take them to Frankie & Benny’s as their treat.
Summer performance. End-of-year shows/productions/performances are an integral part of any year six and a sort of reward after the hard work and slog through the cold start of the year in preparation for SATs. In previous years, we have put on Shakespeare 4 Kidz versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth (scroll down to see all posts on the link)- challenging indeed. When I tell people we are doing Shakespeare, they look at us in amazement and raise their eyebrows in disbelief/respect/prospect of exhaustion? This summer I am toying with either The Tempest or Romeo & Juliet – we will see.
Grammar Test. The lovingly-named #spagtest is coming this May and, after seeing the sample tests, have had a mild panic. It was going to be hard work ensuring our sixes achieved the levels they needed in maths and writing and now they have to sit this beastly, boring test too. I know they should know what’s in there, that’s no excuse, but it just seems so intense. I will be posting some of the resources I make on here, soon.
Chrome Books. So, after seeing a tweet stating that they were getting a load of Chrome Books on trial, I jumped on that digital bandwagon and our shipment are expected soon. I will be posting about what we get up to when they arrive. Am pretty excited, just hope our WiFi can cope with it.
Investors In Pupils. Our PSHE lead and learning mentor are working towards the IIP standard and as part of it, we are doing several different things, such as: children writing their own non-curriculum targets (I can tie my shoelaces, I will tidy my room once a week, I will bake my teacher a delicious cake etc); sharing what the school budget is for and how it works and giving them a class budget; instead of class rules, we have rights & responsibilities – works well; I also introduced jobs, nothing new, but if the children want to do a school-based job: tidying book shelves, toy monitor, audio-visual team, hall monitors, they have to apply for it. Application Form. We are just starting out on this but know that no school in Derby has the standard yet. Exciting.
ICT revamp. My biggest job this year has to be the complete overhaul of the ICT curriculum. I have burnt the QCA folder and scattered the ashes so am in mid-completion of the long term plan for ICT across KS2. I want it to incorporate the new skills that children have and make it relevant and engaging. I have used @ianaddison’sictplanning.co.uk to help with this.
E-safety. Alongside the new ICT curriculum, I wanted to make children and parents aware of how important e-safety is. I am running a couple of events this year and am hoping that it is something that will have a real impact on all.
#batttuk. I am working alongside my not-so-twin-like wingman @mrlockyer on a project called battt – basically, we are aiming to get more teachers involved in twitter (bring a teacher to twitter), we know how useful twitter is and want other teachers to reap the benefits of the digital staffroom. We are presenting at the teachmeet following Bett 2013.
There is a load of other stuff, but this will do… for now.