Friday, 5 April 2013

What could a fair and useful punctuation and grammar lesson look like?

People have said to me, how would you teach grammar? Professor Debra Myhill has been doing some research on new or alternative ways of teaching grammar and these can be found in NATE journals.

However, there's nothing to stop you both teaching it and researching it yourselves.

Here's something that you can set up.

1. Get two or three children in Year 5 or 6 to record themselves talking about an interesting or 'challenging' picture book, eg any Anthony Browne book, one by Neil Gaiman, anything by Shaun Tan, Oliver Jeffers, Armin Greder, David Wiesner, Graham Baker-Smith, Jeannie Baker.

2. Don't intervene in the conversation, just ask them to look at the book, read it and talk about it.

3. Transcribe the conversation, as if it's a play. Try to include all the 'ers' and 'ums', all the interruptions and when they're talking at the same time. Try to capture everything they say. Don't 'correct' anything.

4. Find a piece of dialogue in a novel, and a piece of continuous prose from anywhere - newspaper, book or wherever.

5. Now take three shortish extracts: a)transcript of the children's conversation b) the dialogue from the fiction and c) the continuous prose. Photocopy enough copies for all the children to have copies.

6. Get the children into groups of two or three - no bigger  - and ask them to compare and contrast what they're looking at. At first, do this without any questions or topics for them to look at.

7. Do a plenary gathering up their responses. See what are their first responses, what have they focussed on?

8. Say that one of the things you're interested in finding out about is 'punctuation'. Say that they are 'detectives' and it's their job to find differences and similarities between the three passages. They don't have to write these out, they can circle them on the copies you've given them.

9. Plenary - share these. Talk about them.

10. Back in groups, ask them to come up with reasons why there are differences.

11. Plenary - share these. Talk about them.

12. Say that you're also going to look at 'sentences'. Are there different ways in which the sentences are made?

13 Back into groups to talk about: How are they different ? Write it on the copies.

14. Plenary share these, talk about them.

15. In a staff meeting or group meeting, share what you've done and see what else you could do? discuss what 'interventions' you could make to improve what you've done, or to 'teach' more specific aspects of sentences, and what is or isn't 'appropriate' in different kinds of writing.