Tuesday 24 May 2016

How to engage an audience? Good conjunctions and suffixes. [Irony alert]

A comment on my Facebook page:

"I observed one of our students teaching a lesson this morning. It was a Year 2 class [6/7 year olds] and the children were asked to write a description of a particular scene they'd been given as a picture. The student asked them what they needed in a descriptive piece of writing to engage the audience. The answers they gave made me feel quite sad... good noun phrases, conjunctions and proper use of a suffix. "

On a technical point here: the reason why this sort of thing is possible is because what the government call 'grammar' is in fact a way of talking about language that leaves out how we use words to mean things in all our social interactions (what I keep calling things like 'full meaning' and 'social function'). The more you narrow down the terminology to what are supposedly pure descriptions of the 'system' of language, the less you engage with what words, phrases, clauses, paragraphs, chapters, books do - and indeed the more you overlook speech, where what we say deviates so much from the neat little packaged systems of 'sentence grammar'.

So, in the above comment, the teacher is asking the children about social function - how to engage an audience. They reply with 'system grammar' as if knowing system grammar engages an audience. That's what SPaG does. It lies about how to be effective.