Casting my mind back to the 1980s, I have been trying to remember how I was taught grammar and punctuation at school. Learning by rote, times tables and Bond papers all featured but I can’t recall being taught: how, why and when to use grammar and punctuation.
From memory, exciting times in primary school consisted of: playing middle C once every 12 bars in school orchestra; careering down an icy slope on a dustbin lid at the school field (a highlight); and finally ‘getting my turn’ on the brand new Acorn school computer.
Thankfully times have changed since then; with great interest I have watched the rise to prominence of grammar and punctuation in primary schools. With gaps in my own education I decided to try and get involved. Knowledge is power! Bearing this in mind I became involved with technical review panels for the Department for Education. Being part of the test development process allowed me to fine tune my own knowledge whilst helping to ensure that the test was fair for all children.
For those pupils who love English it is often the opportunity to be creative that is most appealing. Many fear that too much time spent on the technicalities of English may impinge on creativity. Yet it is writing which flows and builds confidently that can really engage a reader. So with that in mind – how do we help children to write, with structure, without stifling their creativity?
Covering different genres and exploring the language of text is an area of English which is embedded in the teaching of primary practitioners across the land. Have we been quite as thorough with the teaching of grammar and punctuation? Equipping pupils with an understanding of grammar terms and the importance of tight sentence structure will benefit them greatly as they move through school, university and then into the world of work.
Young people face a number of challenges which we didn’t – a never ending recession coupled with rising tuition fees and a saturated job market. Therefore, it is vital that they are equipped with the skills which will make them the very best they can be at:
These examples rely heavily on an excellent understanding of grammar and punctuation. Passion and creative ideas are vital yet without an understanding of how to structure these thoughts, finding your dream job may prove impossible.
Helping young people to fine tune their skills at primary level is so important. As teachers, we can equip them with life skills, enabling them to write with intelligence and precision.
For me, the technical aspects of English have become more appealing with age: from analysing a text to manipulating my use of the subordinate clause. My main aim over the past year has been how best to incorporate more rigorous teaching of grammar and punctuation whilst embracing creativity.
It is our duty to guide, help and develop young people as writers. This can only be done by teaching grammar and punctuation.