Session 134 – What are your tips for teaching and improving spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) across the key stages?


Session Title: What are your tips for teaching and improving spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) across the key stages?
Date: Thursday 17th January 2013

Summary of the Session:
Firstly, I must tell you that I had a keen interesting in this topic as I am a Year 5/6 teacher who is facing the prospect of sending my Year Six children on to the SATs battlefield when the lay of the land is shifting benign their feet. But I was also keen for this discussion to be open to educators who teach all ages and I attempted to avoid blatant KS2 questions… attempted…
The discussion began by looking back to contributors’ experience of how spelling punctuation and grammar were taught during their own education. It would seem that the more mature members of the gathering experienced some form of grammar and punctuation lessons while the majority of younger participants of UKedchat seemed to only have direct lessons on grammar as part of their foreign language acquisition. When did this change occur and why did it happen?
The discussion continued with the positives, if any, of the SPAG test being introduced to the KS2 SATs. It seemed that everyone universally condemned the move, but some UKedchatter felt that an increased focus on how language is put together is a welcome by-product.
The conversation moved on to good examples of SPAG teaching from both the teacher and the chatter’s own pupil prospective. There were some good ideas and it is interesting to note that many grammar lessons from yesteryear are so vividly recalled even now.
The question was posed whether good grammar, spelling and punctuation is necessary in the digital age. There was a resounding ‘yes’, but with the caveat that it is necessary to do well in life and to progress to the higher echelon of schooling, study and prosper in a career.
There was a short, but fascinating discussion about what makes ‘correct’ English and whether this depends on if it is written or spoken. Most chatters agreed that context and audience play an important role in the use of language.
The discussion turned toward when grammar should be taught. Answers ranged from never to when the baby is still in the womb. While I have no doubt that the Department for Education is working of a skills audit for the unborn, most participants opted for early in a child’s formal schooling, but it should be taught in a indirect, creative and fun way.
The remaining 30 minutes were spent swapping various lesson ideas, resources and pointing out each other’s bad SPAG examples in our tweets. UKedchatter use all sorts of wonderful creative techniques which you can view in the archive.
Language is about communication. Errors and mistakes make it harder to interpret what someone is trying to tell us and the meaning can be confused or lost completely. Clarity breeds understanding and we are all dotted somewhere along the murky spectrum of coherence. It is our job to raise our students above the mist of ambiguity… But would it really hurt them to use full stops correctly?!

Notable Tweets
mrpeel: #ukedchat contentious comment 2: treat English like any other MFL and do not tolerate grammatical errors-only saving probs for KS5 if we do.
GeorgeEBlack: #ukedchat I teach English Language A level and even 17 year olds have a fear of the big bad word GRAMMAR, which is a shame when 3 year olds appear to do it innately
ChrisChivers2: #ukedchat How did a 20th century child learn to speak, read and write before rigorous testing supported their development?
davidErogers: I think that we should introduce a literacy test for all trainee teachers. Oh, hang on….. #ukedchat
dianatremayne: #ukedchat I teach in #FE but think that #EAL pupils in school may be a great way to increase understanding of grammar for all students
LearningSpy: @davidErogers More important: writing needs to be valued (read) and clear success criteria given #ukedchat
mberry: @TinyAcorns Strohen Pinkers The Language Instinct is good on universal grammar too #ukedchat @educ_job_please
benniekara: #ukedchat it’s amazing how many you can find! Punctuation jokes ahoy!
MrsPTeach: I learned most of my complex English grammar by learning Latin and German #ukedchat
LearningSpy: Some tips for getting students to value writing #ukedchat
RMatthews_PriEd: @ICTmagic when writing chn use a diff colour pen to start a new sentence- makes them think about when sents end/start. Effective. #ukedchat
Educ_job_please: @PascalDresse @ICTmagic Not so sure. I think children see English and text as two different languages #ukedchat
mrlockyer: #ukedchat Use odd/funny examples of bad practice, and apply the #punctuationrepairkit
whatsinaname10: #ukedchat Provide examples of good grammar in writing.  Handouts, modelling on the board, group writing with one pupil adding punctuation…
tim7168: I find overt teaching of grammar to be thankless & tedious. Much better to rely on models & improving existing writing. #ukedchat
unseenflirt: @ICTmagic Grammar/ punctuation CAN be taught in isolation, but it’s kind of like teaching swimming on dry land. Immersion is key. #ukedchat

Tweet of the Week
mrlockyer: #ukedchat Occasionally after a writing task, we peer improve. All in a circle, improve 1 thing/word/idea, pass book to left. Works well!

About Your Host
Martin Burrett (@ICTmagic) is a Year 5/6 teacher at Mersea Island School in Essex and is an advocate for using digital technology to improve teaching and learning in schools. He founded the ICTmagic educational resource website and is a co-administrator for UKedchat.

UKedchat Archive session 134


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