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Friday, May 01, 2009

Eleven Plus English

When we look at the some of the written work some bright children do in the writing exercise it is difficult to understand just why the study of syntax and language structure has been out of fashion for so long.

Planning of stories seems to be taught in Year 6 with the SATs approaching. Of course children are taught to plan written work in nearly all the juniors school years – but it does seem that a number of children only learn to apply the principles on planning when they reach Year 6. We some times see beautifully planned work, neatly set out and executed confidently – and think to our selves `lucky children’.

There must be a case for formal teaching of sentences, phrases and punctuation. These are the very bed rock on any written work. The case for learning the names of parts of speech does not seem, at first glance, to be so strong. It is very useful, however, to be able to discuss the embellishment of a sentence if the words in the sentence can be described using the right terms. After all an adjective is an adjective – and not a pronoun.

Converting reported speech into direct speech does have a certain grandeur. Some children really enjoy understanding that direct speech consists of the exact words used by a speaker – and is usually put inside inverted commas. Indirect speech, or reported speech, is often expressed using the past tense. “Come inside children, it is raining!” screamed the teacher can be changed in many ways. Verbs become past tense, pronouns are turned to the third person, and words denoting close proximity are altered to remote locations. Almost all the eleven plus children we have worked with love the `rules’ and the formality of the exercise.

We are always impressed when children are able to use the figures of speech. We had an eleven plus girl in earlier this week who was able to discuss – and use – similies and metaphors. (We sometimes see GCSE children who struggle to remember the difference.)

I recall learning, in Latin, classes about `phrases in apposition’ – and often think of this when using commas in sentences. One of our `A’ level assistants, who helps with teaching the eleven plus children, explained on Tuesday that she was going to do a joint law degree with Spanish and Mandarin. She felt that these two languages would ensure a stellar career. It is reasonably easy to imagine a Spanish lecturer discussing `phrases in apposition’ – but I am not so sure of the Mandarin’s team use of commas.

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