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To question the way English is taught/learnt in primary schools?

(97 Posts)
Blowfishmalibu Wed 13-May-20 11:32:57

I've been homeschooling my DC - years 3 and 4 - and going through the worksheets sent by school. So far, the maths/topic work is generally engaging, fun and seems to be conveyed in the most interesting way possible (considering homeschool limitations).

On the other hand the English/SPAG is really dull and formulaic, and often seems to make little sense to the children! Often long grammatical concepts, lots of re-writing texts. I think it's a shame that things that could be picked up naturally through a love of reading/writing are drilled in this narrow way.

I'm not blaming the teachers for this in any way - I'm aware it's the national curriculum that must be followed, but AIBU to think that this curriculum could be (much) more creative and stimulating?

OP’s posts: |
lemonsandlimes123 Wed 13-May-20 11:37:04

It's absolutely bloody awful!

tiredanddangerous Wed 13-May-20 11:42:43

It’s dire. Unfortunately it doesn’t improve when they get to secondary.

minettechatouette Wed 13-May-20 11:42:53

I don’t agree. I was in primary school in the 90s, so a time when there was not much effort at all to teach formal grammatical concepts. However, I did Latin in secondary school from age 11 - this involves very formal grammatical analysis and rote learning. Honestly, I find that the ability to formally analyse language has been so useful to me throughout my life. It absolutely makes me a better writer and thinker. I wouldn’t have had this if it weren’t for Latin. So I am in favour of giving this to children, even though it seems a bit dull and pointless at the time, and even though it is difficult.

Coffeeandteach Wed 13-May-20 11:46:05

Usually at school (or at least the schools I have taught at) they are taught through a book/interesting hook. Much more natural- just like you suggested. It's more difficult to do that online as not all children will have access to quality texts/resources at home. Does the school teach this way normally?

The curriculum needs to be taught but a school can choose how it wants to teach a concept. They can make it as fun and creative as they like, and I think most schools do try to do this to engage students.

PleasePassTheCoffeeThanks Wed 13-May-20 11:48:58

I disagree, mine are Y1 and I find the maths boring and repetitive, whereas English is more engaging.
I guess it depends on a) the teacher/school.
Possibly it also depends on the DC's abilities: mine are good at maths and maybe a less able student wouldn't find it boring. The are not that good at English, maybe others find the English too easy and boring...

milveycrohn Wed 13-May-20 12:00:16

This is very interesting.
I was at school in the 60s and like a lot of people from my generation, assumed we were taught English properly. After all, I know what a noun and a verb is, etc
It's just the modern generation that are not taught English isn't it?
Then I did Latin aged 50+ with the Open University. What an eye opener!
To understand Latin, I first had to understand the English grammar, and learn cases, etc.
Suddenly, a lot of English now made sense, and also, explained why I struggled at French, when at school. The French teacher would talk about the past participle, and the perfect tense, and I hadn't a clue what she was talking about.
So, I do think that English should be taught properly in schools.
I think this is important to a) express themselves properly, and b) will help in learning another (probably western) language.
Obviously, HOW it is taught is another matter.

Saoirse7 Wed 13-May-20 12:07:06

The English Literacy curriculum is truly awful. It does not allow you to teach for enjoyment. I feel so sorry for kids having to learn all the crap like fronted adverbial. It serves no purpose at all and IME sucks all creativity out of children.

We don't focus on that where I teach, if I'm being honest I am not sure of many of the terms used. We focus on the main word groups, noun/pronoun/verb/adverb/adjective etc. Sentence structure and syntax does not require all the jargon and sentence parsing. Don't get me started on the phonics.

Blame Michael Gove and a Tory government for ridiculous directives and guidance as well as over testing resulting in almost decimating applicable and transferrable skills in kids. They are trying to churn out little standardised robots.

LellyMcKelly Wed 13-May-20 12:12:21

English in secondary schools is dreadful. It has managed to drain away any desire in my DD to read for pleasure. The curriculum hasn’t moved on since I was a pupil 35 years ago - you’d think nothing new has been written in hundreds of years.

thecatsthecats Wed 13-May-20 12:12:23

There are pros and cons to the grammatical way of teaching.

It makes acquiring another language very much easier, for one.

I have busked my way through my English skills, even as a very high achiever at A Level, because a high degree of technical skill was simply never expected me, and I can mimic good grammar and language skills with about 95% accuracy. You wouldn't know I was never taught about arsing fronted adverbials if I mostly use them correctly.

There's also a HUGE importance in linguistic fluency that is missed by some grammararians. I know a few language Nazis who are fanatically precise about their use of language but who are nonetheless woefully poor communicators. My number one rule is that unless you're exercising deliberate linguistic trickery, if you rely upon a precise understanding of grammar to understand a sentence correctly, then it needs chucking in the bin and starting again!

Saoirse7 Wed 13-May-20 12:15:19

Don't get me wrong, there is a place for teaching and learning the grammatical make up of sentences, however, there is no need to teach it to the degree it is being taught at present.

Cakecrumbsinmybra Wed 13-May-20 12:24:01

It's awful. So dull and repetitive. DS1 has a great memory and so knows all the grammatical stuff by heart, but was utterly sick of it. I'm not pushing it onto DS2. Personally, I think grammar is important, as is being articulate and being able to spell well. But we achieve that through loads of reading and project based working rather than the endless SPAG worksheets.

SarahAndQuack Wed 13-May-20 12:38:11

Yes, it really annoys me - especially the way grammar is taught. There is absolutely no need for a child to know what a fronted adverbial is.

minettechatouette Wed 13-May-20 12:56:46

A fronted adverbial phrase seems to me like a good example of something that the average ks2 child will be able to grasp conceptually once it’s explained to them but which they would be highly unlikely to be able to explain without being given the language and intellectual tools to do so. I don’t see the issue with this being taught.

Also imho there’s no excuse with a primary school teacher not bothering to learn all the terms that they are supposed to be teaching. Of course you can’t teach it effectively if you haven’t made the effort to understand it yourself!

helterskelter3 Wed 13-May-20 12:58:42

It’s worthwhile reading all the Gove/Cameron speeches about curriculum/education. You’ll see where it comes from. You can decide then whether you think it’s the right approach.

minettechatouette Wed 13-May-20 13:01:46

@helterskelter3 do you have a link? I’m not sure you have to be a Tory to think formal teaching of grammar is important. Michael Gove didn’t invent the subjunctive!

FourTeaFallOut Wed 13-May-20 13:04:31

I had a bunch of hippy teachers who just let us read and regarded technical issues like spelling and grammar as a soul robbing inconvenience. I had a lot of fun but it was tough catching up.

I'm also stridently anti-phonics: it's a soul-destroying method of teaching literacy and it's ineffective.

AnduinsGirl Wed 13-May-20 13:07:48

Has this really turned into a Tory bashing thread already? How tediously predictable. I'm with @minettechatouette and was never taught formal grammar in primary school. However my Latin lessons were very logical and formulaic...and enjoyable!
OP, please don't assume that your child sits through lesson after lesson of grammar. Most teachers find a way to hook in the children then teach the grammar as an essential took to make writing effective. It's just hard to do this while setting work as we currently are.

GoatsDoRome Wed 13-May-20 13:08:30

I have to agree with a deeper understanding of grammar, picking up other romance languages becomes much easier. Equally it does help to improve communication. That is not to say that i found my grammar lessons super interesting, but having got through them I can definitely see the benefit of my knowledge. I guess someone just needs to come up with a good way of teaching it, but maybe some dry subjects like grammar will always be dry and its just a case of perseverance?

Smoothyloopy Wed 13-May-20 13:14:09

YNBU it sucks the joy out of creative writing.

Kitsandkids Wed 13-May-20 13:15:00

While I do think some grammar can be useful, what annoys me is that children’s creative writing these days has to include a list of things they’ve learned. So they have to put in a simile, and a subordinate clause and a rhetorical question etc. And the result is usually a dry, dull story that could have been much better if the child has just been allowed to write!

PuttingoutthefirewithGasoline Wed 13-May-20 13:15:38

Op I could comment further but at the moment I am jealous of your worksheets - my primary aged dc has not been given anything.

pinksquash13 Wed 13-May-20 13:18:25

I don't love some of the grammar we teach particularly higher up the school (e.g. the subjunctive - why do they need to know that) but I do support a basic understanding of nouns, verbs, sentence structure etc. Fronted adverbials gets used as an example for this convo but actually it's easy and the kids apply it well. In my experience, English teaching in primaries is engaging and has opportunities for creativity (I dont think this is the same in secondaries unfortunately). The trouble at the moment is the limitations of home / individual learning. Normally my class would read a book together, do a bit of drama, have a debate, discuss a current issue, listen to a guest speaker and then learning opportunities would follow quite naturally e.g. letter writing, balanced arguement, character description but these are quite challenging to set as home tasks which is why you're getting boring worksheets. If I were your child's teacher, I'd be delighted if you made learning more engaging and real by writing / reading something that links to your lives atm.

Feenie Wed 13-May-20 13:19:39

A fronted adverbial phrase seems to me like a good example of something that the average ks2 child will be able to grasp conceptually once it’s explained to them but which they would be highly unlikely to be able to explain without being given the language and intellectual tools to do so. I don’t see the issue with this being taught.

My issue is that it's a term entirely invented for the 2014 curriculum - it didn't exist before then and respected grammar experts were baffled. Since then, I've seen no evidence to justify its invention - other that completely formulaic writing that looks and sounds awful.

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