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Year 7 - English is boring

(25 Posts)
mum2030 Thu 20-Mar-14 20:00:21

DS is very bright and did well in literacy at primary (Level 6 SATS in reading and writing and SPAG). At parents evening his teacher has told me he is resting on his laurels. He claims English is a bit boring - he likes reading and writing but finds the planning process boring. he thinks they spend too much time thinking about how to do something rather than doing it and thinks the lesson is pitched at the ability level of the middle achievers.

I don't want him to switch off. I also believe that teachers must know what they are doing so all of this planning must have a purpose.

English teachers - any comments?

mum2030 Fri 21-Mar-14 10:59:05

anyone? Or are you all too bored grin

ReallyTired Fri 21-Mar-14 11:01:34

I'm afraid life is boring at times and your ds just has to get on with it! English at secondary school is far more opened ended and there is far less hand holding than primary. I suggest you have a conversation with your son's teacher.

Becomingmom Fri 21-Mar-14 11:16:04

I planned nothing, I wrote everything. It was boring in the same way for me and to be honest, I spent my last year at school avoiding my lessons as fell asleep in my exam. Despite all this I got an A. In year 7 abilities are assessed so that the groups can be segregated according to ability, or so I think in later years. Don't accept that life can be boring and bring this up with the school, make sure they understand that you need what is best for your son regardless of protocol or planning a poem, prevention is better than cure.

Takver Fri 21-Mar-14 11:22:30

Maybe worth talking to his teacher - or even better him talking to him/her? Obviously some teachers are more inspiring (or more suited to particular personalities) than others - but FWIW dd is in yr 7 & definitely finding English one of the more interesting lessons.

The stuff she shows me looks interesting - at the moment lots of thinking about how to communicate emotions / character / atmosphere effectively through your writing. Having said that she enjoys creative writing so it suits her, whereas in primary they did far more factual stuff which was less her cup of tea.

Nocomet Fri 21-Mar-14 11:36:17

English always was stunningly boring, you endure it from reception to Y11, get a couple of As and give a huge sigh of relief on the first day of sixth form.

I was lucky for O level I had a really good, really nice relaxed teacher who was happy to admit some of our set poetry was utterly incomprehensible, but English was still dull.

I have never found a scientist or a mathematician, who wouldn't have been delighted to do half as many English lessons.

Unfortunately this also means, many of them write very badly because they slept through the important bits as well as the dreary novel.

mum2030 Fri 21-Mar-14 11:37:45

Thanks for replies. The issue came up at the recent parents evening - teacher told me that after an enthusiastic start DS had started to be less keen and putting less effort into what he was doing. Example was writing a poem - she said he can easily "dash off" a reasonable poem but she knows he is capable of better quality work.

So when I spoke to him he said that by the time they actually get to writing the poem (after 2 lessons of thinking about how to write it) he is a bit bored and either can't be bothered or there isn't actually enough time left to do it.

DD, who is still in primary, has the same complaint about the amount of time spent preparing to actually do anything in literacy.

I can't remember spending all this time planning stuff at school - we'd cover some theory in one lesson, write a plan (a few bullet points) & then just get on with it.

It would help if I understood better the purpose behind all the preparation that they do so I could convince DS that there is a purpose. But somewhere along the line it doesn't seem to have got across to him.

I will speak to the teacher but wondered if any other English teachers could explain the thinking behind it.

Roseformeplease Fri 21-Mar-14 11:41:59

Most teachers will be working on lesson planning right now, or teaching.

Much of English at this stage is differentiated by outcome. ie - they are all set the same exercise from a text (write about a poem) and their ability will then be shown in the outcome (or piece of writing) and targets are very individual. I teach mixed abilty at this level and some pupils might have a target of using full stops and capital letters whereas for others it is all about analysing language, using quotations or references from the text and mastering the semi-colon.

My lessons are never boring. This week my S1 are working in groups on different novels they have chosen in order to write a group project on children in war. They have made Wikipedia pages for the fictional characters in Jabberwocky and they have looked at "The Highwayman" and are writing a traditional essay on the poetic techniques.

Sometimes, however, you have to actively engage in something to find it interesting. You can't expect to be entertained all the time - we are not performing animals.

mum2030 Fri 21-Mar-14 12:32:50

Thanks Rose but can you explain what the purpose of all the "planning" is?

Colour2 Fri 21-Mar-14 13:25:50

It would be well worth signing him up with the Da Vinci Group.
My daughter belonged for a while but it is very much English based and she is more interested in maths and science.

If you can get your school to sign up for him you wouldn't have to pay.
They may have a budget within their Able, Gifted and Talented scheme.

AtiaoftheJulii Fri 21-Mar-14 13:45:20

The purpose of the planning is surely to learn how to plan successfully. Good preparation is generally the foundation of a successful endeavour, and at this stage trying to train them to start thinking about the process before they just launch into it is far more useful to them in the rest of their lives.

Looking at what's needed, working out how you're going to address that, evaluating whether you've been successful, etc is the bit that actually has the purpose, not writing a poem (which is most likely to be devoid of any literary merit).

Roseformeplease Fri 21-Mar-14 17:05:09

An essay plan or a lesson plan?

Lesson planning is a bit like organising a combination of a performance, multiple tests and a shopping list. I was being a bit flippant in my first line about planning because you were desperately looking for a quick reply from a teacher when most would be busy either in a lesson or planning / mRking etc.

My lesson plans (old boot) have a bit of a tweak now and then based on feedback or changes in the curriculum or pupil needs but are essentially fairly well worked out.

As for essay planning - some people can do it in their heads, others need paper. It is to give your thoughts and ideas a structure that is logical and easy for someone to follow, or at achieves a particular effect on the reader if you are writing creatively. My most able pupils are currently writing 4000 plus word dissertations and that requires a lot of thought and planning. A quick personal piece in 30 minutes from a 1st year might come "off the top of their head" or, if they are weak, might need a plan to encourage them to think of things to write.

Surely, OP, you plan- holidays, work schedules etc. Planning is just about being organised really.

Nocomet Sat 22-Mar-14 00:41:33

I'm sorry dear English teachers, it doesn't matter how hard you try, there are a very large number of pupils who really don't like English lessons.

I knew I could churn out an A grade essay for English in an exam, I could do comprehensions standing on my head and I precise everything I write, because I hate the physical exercise of writing.

That was the three sections of our English Lang paper and literature my DF and I learnt on the bus because we refused to waste a revision time table slot (we both got A's).

Ofsted have just made DDs school put more English lessons in the time table, unfortunately more of something doesn't necessarily get you any better results if an appreciable sub set of students are still going to do it on auto pilot.

Even DD2 who is weird and likes English says the set books are dull, but dulls fine it means the questions are easy.

mum2030 Sat 22-Mar-14 06:44:08

Thank you for replies. I do realise the value of planning in the context of holidays, teachers delivering lessons etc but what I was really trying to get to is a way of explaining to my DS, aged 11, why he should engage with the planning activities set by the teacher in his English class when writing a poem/ essay etc.

The answer by atia seems to suggest that the point of the English lessons are not to produce works of literary merit but the learn how to plan to produce works of literary merit. Where rose is saying that a Yr 7 who is able (like my DS) could produce something with almost no planning.

This is the problem I think - DS realises that he can do the task as well as most kids in the class without all the "boring" bit beforehand but maybe doesn't get/ believe the assertion that he could do it better by doing the planning bit beforehand.

I think his attitude is similar to quite a lot of people, who aren't English teachers, who think that creative ability is instinctive rather than super organised. After all I doubt that many people think that Shakespeare sat down with a few ye olde spreadsheets before he penned Macbeth.

I need a really persuasive argument - maybe I need to look into some explanations by DS' favourite writers about how they write or find a successful writer who can explain to DS how they did it.

Bonsoir Sat 22-Mar-14 06:49:20

OP - I have every sympathy with your son! I find the "planning" process of writing really dreadful and I disagree very fundamentally with the concept of creating a plan and then getting your ideas and words to fit it. What's more, no sane adult would draft anywhere but on a computer/Word where the planning and writing process is very different to writing on paper.

Flicktheswitch Sat 22-Mar-14 06:53:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ravenAK Sat 22-Mar-14 07:12:20

I'm a secondary English teacher.

For creative writing, I'm a great believer in just getting stuck in initially - but then painstakingly reviewing & re-drafting.

The planning comes in somewhat more if you're writing an essay. & at that point, an able student may do rather well from a 5 minute mindmap of ideas to cover. A less able (or confident) kid might want a grid of points, with the supporting evidence annotated too, before they start writing.

The trick with the more able at KS3 is to move them to level 6-7, where the writing is structured to 'lead' the reader through a series of arguments to a convincing conclusion, refuting dissenting views & making clear links from one point to the next.

You can do that by planning your essay before you start, or by leaping in, waffling, & then editing ruthlessly: the first approach is quicker & more efficient!

So I'd agree with your ds's teacher that he needs to start to see the value of planning.

That said, year 7 sets are often a bit weird - ours are streamed, so we get Maths-y kids in top set who find English a struggle & vice versa. Also, they're usually based on KS2 SATs which aren't necessarily very accurate reflections of ability. My experience is that bright kids blossom spectacularly in year 8, once we've got them in 'true' sets by subject. So it may be that your ds's class are going at a fairly pedestrian pace, & he'll be rather more challenged come September.

Roseformeplease Sat 22-Mar-14 17:59:06

A year 7 who is able could produce personal writing without a plan - let's face it, that's not hard (write about a time you were scared etc). Planning, however, allows the thought process to be crystallised. It avoids the, "My holiday in Spain" writing that covers getting up, breakfast, the journey, the arrival and then ends with, "And we had a great holiday" ie it pushes them to focus on the interesting bits, not the dull bits. A plan is vital for the weakest sometimes as they get bogged down in the dull stuff (tooth brushing) and miss the more interesting.

For transactional writing, you do need a plan to ensure that both sides of an argument are covered, all topics are thought about. For example, if you were writing about the importance of teaching computer programming in schools, you would want to ensure that you covered all the key arguments in the time and word limit and did not get bogged down in minor issues.

My DS's most recent discursive piece was on whether or not Thatcher was good for Britain (his choice) and he really did need to cover the key issues and so planned. Equally, a critical essay on a poem needs a plan to ensure that you have looked at all the poetic techniques and answered the question.

But, the most able, once they have shown they can organise their thoughts, might plan in their heads or just not down a quick list of things to include. To start with, however, they need to know how to scaffold an essay to ensure they can lead the reader through their ideas.

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Sat 22-Mar-14 18:09:49

Is everyone missing the fact that if he is "good" at English he might end up doing arts/ humanities at A and degree level? You cannot write 3 'A' grade / undergraduate 'First' level essays in a row under exam conditions by writing and editing and re-drafting - you have to jot a plan in 5 mins to cover the main points and check back before you ginish each section of your essay, before drawing arguments together.

Learning to plan and getting in the habbit now will stand him in good stead if he takes any essay heavy subject to more advanced levels.

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Sat 22-Mar-14 18:13:15

* sorry, distracted by 2 year old climbing on me - should read 'A' grade A level or first class degree...

For average students planning is helpful even in year 7, but for the most able learning to plan now is about setting up good work habits for the future.

Hup Sat 22-Mar-14 18:27:47

Let me get this straight - DS's teacher told you he was not achieving his potential by rushing through work and not putting in enough effort ...

This is because he finds English "boring". Maybe if he was putting in the effort and taking pride and time in his work he would not be bored?

I am an English teacher and we get children with Level 6s who have been told they are amazing etc., however secondary education is very different and said pupils may not be at the top of the class anymore (this often leads to the "I am bored" excuse for not being the best).

Now that GCSe exams for your son will be 100% exam it is essential that he learns to plan his work in English, so that he will be able to do that in all subjects. The baccalaureate insists on English a Language, English Literature, History/Geography plus others which are essay based subjects. Your DS will get one shot at a 100% exam - he needs to be able to plan. My exper

TheArticFunky Sat 22-Mar-14 19:13:17

My ds is still at primary school (yr 5). I've been surprised at how technical the English curriculum is, they are taught a lot more than we were 30 years ago. I do wonder if it's too technical though. I loved English at school but I'm not sure I would love the present day curriculum.

Bonsoir Sun 23-Mar-14 05:50:29

TheArticFunky - I agree that the teaching of English has become very technical in the NC.

IME and IMO, teaching language skills (including mother-tongue, but also MFL) well in a class setting is incredibly hard. In all but the most selective schools the range of ability and skill is massive.

mum2030 Sun 23-Mar-14 08:36:41

Thank you to everyone who has replied to this - I can see there's a range of arguments and so I'll make a plan wink to draw them all together and try to present them in a way to excite DS enthusiasm while emphasising that secondary attainment involves not just ability but also hard work.

He's ambitious and although I think unlikely to do English at university might well end up doing something like history/ politics etc so that could be a good way of explaining the value of structuring work.

I agree about the technical aspects of English being much more emphasised these days. I notice from his book he has got his "comma" licence and he knows how to use semi colons (as per rose above). Something which I have rarely used in my life apart from in lists of bullet points.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 23-Mar-14 08:44:01

Learning to plan well doesn't just apply to arts and humanities degrees. The techniques I learnt to plan essays in GCSE English stood me in good stead for both my science degrees and then my postgraduate qualification.
When at degree level you can be sitting 6 to 8 hours of exams a day in several different subjects planning makes sure your thoughts are ordered and relevant.

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