Come on now… there are some parts of your subject that even make you want to chew off your arm to escape talking about it again. For me – it was grammar – I know, I know – I was a Head of English – but I grew up in the 80s when all English teachers did was get you to write a range of stories – mostly – from memory – with a twist in the tale.  So, I learnt grammar whilst I taught it to the kids – and a lot of the time I blatantly made it up.  There is at least three years of students at the start of my teaching career who walked away believing that hyperbole was pronounced hype-a-bowl-y rather than hi-per-bo-lee.

So – the art of teaching – which is in no way a science – is making the dull palatable.  Now – obviously just getting through it is not a high aspiration.  There are some topics where this is what we do… we might even preface the lesson with: “Sorry – we have to cover this – it is dull –let’s just get through it.” The justification is that this will be on the exam – and we say this phrase in the hope it will stop the kids eating us before the hour is over.

Therefore, it might be that we need to aspire higher – even if we can’t imagine in the first instance how this might be possible.  Maybe aim for making them curious is as a good place to begin as any – especially if you feel inspire is too much too far beyond reach.

So, let me give you an example of a topic that I used to hate… subordinate clauses… eugh.  It makes me shiver even now.  So, I decided to teach the students through descriptive writing – which I love. I love painting with words – it makes me geekily happy.  I started by build-up the sentence from a noun – we played with noun doodling.  This is pretty cool – you name things in an image – but like an artist you insist the kids see the details, the subtleties.  Then, ask them to add an adjective – a lot of adjectives to each noun – then a lot of verbs – then a lot of adverbs – with the idea of making choices about which to use to craft your sentence.  As this goes on the kids have an A3 sheet full of doodled sentences.  Then, I invited the student to select two sentences they like the best – that seem to be connected – focused on the same subject.  From here we started playing with how to link the sentences and move around the different clauses – separating the components with commas or semi-colons or hyphens.

The process from noun, to noun phrase, to sentence, to the joining up of sentences with common topics – either with a semi-colon – or when we finally got to subordinate clauses – with subordinators.  And, to be honest, by the end of the lesson even I enjoyed messing about moving my subordinate clauses from the end of the sentences, to the beginning, to the middle – considering the effect on the rhythm and flow of the description.

P.S. no-one was more surprised than me when this ended up being something more than interesting… but art is often about happy accidents I am told.

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