Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

There, Their

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

There, Their

Article excerpt

"So, you can see that a determiner pins down the noun," I said. To demonstrate, I held up a Post-it with "The" written on it and slapped it on a pencil case. The action was met by a sea of blank faces.

Determined not to be defeated by definite articles, I ploughed on. After 10 minutes, the room was festooned with Post-it notes and they were finally starting to get the hang of it.

"Right, everybody, tell your partner what a determiner is," I said.

Explanations flew around the room and I brought them together for an encore. "It pins down the noun," the children told me in unison.

I smiled benignly upon them. In the corner by the window, a small hand was raised. "What's a noun, Miss?"

Spelling, punctuation and grammar (or Spag, as it is unlovingly known) plays a starring role in primary education. Since the introduction of the key stage 2 Spag test in England in 2013, grammatical demands on children have grown exponentially.

It's not that I don't approve of teaching grammar. I will happily wage war on any member of staff who bestows apostrophes on TAs and I frequently test my bladder control to the limit by waiting for children to correctly phrase their request to visit the lavatory. But I'm yet to be convinced that the current sky-high expectations are about helping children, rather than about the powers that be showboating by getting 10-year-olds to spot a possessive pronoun.

There's no denying that Spag can be a stumbling block for children and adults alike. …

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