Preparing for the new grammar, punctuation and spelling test

In the run up to the new grammar, punctuation and spelling test in May, primary teacher Louise Moore argues why learning the structure of writing is as important as the creative elements and introduces a CPD course she has developed with the Guardian Teacher Network. Here are some extracts from her article in the Guardian…

Julies Hair Design, Discount Shoe’s, Off License and even Toys R us. Sadly, our children are exposed to the incorrect use of grammar and punctuation on a daily basis.

Over recent years, understanding of grammar and punctuation has not been helped by texting language and abbreviations used in social media. We have to consider what children are seeing and learning from this.

In a bid to address this decline in written English, the new English, grammar, punctuation and spelling test will be sat by all 11 year olds from May 2013, bringing a major change to schools.

However, this change has not been welcomed by all.

Those who are against the new tests believe that grammar and punctuation are overrated, irrelevant and stifle the creativity that the current curriculum was designed to encourage. Dr Simon Gibbons, chairman of The National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) says: “Most English teachers try to teach grammar in context, rather than through formal exercises. ThBad punctuationere’s very little evidence relating to the benefits of teaching grammar in that way.”

However, there are those, like me, who feel that the refocus is long overdue. Whether in your curriculum vitae letter of application or a leaflet to promote your new business, recipients will judge you and consider your services less competent if your proficiency in grammar and punctuation is lacking. These vital skills, therefore, could affect (not effect!) your opportunities in life, so it is important that they are brought in as a core part of the curriculum…

I believe that one problem with our education system today lies in the fact that we have many young teachers who have come through the English education system at a time when grammar and punctuation were not taught to a high enough standard, so we have a significant skills gap in our teaching profession. Commonly, teachers make basic mistakes including not using apostrophes correctly. I was in a school recently where I had to explain to a newly qualified teacher the correct use of your and you’re…

One really useful learning activity that I do each morning is take the book that we are reading together and pick the first two sentence at the top of any page. The first task I give the children is to write these sentences in neat handwriting. Once this is done, we read the sentences together and discuss them, analysing their structure. Ideally, I pick one simple and one complex sentence structure. We discuss what makes the sentence effective, or not, as the case may be. I then ask the children to write another two sentences in the same style to ensure they have understood the grammatical structure…

Working with the publisher Rising Stars and the Guardian Teacher Network, I have written an interactive online course, ‘Essential CPD’ that takes just four hours to complete and will provide teachers with all they need to know in order to meet the new requirements. The course can be stopped and re-started at any point to fit in with the time they have available.

Once the course is completed, teachers will have all the knowledge they need, along with plenty of related classroom activities, to incorporate grammar, punctuate and vocabulary work effectively into their teaching. Not only will teachers be able to ensure students achieve their potential in the new test but, more importantly, children will develop an appreciation for English grammar and punctuation.

Louise Moore is a senior teacher at Buxworth Primary School in Derbyshire, and the author of the Rising Stars and Guardian Teacher Network’s new online Essential CPD course in Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling.

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