School’s grammar question for kids criticised by Michael Rosen: ‘Improving sentences by making them worse’

Parents often share their confusion over their kids’ maths homework questions, but it seems that isn’t the only school subject that baffles adults reports the Huffington Post. 

Children’s author, poet and Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen has shared a Facebook post of a child’s English grammar assignment, which required kids to “uplevel sentences”. 

Sharing the post on 8 February, Rosen wrote: “I know you guys think I exaggerate. But this is for real. ‘Improving sentences’ by making them worse. Pray thanks to Gove and Gibb.”

For the homework, kids were given three sentences and had to “uplevel” them by: 1) Beginning the sentence with a fronted adverbial; 2) Use modifying nouns and adjectives to create expanded noun phrases; 3) Add an embedded relative clause beginning with who, which, that or whose and 4) Add a subordinating conjunction to give extra detail about the situation.
Rosen’s post had hundreds of comments from parents – and writers – who said they didn’t understand the assignment.

“I’m a writer. I have no idea what most of that means,” one woman wrote. “People pay me to write. I have no idea what most of that means. I am a professional writer. Of words. I have no idea what most of that means. My kids hate English because they are forced to confront this bollocks.”

It seemed this isn’t rare among kids in primary school, as one parent explained: “My eight-year-old asked me to help him with homework like this. I had to tell him that I didn’t understand it. We read books and played games instead.”

Teachers also waded in on the debate, with one writing: “I’m used to seeing stuff like this as a regular visitor to upper Key Stage 2. When it’s introduced you get an audible *groan* from the kids as it’s so forced.”

Read more School’s grammar question for kids criticised by Michael Rosen: ‘Improving sentences by making them worse’

All non-teachers – Do you understand the question? Is the curriculum taking the fun out of english and reading? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Judith Wilson

    Expecting children to understand and use technical language like this is ridiculous. Reading and writing should be FUN, not made pretentious and unnecessarily difficult.

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