"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Grammar/spelling instruction fever in the UK

How to improve grammar and spelling
Sent to the Telegraph (UK)
According to the Telegraph, Kent County “Teachers (are) 'to be given lessons in spelling and grammar'” (March 31) so they can better prepare 11-year-olds to take tests in grammar and spelling.
Neither the Kent County Council nor the UK Department of Education appears to be aware that there has been extensive research on this topic, and the results are very consistent: (1) Direct instruction in grammar and spelling produces very limited results. (2) Nearly all of our knowledge of grammar and spelling is acquired, absorbed, through extensive reading.
These studies have been appearing in scientific journals regularly for over the last 100 years. If they are correct, Kent County can fire the consultants and use the money to buy more books for school libraries.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Just a few sources:
Cook, W. (1912) Should we teach spelling by rule? Journal of Educational Psychology 3, 316-325.
Cornman, O. (1902) Spelling in the Elementary School. Boston: Ginn.
Elley, W., I. Barham, H. Lamb, and M. Wyllie. (1976) The role of grammar in a secondary school curriculum. Research in the Teaching of English 10, 5-21.
Hammill, D., S. Larson, and G. McNutt. (1977). The effect of spelling instruction: A preliminary study. Elementary School Journal 78, 67-72.
For more sources, please see:
Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.

Original article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9961510/Teachers-to-be-given-lessons-in-spelling-and-grammar.html

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
29 Mar 2013
Kent County Council is enlisting expert help to tutor primary school teachers in preparation for the introduction of a new English exam for 11-year-olds later this year.
They have been brought in to give staff a grounding in grammar, punctuation and spelling and ensure they can teach literacy to a higher standard.
But the move has been attacked by campaigners who insist that classroom teachers should already have a firm grasp of the English language without the need for expert tuition.
The literacy consultants started work in August last year and will continue until August 2014 – earning between £51,000 and £54,000 each.
It comes amid concerns over standards of the three-Rs among some teachers.
Last year, the Government announced it was toughening up literacy and numeracy tests sat as part of teacher training – and clamping down on the number of permitted resits – amid fears previous standards were too low.
Currently, one-in-five trainees fail to pass both tests first time round.
Chrissie Maher, founder of the Plain English Campaign, said: "It's good for the kids, but bad if their English teachers don't know basic English.
"If they're not up to scratch they shouldn't be there. They should've been getting retrained.
"Grammar is a big issue and it's bad that these kids are being taught everyday grammar if the teachers don't know what they're talking about."
The move comes ahead of the launch of a new test in spelling, punctuation and grammar for all pupils in the final year of primary education.
In June, up to 600,000 children aged 10 and 11 will take the test and results will feature in official school league tables.
The tests have been designed to raise the bar for pupils, with an emphasis on the more intricate rules of English grammar.
A spokesman for Kent Council said the literacy course aimed to “consolidate teachers' subject knowledge and their understanding of the test content and format”.
"It also offers practical advice on how to teach these elements of English,” he said.
"As with every part of the teaching profession, continued professional development is crucial for maintaining the high standards of teaching that every child deserves and every parent expects."
Some heads have criticised the new test, suggesting it represented a throwback to the 1950s.
Derry Wiltshire, head teacher of Amherst School in Riverhead, Kent, said: "I think all children should learn basic grammar and should know it by the time they leave primary school, but teaching them what a subordinate connective is, is absolutely bonkers."
Peter Cornish, former head of St Matthew's Primary School in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said some teachers would “find it difficult” to get back into class.
He said: "It wouldn't surprise me if they (the teachers) didn't know some of the intricacies (of grammar).
"I think back when I was educated, you knew a lot of the grammar because that's what we were taught at the time, but when you went to teacher training college it was hardly ever mentioned."

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