Whilst children generally succeed well in SPaG assessments, the real challenge is making the learning stick.
Without this, children cannot actively apply concepts in their own writing. Many teachers however, still find the subject confusing and dull, so the question is, how can we put the fun into SPaG and teach it creatively?
The introduction of the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test in 2013 forced schools to look carefully at their teaching of SPaG, which had not previously been an explicit focus. Schools have risen to the challenge, with 72% of children achieving the ‘expected’ standard in the 2016 tests, despite heightened expectations. However, there is still some way to go to ensure all children leave primary school with a good understanding of grammatical concepts, as well as the ability to apply these to their writing.
Safford, Messer, McLachlan and Walker (2015) researched the teaching and testing of grammar in English primary schools. The study found that the resources used by staff generally consisted of worksheets, test questions and scheme books. Whilst these all have their place, the teaching of SPaG will only truly lead to best outcomes for pupils if we are braver with our choice of resources and activities. By doing this and teaching SPaG creatively, children will embed grammatical concepts more readily and be able to apply them consistently across their learning.
Choosing the Right Texts
Safford et al (2015) remarked that “Teachers who contextualised the study of grammar in the reading of literature and discussions about real life texts reported a positive impact on pupils’ writing.” In short, the report found that children who learned grammar contextually were consequently found to be better writers. One way of securing contextualised teaching is through a text-based approach to Literacy such as One Education’s P.I.C.C. a Text. Through basing all Literacy teaching around a specific, well-chosen text, you can give children opportunities to apply their learning of SPaG, reading and writing deeply in context.
Some excellent texts for SPaG include:
- Traction Man is Here by Mini Grey – active and passive voice
- Where’s the Wookie? by Lucasfilm – prepositional phrases
- Oi Dog! by Kes Grey & Jim Field – modal verbs
However, any text can provide innumerable opportunities for SPaG teaching – you just have to seek them out. You don’t need to limit the texts to books either. Use any and every text that you believe will engage your pupils, e.g. film, art, adverts, leaflets, newspaper articles, comics. Need to teach the subjunctive? Try playing Beyoncé’s ‘If I were a Boy’ or watching the advert for 'The Entertainer'. The possibilities are endless.
Using Technology for SPaG
Children are more ‘connected’ than ever before, so we must use this to our advantage. Apps and sites such as , ‘Mind over Monster’ and SPAG.com make word classes and even answering test questions fun. Any app or game can be used to teach grammar with a little imagination.
Twitter is also an amazing resource, both as professional development for staff and as a vehicle for learning. If proofreading is a focus then why not give children the chance to ‘correct’ celebrities’ tweets? Likewise, if children struggle to choose words for clarity, try challenging them to create a tweet that summarises their class text in under 140 characters.
Get Active with SPaG
Games have always been used to make learning fun and the teaching of SPaG need not be an exception. To teach word classes, give the children time to play twister, but with the added complication of having to place their hand or foot on a specific word class. Hold a grammar treasure hunt around the school or perhaps play ‘grammarball’, a version of kickball where children answer a question to kick the ball. Even playing a simple game such as ‘web of hands’ gives the chance for children to practise their prepositions.
Investigate and Research SPaG
In order for children to embed the myriad concepts of SPaG, they need to take ownership for their learning and be given the chance to investigate. Websites that create fake text message conversations are fantastic for investigating inverted commas, rules for dialogue and levels of formality. Children could also investigate common errors and create a grammar wall of shame, covered with real life examples of grammar gone wrong.
These ideas are just a few of the activities and concepts delegates will look at on our ‘Getting Creative with SPaG’ course on Thursday 16th March from 1pm to 4pm. For further information or support around any of the topics raised, please contact Laura Lodge, Literacy Consultant on 0844 967 1111.