“Who knows what an expanded noun phrase is?”
You can imagine the look on my face when the answer to my all-important question was a sea of blank faces. I simplified the question; “what is a noun phrase?” I paused. They did too. “You did it last week!” I said to boost their confidence. Still nothing. There was no other option than to explain it again; dreading playtime when I would have to tell my year group partner that my class didn’t know their noun phrases let alone expanded noun phrases. How embarrassing!
Every teacher knows that moment when you revisit a new concept, the perfect opportunity to gauge where your class is. When you teach an end of key stage and you know you only have a few more months to make sure the children know key vocabulary and skills ready for the SATs, the pressure is really on.
I call it the SATs Demon. And the thing with the SATs demon is he is as clichéd as it gets, sitting on your shoulder, grinning and tapping a clock which is counting down to the final reckoning. While our children are unaware of what will be happening in a matter of months, we are the opposite of innocent, a little too well informed perhaps!
In a class of 30, there is always a variety of children; those that are over zealous, the unsure ones, the curious ones (I know the answer but what happens if I write the wrong one?) and the ones that know all of the vocabulary and necessary skills but get everything jumbled. However SATs caters for one type of child and one type only, and it’s not a child we would recognise! This of course, adds to our pressures and worries and can leave us a little tunnel-visioned and nervous ourselves. I think placating the SATs demon can make us miss the true transformation of learning.
A few weeks into Spring 2, the ideal season for fears and nerves to multiply, we are making Mother’s Day cards. I give the children a selection of resources and allow them to be creative. A child brings her work over to me; “Miss, read it!” I see the first line ‘My mum has black, silky, shiny hair.’ Before I can finish the child says, “I used an expanded noun phrase and all of my targets”. As the children bring more letters and notes over about their mothers the more expanded noun phrases I see! Then as in the cartoons, the SATs demon goes poof and disappears!
We teachers are worried about the SATs Demon but should that affect how we teach? Are we sometimes forgetting the role of our children in all of this?
Either way I realise I am lucky to have hardworking, reflective, patient children.