A little learning;Primary;Reviews;English;Books

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
THE PRIMARY GRAMMAR BOOK. By Richard Bain and Marion Bridgewood. NATE. pound;39.95. Tel: 0114 255 5419.

Enduring Love, the title of Ian McEwan's novel, is ambiguous, meaning both "everlasting love" and "suffering love with fortitude". But does it matter whether we can explain the grammatical ambiguity, saying, in the first case, "enduring" is a gerundive or verbal adjec-tive modifying "love" and, in the second case, "love" is the object of the participle "enduring"? Isn't implicit sensitivity to meaning sufficient? The trouble is that national requirements demand explicit teaching and knowledge. And that children, while implicitly very capable, find explicit grammar difficult.

The explicit teaching of grammar in primaries presupposes two questionable things: we know grammar explicitly and we know how to teach it. The Primary Grammar Book aims to tackle both issues, by providing instruction for the teacher under the guise of "reminders", and by distinguishing this "teacher knowledge" from the teaching objectives which specify what children are to learn. Beyond this, the provision consists almost entirely of activity cards for the teacher and copiable materials for the children in a loose-leaf file.

Children are helped to explore the language they know and read, through word, sentence and text-level games and activities. All sensible, practical and fun and a bit in the spirit of the old LINC materials.

But for the teacher who is insecure about grammar, there is not quite enough explanation in the "reminders" or in the glossaries above the word level. Learning a little with pupils produces only a little learning - a dangerous thing.

Nicholas Bielby

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