Grammar will be 'almost invisible'

30th May 2008 at 01:00
The new advice on teaching English will offer little on grammar, even though teachers themselves often have a shaky grasp of it, according to an academic

The new advice on teaching English will offer little on grammar, even though teachers themselves often have a shaky grasp of it, according to an academic.

Simon Gibbons, a lecturer in English education at King's College, London, and chair of the secondary committee at the National Association for the Teaching of English, said explicit and detailed instructions on the grammatical knowledge required of pupils is "almost invisible".

Mr Gibbons said that the national strategy was well-intentioned in trying to make it match more closely to the national curriculum.

The framework had also been slimmed down, he said, reducing the previous "almost dizzying" number of objectives required of pupils to the equivalent of 27. This meant that there was very little detail on the grammar teaching.

Mr Gibbons, a former head of English, pointed to the old framework for examples of how it used to work.

In Year 7, it says, pupils should be taught, among other things, to recognise and use subordinate clauses; expand nouns and noun phrases; and to identify unclear use of pronouns.

In Year 8 they should "recognise and exploit the use of conditionals and modal verbs when speculating, hypothesising or discussing possibilities", alongside a list of other requirements.

In the new framework, this detail is absent. Expectations of pupils across the subject are summed up in 27 bullet points, which include that they will "use grammar effectively and appropriately".

Writing in next month's edition of the magazine English Drama Media, Mr Gibbons said: "If explicit grammatical knowledge was a key part of driving up standards in reading and writing in particular, the explicit support for this is so `subsumed' within the new framework as to be almost invisible."

He added, however, that the framework might simply be reflecting the fact that research had found that explicit teaching of grammatical terms had not necessarily improved pupils' writing skills.

The secondary national strategy, which has designed the new framework, said teachers who wanted more guidance on teaching grammar can find it from next term.

Clive Bush, its director, said: "If teachers want more on grammar, they can go to our resource bank, where the existing material will be provided."

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