Tried and Tested - Playing with words

12th June 2009 at 01:00

Subject: English

Lesson: Grammar

Ages: 9-13

Supplied by Paul Warnes, an adult literacy and creative writing tutor in Maidstone, Kent.

1. What is it?

The lesson involves the children consolidating their knowledge of grammar through the translation of sections of nonsense poems.

2. Who is it aimed at?

I have used it with Years 5 and 6, but I am sure it could work well with early key stage 3 children.

3. What do you want the lesson to achieve?

Consolidate pupils' knowledge of nouns, verbs and adjectives and increase their competence in the imaginative use of these parts of speech in their writing.

4. What happens in the lesson?

Write up the first verse of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky on the whiteboard. Explain that the children are to be word detectives and their job is to solve the meaning of the poem. To do this they will need to know what type of words they are trying to replace. Some words will be familiar and will not need changing. Ask them to identify the words that might be nouns (wabe), adjectives (slithy) and verbs (gimble). The next stage is for the children to provide English translations. Now the children can compose their own versions. They can perform them at the end.

5. How do you know it has been successful?

The poems as they are performed may be scary, funny or dramatic, but they won't be nonsense. Over the longer term the accuracy and variety of their writing will improve.

6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?

It transforms a potentially dry subject into an exciting and imaginative activity. It encourages pupils to work together co-operatively and gives both teacher and pupil the chance to act in front of an audience.

7. Give us three top tips

- Begin by reading the children a nonsense poem. Don't explain the meaning. A child is guaranteed to say something like: "That's rubbish, what is that supposed to mean?" Have your reply ready: "Not rubbish, but nonsense."

- Start with a bang or any ludicrous noises and bizarre actions that the performance of the poem screams out for. Pupils like seeing their teacher let go.

- Do some preparatory work with word classes.

8. Useful resources

- Spike Milligan's Silly Verse for Kids. Try "On the Ning Nang Nong" if you dare.

- Try using some surrealist art as an interesting juxtaposition.


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