‘YouTube helped me banish pupils’ “grammar gremlins”’

One head of English set up her own YouTube channel with more than 100 videos to transform her grammar teaching

Grammar Gremlin

Grammar matters. It affects a student’s written communication and confidence in sharing their views and poor grammar can even diminish their life chances when entering an ever-competitive job, apprenticeship and university market.

Pupils are expected to learn and be able to correctly apply the rules of grammar by the time they are in secondary school. There is now a grammar test at both key stage 1 and KS2. Performing badly in these tests can be crippling for pupils' self-worth and attitudes towards grammar.

I have been teaching for eight years and have seen how far understanding the rules of grammar affects whether children succeed or fail in their studies. The average GCSE student in my school will be awarded 64 marks this summer across all of their GCSEs for "spelling, punctuation and accuracy". In my subject, English, spelling, punctuation and accuracy accounts for 36 marks across literature and language. When every mark counts, that is a dangerous loss to any candidate.

Moreover, it is often assumed that children will learn these rules by simply ‘reading widely’, which is not always the case. Instead, I decided to turn to evolving technologies that can help support this learning.

Flipped learning

I uploaded my first grammar video to YouTube in June 2017. Since then, with the help of SHINE funding, I have built the channel MissHannaLovesGrammar into a collection of 105 videos, which have had 205,000 views. This suggests there is an appetite for these resources and that they have a broader appeal beyond my own school.

Students need a one-stop shop where the rules and application of English grammar are taught and tested to meet the nuanced inconsistencies learners struggle to understand. MissHannaLovesGrammar provides videos to support this.

Using this kind of flipped learning avoids teachers merely repeating themselves and getting learners to drill grammar in a decontextualised fashion. By ensuring pupils have learnt the rule online or at home, class time can be devoted to disentangling the more complex examples. As I am myself a learner who rarely understands things the first time around, the notion of being able to repeat information at the click of a button appeals immensely.

Finally, as the daughter of two Egyptian immigrant parents who instilled the importance of learning in me, I recall being frustrated at not understanding the split infinitive, and this being compounded by them not being able to explain it either!

Perhaps my idea for a YouTube channel is rooted in a desire to address the injustice of how literacy is taught.

By taking a flipped learning approach, I believe teachers have a better chance of banishing the 'grammar gremlins' that can destroy pupils' confidence and help learners to become 'grammar gurus' instead.

Amy Hanna is the Head of English at the ARK Academy in Wembley. She tweets on @Hanna_English.

Amy was provided with a grant from SHINE via their Let Teachers SHINE competition. Let Teachers SHINE offers up to £15,000 to teachers who have brilliant ideas to help disadvantaged children succeed in English, maths or science. The competition will open again for next year's applications in February 2019.To find out more about the innovative projects they fund visit www.shinetrust.org.uk/lts2018

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Amy Hanna