Archive for the Language Category

The case for grammar

The case for grammar

I teach an adult evening class in formal writing skills. It is for learners who are under-confident about the daily writing tasks essential in work or other situations. This is the second term I’ve delivered the class. A fascinating pattern is emerging. In both classes the composition […]

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Over-egging the custard

Over-egging the custard

Language changes. That is usually a good thing but not always. A wise educational veteran, speaking to me of interviews for teaching posts, recently illustrated that. “What is your vision for the school/your department/your subject?” is now a standard interview question. “When I first came into teaching 40 […]

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Grammar deserves a place in our classrooms

Grammar deserves a place in our classrooms

MICHAEL Gove’s proposal to introduce compulsory testing in grammar, punctuation and spelling at the end of primary schooling has met fierce resistance. I concur with many of his critics that a one-off test will do little to raise standards. Where they and I part company is on the need […]

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Everyone in school must get to grips with grammar

Everyone in school must get to grips with grammar

Michael Gove has announced that English 11-year-olds will sit a grammar test. Many with whom I would naturally stand in any conflict involving Gove have objected on the grounds that such an approach will narrow teaching and lead to “teaching to the test”. I disagree with many […]

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Good prose is like a window pane

On the 24th January 1950, George Orwell died.  Orwell’s masterpieces, 1984 and Animal Farm, exposed the horror and the humbug of dictatorship.  He was also a jobbing writer, a journalist, who literally wrote for his living.  Writing was his trade and he treated it with enormous respect.  […]

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Ah dinnae ken why I have to talk proper, Sir

I was helping a group of S6 students to draft their personal statements for their Ucas forms. These are fine young folk: engaged, enthusiastic, bright. Like many in Wester Hailes, however, they often underachieve. They have not developed the cultural hooks on which to hang higher order […]

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Metaphorically speaking

Dangerous things, metaphors. As an English teacher and an amateur hack, I love them. At a recent conference on school leadership, I heard some wonderful ones – but I remain convinced that they are dangerous. Norman Drummond of Columba 1400 concluded a wonderful contribution on leadership by […]

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Grammatical accuracy taken to task

Evidence is the means whereby an assertion or theory is proved valid. So why use “evidence” as a verb? For example: “The impact and outcomes of the work of some organisations are not consistently or systematically evaluated, recorded or evidenced.” Since evidence is a prerequisite of evaluation, […]

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But due to, because it’s problematic

But due to, because it’s problematic

I’m not a pedant. Language is fluid and developing, but it saddens me when I hear or read greengrocer’s apostrophes, split infinitives and sentences ending with prepositions. I recently had an argument with the editor of a respected publication for which I occasionally write: he insisted on […]

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Wisdom before knowledge

Wisdom before knowledge

In 2004 Norman Drummond’s ‘The Spirit of Success’ was published. It was a powerful critique of the emptiness of much of contemporary life, a life-style guide, an optimistic but ethical alternative to the shallow culture of the early 21st century. Along with his inspiring work as the […]

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