Saturday, November 03, 2007

‘The adverb is not your friend’

The Primary Review researchers have indicated that reading standards have barely risen over the last fifty years and that children are bored with reading. Could this be anything to do with the dull, prescriptive and grammar-laden curriculum?

Last week, as PPA cover teacher, the script was a lesson on adverbs from ‘Jolly Grammar’. Yes, a whole lesson on adverbs. For the introduction I was instructed to,

‘Revise proper and common nouns, pronouns, adjectives, possessive adjectives and verbs.’

This for a Year 3 class. I’ll be honest and you can summon Ofsted and institute the fast-track capability procedure, but I’m a bit hazy on at least two of them.

There aren’t many books on the process of writing but one of the best is Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’. He has some fairly blunt advice on grammar, in one section he writes that,

‘The adverb is not your friend… Adverbs like the passive voice seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind… With adverbs, the writer usually tells us that he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.’

I drew the immediate conclusion, after scanning the lesson plan, that there is dry tedium, absolute boredom, the vast vacuum in space that lies beyond the reach of the most distant quasars at the edge of the known universe and then there is ‘Jolly Grammar’. I’ve got to admit that I did stray from the lesson objective a smidgeon. I read to the class ‘Grandfather’s Pencil and the Room of Stories’ by Michael Foreman.

He imagines a pencil writing about its time on the shelves in a shop, as part of a tall tree; there’s the story of the table and how it tumbled down a surging river; the floorboards were once part of a great ship ‘with cream sails and a black flag’. The boy in the story grows into an old man and his grandson discovers the pencil underneath the floorboards, his companions have been,

‘a bent pin, an old gold coin and a whale bone button. Oh, the tales they told! The whale button remembered when it was part of a great whale and…’

I got the children to write their own story about the pencil. I wrote one about a magic pencil that was held prisoner by an evil wizard. I don’t want to spoil the ending but he did escape with help from his friend the sharpener.

In Michael Forman’s story there’s whole sections of beautiful prose, ah, imagination, creativity, the joy of language and hardly an adverb in sight!

Labels: ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?