Category Archives: Talk4Writing

Single and multi clause sentences – an analogy

The new national curriculum this year brought with it some changes in grammatical terminology. One of these changes saw simple, compound and complex sentences become single clause, multi clause coordinated and multi clause subordinated sentences. This post explains an analogy to teach this aspect of grammar. 

   
The analogy (and a smattering of storytelling – good for memory, you know) is to do with living arrangements. The first picture is of Serena. She is an adult who lives by herself, earning money, buying food etc. This is a bit like a single clause sentence: one main clause makes up the sentence. 

The second picture is of Mike and Jean, two adults who could live alone if they wanted to but they choose to live together, sharing all the responsibilities that come with having your own home. This is a bit like a multi clause coordinated sentence: multiple main clauses can be joined in a sentence by coordinating conjunctions. The final picture is of Hardeep and her infant son Gurnek. She is an adult who could live alone, but the child cannot. The child needs the adult. This is a bit like a multi clause subordinated sentence: a main clause is joined to (a) subordinate clause(s) by a subordinating conjunction. 
When children get to know these characters and their situations well, they can link the grammatical terminology to that knowledge. Through lots of spaced practice, in the context of a story or text they know well, they can begin to build their concept of sentence types.

One type of practice can be sorting sentences, modelled first:

  A possible scaffold is to text mark important features for some children, then gradually remove the text marking. Main clauses, subordinated clauses or conjunctions can be underlined, italicised etc. 

The challenge can be increased by changing the context. Grammar through well known picture books is a fruitful strategy not just to work on grammar, but to deepen their understanding of story. The task below uses ‘Leon and the Place Between’:

  
The next screenshot is of some development work on multi clause coordinated sentences: children weren’t familiar with the use of the conjunction ‘for’:

  
Many children still needed a lot of explanation and practice thinking about the difference between main and subordinated clauses, again in the context of a well known story:

   
 Children seemed to found it useful, to begin with, to analyse the sentences using the analogy. Which part of the sentence is a like Hardeep, the mum? Why? Which bit is like Gurnek, the baby? Why? Gradually, the analogy makes way for the grammatical terminology. This strategy was also useful to talk about about the use of a comm a as a clause boundary when the subordinate clause starts the sentence. 

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Aspiring to Dance’s Delivery

Whilst planning an assembly on the Sochi Winter Olympics, I came across the BBC’s trailer for their coverage of the event. The chilling voice is that of Charles Dance, who plays the ruthless Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones. His diction combined with the rhetoric of the writer create a powerful piece.

How great it would be if we could encourage children to aspire to this level of performance. For sure, children need to see and hear excellence in oracy. But they also need to deliberately practise the strategies that great performers use. Dance makes deliberate decisions on the speed, pitch and volume of his words. He also pauses in carefully chosen places and elongates or stresses certain words. Experimenting with all of these strategies, comparing the effectiveness of a slower or faster speed, a higher or lower pitch, or a louder or quieter volume would be a good starting point.

In Talk for Writing, children internalise texts to build up an internal bank of effective language patterns and structures so that they can be adapted. This internalisation is usually supported by a text map, which acts as a retrieval cue for children, getting them to practise remembering the language patterns.

Children with an internal bank of quality texts, which are made up of effective rhetoric and sophisticated language patterns, are more effective writers. They’ll have a broader general knowledge and cultural capital, and if they have learned the strategies of great speakers, will be articulate too.

My intention now is to use Dance’s monologue to further fuel aspiration for great speaking and effective rhetoric. I want Dance’s delivery and the words he utters to be part of children’s internal banks of texts. Below is a text map that they’ll use to help them.

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