Saturday, 5 January 2013

Agonising over adverbs with the hope of absorbing an article

I am facing that age old situation of having a class taking an exam in a few days’ time and I only have two lessons to prepare them with some golden nuggets of helpful information. Again, I am left with that conundrum of what to do. Do I go through a quiz to revise key aspects? Do I get them to go through another practice question? Do I go through some example answers? Do I try to consolidate what they have learnt in some way? Or, do I teach them something new ? Nah.  I have found that the longer I teach, the less I try to squeeze into those very important few lessons before an exam. I used to cram so much that I virtually used the department’s photocopying allowance for one lesson alone.

Like all good ideas, the inspiration doesn’t come to when you want it to happen. It comes to you at odd moments in your life like washing the pots or while watching the end of Eastenders. I thought about adverbs, as you do, and how I could use them to teach students how to analyse a text even more effectively than they currently do. I thought about actively teaching students to use them in their writing and teach them quickly how to use them correctly. This will be helpful as my Year 11 class prepare themselves for the English Language Unit 1 exam.
The Examboard says in the mark scheme:
         offers evidence that the text is fully understood
         shows a detailed engagement with the text
         makes perceptive connections and comments
         engages in detail with the events described in the text

Recently, I marked a set of Year 7 descriptions and it was very obvious that one of the grammatical structures they were taught to use in Year 6 was one that started with an adverb. In fact, almost every other sentence started like ‘Slowly, I walked…’ or ‘Hesitantly, I paused’. We do, as English teachers, tend to teach adverbs in descriptive writing and occasionally we use them for developing writing with some kind of adverbial phrases, depending of the genre. But, during exam preparation, I haven’t really used them or taught them explicitly. However, this week I am going to.

Adverbs, as we all know, tend to describe a verb and they usually end with an ‘ly’. But in analysing a text, they can be the words that give us a reader’s opinion. Look at these following lines:

It shows that there is a need to teach students about adverbs

Surprisingly, it shows that there is a need to teach students about adverbs.

It shows there is a need, surprisingly, to teach students about adverbs.

The first line is giving you the information that the question could be asking for: What do you learn from this article? Yet the second line adds some opinion from the reader and, dare I say it, it is evaluating the information given. It shows that ‘absorbing’ that examiners love to see. It shows that the writer is surprised by this piece of information that they have regurgitated out from the text. In the next sentence, they could write: ‘It is surprising because…’ . In the past, I have tried to get students to evaluate when responding to questions on the reading paper, but too often I have ended up with students saying what bits they liked and the bits they didn’t like. Looking at adverbs, I think will do this in a much more effective way.

But what adverbs could they use?










I looked at the above list and I thought it could read like a poem about teacher’s day. Interestingly, the class that is always noisy decided to be quiet today for some reason. I’ll stop there, as poetry writing isn’t my thing. Anyway, with this list of adverbs I can get students to do something with some information that is more than just reading between the lines and possibly moving towards that interpreting and absorbing the information that the examiners wish to see.

In my first lesson back with my Year 11 class, I am going to try this with an article and get them to come up with some sentences in response to the article.

Worryingly, the writer feels that students need to know more about adverbs.

Interestingly, the writer hasn’t done this before.

Funnily, the writer's attempt to write poetry isn’t that successful.

Then, I will get them to expand and justify their opinion, by reusing that adverb in the next sentence.  Furthermore, I might even show them how placing the adverb in different places can affect the overall meaning and opinion of the reader.

Nervously, I leave you as I plan my lessons for the week ahead. Hesitantly, I approach the piles and piles of work to do. Joyously, I haven’t got to go to work on Monday. Surprisingly, it was going to be an INSET day, but it has been changed to some twilight sessions. Luckily, that gives me an extra day to plan and mark work. Disapprovingly, my wife, also a teacher, has to work. Smugly, I don’t.

Thanks for reading,


1 comment:

  1. So true! Too often we spend so much time on the content that we neglect the craft of writing needed to effectively convey their understanding and valuing of the content. A great post Chris