Sunday, 7 April 2019

What can English learn from Maths? Skills Checks.

Recently, I have been jealous of how Maths have a plethora or targeted resources on specific questions. I have seen endless examples of different types of questions and looked on with envy. The problem with English is that we are often teaching different texts or the needs of our children are different. One teacher might have problems with students learning quotations, when another teacher has a problem with students not explaining things enough in their writing. Therefore, when looking at resources, we are often quick to save or ignore them. That resource will not solve my problem. Nice idea, but it will not help me.

One resource in Maths has inspired me in English. It’s a simple resource and I apologise for not finding the original source. It features either a small A5 sheet of paper or one PowerPoint slide. On it are five or six different mathematical problems. Each one tackles a different skill or thought process. Often, it is used as a starter or as a task on its own.

I liked it because it addresses several things at once. It identifies gaps and it helps to reinforce learning from previous lessons. Furthermore, it allows teachers to address gaps in the learning or address misunderstandings. I kept thinking: why don’t we have something like this in English?

Often our problem in English is that our teaching is dependent on identified needs rather than routine learning. We set a task and then on the back of that task we adapted our teaching to address the weaknesses. Their spelling is terrible, so let’s spend a few weeks on spelling. Their grammar is weak, so let’s have a weekly grammar lesson. Their comma usage is terrible, so let’s have a lesson on commas. They are quick course corrections, but do they fundamentally change the students approach to learning?  One lesson. One week. That one term has a lot of pressure on it to be a magical cure for misunderstandings. 

The problem isn’t necessary when we teach the aspect but how often and how regularly we visit the area. We teach when there is a need and not with an expectation that it is a need or a basic foundation in English that needs constant revision, reminding and reteaching.

We know students are going to spell words incorrectly. We know students are going to use commas incorrectly. We know students will struggle with apostrophes. Why are we not looking at them weekly?

Therefore, I have adapted the grid for English and used it with several groups with success. It takes ten minutes to make and I can use it with every year group.  I don’t need to photocopy it sometimes and simply use a PowerPoint slide and students complete the work in their books. In fact, if one person in the department makes one sheet, you’d have enough for a whole term.

I tend to start the lesson with these sheets. Students spend five minutes completing the different tasks and then we work through the answers as a class. So far, I have done this once a week and it has been quite effective and helpful. I can easily tailor the boxes so that I can put emphasis on things, but also go to areas that haven’t been explored for some time.

It is also great for reinforcing rules. We have, like others, a problem with comma splices so I’ve made sure that I am working weekly on comma splices. Reminding students of rules to spot and fix a comma splice. Rather than spend one lesson on comma splices, I am spending 3 minutes a week all year.  I am revisiting and reteaching all the time. Why spend a whole lesson planning and teaching on it if you can do it weekly?  

Our newfound emphasis on curriculum has made us re-evaluate things. The SPaG or grammar lesson always troubled me as a concepts as it was viewed separately from the core of English learning. This approach allows for grammar to be integrated and common within lessons. It doesn’t have to be a distant cousin.

What if each teacher made one of these and shared it?

Thanks for reading,



  1. Amazing resource, have you produced anymore? Thank you.

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