Dear Little Ones – Grammar

Dear Little Ones,

Make the most of the early years when your parents can help you with your school work.  Cutting and sticking – we can do.

Year 4 grammar – we’re going to struggle to help you with that.

You will need to know about things such as a determiner, pronoun, possesive pronoun and fronted adverbials.  You will need to write with the Standard English forms through the medium of verb inflections, even though nobody around you speaks like that.

Your teacher will teach you these grammar techniques and how to use them in a sentence.  Listen to that teacher well because your parents didn’t learn such grammar in their school years (unless they are posh and went to posh school).  Your parents won’t be able to do this homework  – if you need help you’re screwed.

Your Grandparents learnt this kind of grammar.  However they did it under duress.  If they failed to use the correct grammar they were caned.  Be careful before raising questions on possessive pronouns as you may trigger violent childhood memories that reduce Grandma to a dribbling mess, rocking in the corner.

However where one door closes a window opens and in this case not all is lost.  There is an enormous opportunity for naughtiness here because;

a. You will be judged purely on your grammar, punctuation and spelling which means that;

b. You can write something obscene, tell your parents that you’re practising your ‘subjunctive forms‘ and as they won’t know what the heck that is you can get away with all sorts.

EXAMPLE A

“With a twinkle of evil in his eye, he put a firework in his cousins nappy and lit it with matches stolen from the local orphanage” will be entirely OK because just look at that fronted adverbial!

EXAMPLE B

“She put two bowls of cat sick down his trousers” is 20% determiners.  OMG we are rocking!

I didn’t know what fronted adverbials or determiners were until I looked them up on Google to write this post.  I’m still not entirely sure I’m using them correctly.

Of course, as you know, learning all the grammar techniques in the world isn’t going to make you a great writer because great writers don’t worry so much about putting the words down on the page with clever grammar (although they always use the basics such as capital letters, full stops and the occassional colon).  They are more concerned with how those words lift the story off the page and touch your heart or teach you something new or convince you to buy their product.

As Mr Roald Dahl so beautifully puts it in his story Matilda…

“Mr Hemingway says a lot of things I don’t understand,” Matilda said to her.  “Especially about men and women.  But I loved it all the same.  The way he tells it I feel I am right there on the spot watching it all happen.”

“A fine writer will always make you feel like that,” Mrs Phelps said.  “And don’t worry about the bits you can’t understand.  Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.” – Roald Dahl

As a professional writer myself I would agree with Mr Hemmingway….

The only kind of writing is rewriting” – Ernest Hemmingway

…. which basically means just get it out of your head onto the paper and then subjugate your verbs if you think it will add to the experience for the reader.  Writing is something to be read so if you’re writing your Xmas list use your good handwriting so your parents know what you want.  If you’re writing a story then Dr Seuss says it perfectly (again – he is amazeballs).

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs,                                                                             is making a chore for the reader who reads.” – Dr Seuss

And for those of you who are feeling brave enough to attempt the hardest type of writing, comedy writing, then I would offer you the advice of Harold Ross….

If you can’t be funny, be interesting.” – Harold Ross

… which can be changed slightly for those situations where you have to write a presentation is a short space of time…

If you can’t be interesting, be funny” – Sarah Cantrill, Story Storks, writer of this letter and user of this technique more times than she can remember!

Good luck with your writing little ones.  I hope the grammar lessons help you in ways other than to wind up your parents but most of all I hope you find some time to write about subjects you enjoy.  They say you should write about subjects you know; let’s hope some of you get to write a novel and not just a book on grammar.

Lot’s of love

Sarah

A NOTE FOR GROWN-UPS

I watched some older kids (literally 8 yrs old – so old) doing their English Grammar homework a couple of weekends ago. The kids weren’t particularly inspired. One of the mums was trying to help. Somebody had to intervene because the mum was getting it wrong. That mum is one of the most creative writers I know.

Our generation didn’t hammer the grammar at school and we were getting by just fine until we had to help the kids with their homework! This inspired me to have a closer look at what my primary school children are going to need to know and frankly I was shocked. It’s a lot of big words for some pretty simple stuff.

Why are we not keeping it simple?

I searched the government website upon which I’d found the grammar guidelines for similar guidelines on creative writing. There were none. It’s all advice on how to write using the Standard Form. The standard form has it’s place, but what if you’re writing a story based in Leeds? They don’t speak the standard form; indeed the Standard Form with a Yorkshire accent just sounds false.

Is it a coincidence that literacy in the north of the country is so far behind the south when children in the north are being asked to write entirely differently from how they speak?

I don’t know the answers to any of the questions I’ve posed because I’m not a teacher. I suspect the answer is for the policy makers to listen more closely to the teaching profession. I imagine that if there is an answer to England’s literacy crisis then the teaching profession hold the magic key – we just need somebody to help them use it.

For now, I’ve chosen to write this post as a Dear Little Ones letter. I may not be able to help them with their grammar but I hope I can inspire them to write amazing wonderful adventures which touch the hearts of the people around them.

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