Linguistic Predictions

Last year my husband and I downloaded several linguistics courses from the Great Courses. I know I know – this is my idea of a good time. I’m so rock and roll! Anyway, a lot of the lectures were about how language changes and evolves, and one of them was about predictions of how English will continue to change. I’ve decided to write and publish my own predictions as I think it will be interesting to look back on this in 30 or 40 years’ time to see how accurate I was.

First of all, I believe that ‘would of’, ‘could of’ and ‘should of’ will become an accepted alternative to ‘could have’, ‘would have’ and ‘should have’. It may even become the standard. This is one Professor John McWhorter, who wrote the course we listened to, disagrees with me about. I’m not as convinced as him, and this is why:

It’s a common mistake. I already see it in writing as often as I see the correct version – amongst the younger generations more than amongst the older ones. I’ve seen teachers using it, which means it is probably going uncorrected in some classes, which means it is likely to continue taking hold amongst the younger generations. Some of those who grow up believing it is correct will go on to become teachers and the error will continue to be passed on to future generations.

Self-publishing is becoming more widespread. There are lots of aspiring writers out there, and the publishing companies don’t take them all on. But it’s easier than ever to self-publish and still get your books out there. Some self-published writers still put their work through a rigorous proofing and editing process, but some don’t. Some books I’ve picked up have contained a shocking number of errors – ‘could of’, ‘would of’, ‘should of’ amongst them – and I’ve deleted them from my Kindle reader in disgust. I’m sure there will be a growing number of people over time who see these mistakes and think, “It’s published so it must be correct.”

Another change I’ve noticed sneaking into our language is a confusion between the past tense and the past participle. Instead of saying ‘I wrote’ / ‘I have written’   or   ‘I ran’ / ‘I have run’   and ‘I rang’ / ‘I have rung’,   people are saying, ‘I have wrote’ (I’ve wrote a letter to parents about the school trip), ‘I have rang’ (I’ve rang his parents several times about his behaviour), and ‘I have ran’ (I’ve ran after school clubs for the last 3 years). Again I’ve noticed lots of teachers using these so they are clearly being passed onto the next generation via the classroom.  ‘I have wrote’ occurs quite frequently in Jane Austen so it looks as though this particular grammatical construction has changed direction and is now heading back to how it used to be. I’m not sure what the linguistic explanation for this phenomenon is, but if anybody knows I’d be really interested in hearing it.

What else do I think will change? Punctuation, and the apostrophe in particular. There seems to be an increasing number of people who not only fail to place them where they should be, but also litter texts with unneeded ones and even confuse them with commas. A perfect example of all three of these errors is the sandwich shop near me called “Sarahs Buttie,s”. I think eventually there will be a law passed to abolish apostrophes completely.

I don’t think our government will follow our German and French cousins with spelling reforms, as quirky spelling is far too ingrained in our culture, but I do predict one spelling change. As names come in and out of fashion, I think the name of the good professor I mentioned at the beginning of this piece will fall out of use and John will be replaced by Jhon. This seems to be the most common name chosen by children to use in stories and I’ve never yet come across one who has placed the ‘h’ in the correct place!

Found Poems

I recently did a course about writing poems with FutureLearn. I have never really enjoyed poetry and I know that I tend to neglect it when I teach, so I was hoping that the course would give me some new ideas for helping me to enjoy teaching poetry and for helping my pupils develop their poetry writing skills.

One of the types of poetry mentioned on the course was “found poems” and I found this very interesting. The idea is to write a poem using only words and phrases that you can hear or see at the time of writing. The words don’t have to be used in the order that they are overheard or seen so you have to play around a bit to find an order that makes sense, but I liked the idea that pupils could be creative without having come up with their own ideas which many people find difficult.

An example of a found poem is written below. This was written using words I could see while sitting at my desk – from snack packets, various items pinned to a corkboard, German post-it notes and a framed picture. The only addition to this poem were the words “No inspiration.”

Lo-fat yoghurt,
Salt and Vinegar,
Paracetamol.
No inspiration.

Pay credit card,
Write to Rachel,
Email Emma.
No inspiration.

Thank you for booking….
You are cordially invited…
Next day guaranteed.
No inspiration.

Plötzlich….I’m begeistert!
No inspiration ursprünglich
but im Augenblick
I’m away with the fairy lights…
and it’s gruselig!

I shall definitely try this out with some of my tuition pupils in the coming year. If anybody wants more ideas of how to write a poem I can recommend the FutureLearn course “How to Make a Poem“.

Related post: The 10 Step Cheat’s Guide to Writing a Poem

Learning braille

As regular readers of my blog know, I love learning new things. As a teacher, I think it’s important to continually put myself in the position of a learner so that I never forget what it’s like to sit on the other side of the table.

I recently set myself the challenge of learning braille. A friend of mine and her mum are braille teachers and I asked them to teach me As I don’t see them often I said I would teach myself some of the basics first so that they could then teach me the more complex parts, and I promised to write my friend a letter in braille when I had managed to learn some. I’m really glad I decided to do this, as I have learn so much more than just a new way of writing the alphabet.

First of all I downloaded a fantastic app called Braille Tutor and started learning the alphabet and numbers. I also used these lovely resources from Twinkl, and these (also from Twinkl), some of which were great from practising the alphabet in context, rather than just a letter at a time. The first thing I realised was that when I first started I was confusing some of the letters for each other.

Take a look at these two letters and you’ll notice that they are very similar. The i and the e are mirror images of each other.

 

Now look at these and you’ll notice they are like two sides of a square being rotated anti-clockwise by 90° each time.

This gave me a much better understanding of what it must be like to be dyslexic because I mixed up the i with e, and d, f, h and j in a similar way to how people with dyslexia confuse m with w, and b, d, p and q. Even though I knew that these were different letters and that the orientation was important, somehow my brain just kept flipping them over and turning them round.

Learning to read braille has reminded me of how much understanding you lose when you have to decode every word instead of reading fluently – I had to keep taking breaks to mentally recap what I had just read. I always encourage weaker readers to pause and consolidate what they have read before moving on, but my experience reading braille has shown me that I actually need to make them do this much more often with smaller chunks of text.

Once I was confident with the alphabet and numbers I decided it was time to try writing a letter to my friend. I quickly decided that a braille printer was waaaay outside my budget, and so I bought a slate and stylus from Amazon instead.

This was my second lightbulb moment.  Anyone who works in education will know the frustration of marking work and finding that there are no capital letters and very few full stops.  I wrote a post some time ago about this (Why do they do that?) but I now have some new ideas to explain this….

I knew exactly what I wanted to write, and I sat down to compose my letter. Half-an-hour later and my first three attempts were languishing in the recycling bin. I mentally crossed out most of what I had planned to say, and sat down again to write a very basic note. It took me an hour to write 5 lines, and when I read back over what I had written, I noticed that I had missed quite a few capital letters and some punctuation. Obviously I know how to use capital letters and full stops, so what on earth had gone wrong?

The problem was that it’s hard to write braille. You have to remember what the pattern of dots for the letter you want to write is and then you have to reverse it (because with a slate and stylus you work from right to left and mirror write, so that when you turn the paper over the embossed dots are the right way round) – and remember some of those letters are hard to tell apart anyway! You have to make sure that you have placed the stylus in the correct part of the cell and you have to use just the right amount of force – too much and you just poke a hole in the paper; not enough and the indent doesn’t show through clearly enough on the other side. I found I was concentrating so hard on all of this that there was no brain power left for anything else, such as remembering to add in the symbol that means “capitalise the next letter”, and so on a couple of occasions it just slipped my mind.

I’m sure it must be like this for many children in our classrooms, and this experience has helped me to understand exactly how much effort goes into writing a simple sentence. Hopefully, it will also help me to think of new ways to help them so that they become able to express what they want to say, instead of limiting themselves to what they feel able to say, and so that their punctuation is accurate more consistently.

There’s still so much more I need to learn for braille. I still have the contracted form to tackle- I haven’t even mastered double letters yet so that may take a while. I’m glad I’ve made a start though. It means I can send my friend Nicki letters from time to time instead of only ever communicating by text/email and I’ve improved my teaching practice at the same time.

35 activities for children in your own garden

I have noticed over the last few years, that fewer and fewer children know much about nature. In fact a few weeks ago I was surprised to discover than none of the children I was working with in school knew what a buttercup was.

I know it’s hard to find time in busy lives to get to the park or walk in the country, so here are a few suggestions of things that can be done without leaving your own garden.

 Important notes for the adults
This post contains lots of ideas to help your children connect with nature in your own garden. There are also ideas included for linking some of these activities to maths, English, science and art. Your child may need help or supervision carrying out these activities. These activities are suggestions only – it is your responsibility to ensure that it is safe to carry them out. Although I have used the websites and apps suggested, I have no control over their availability, content or any adverts that are placed on those sites and I cannot therefore accept responsibility for them.

Important notes for the children
There are some suggestions of things to eat in this list, but never eat anything you find in your garden without checking with an adult that it is safe to do so.
Make sure you ask an adult’s permission before doing any of these activities, and especially before visiting any of the websites or downloading any of the apps suggested here.
Always wash your hands after touching things found in your garden.

Thirty-five ideas of nature-related things to do in your home or garden.

  1. Race two raindrops down the window pane. Describe the path they take – straight or curvy, fast or slow?
  2. Count ladybirds in the garden. How many did you find? Make a tally chart of how many have two spots, four spots, etc. What was the highest number of spots? Which amount of spots was most common?
  3. Close your eyes outside for two minutes. What sounds can you hear?
  4. We talk about the seven colours of a rainbow but they don’t really have 7 colours. Look at a rainbow. What colours can you actually see?
  5. Choose two pretty stones from the garden. What is the same about them? What is different about them? Look at the patterns. Draw one of the stones.
  6. How many different coloured butterflies can you see? Have a look at a butterfly identification chart- can you identify any of them?
  7. Place a blade of grass between your fingers and blow. What sound does it make? What happens if you use a thicker or thinner piece of grass?
  8. Look at the flowers in the garden. Either find one for each colour of the rainbow, or find 3 the same colour and order them from lightest to darkest.
  9. Make a daisy chain.
  10. Touch the soil on a dry day. What does it feel like? Touch it again after it has rained. Describe the difference in texture (how it feels).
  11. Watch the bees. Which sort of flowers do they like best?
  12. Count how many different sorts of birds visit your garden. How many can you name? If you don’t know what sort they are, have a look at the RSPB site to try to identify them.
  13. Open the windows early one morning and listen to the bird song.
  14. Plant some meadow flower seeds to attract the wildlife to your garden. Don’t forget to water them on the days it doesn’t rain.
  15. Make your own rain gauge and measure the rainfall. If you measure it over a few days, you could draw a graph of your results.
  16. Eat your lunch outside.
  17. Look for spiders webs. How many different sorts of spiders did you spot?
  18. Lots of people don’t like wasps. Find out about wasps and write down one reason why we should be grateful to them.
  19. Tie a ribbon to a stick. Which way is the wind blowing? Watch it for a few days. Does it always blow in the same direction?
  20. Plant some runner bean seeds and wait for them to grow – don’t forget to water them if it doesn’t rain. When the beans develop, you can pick and eat them!
  21. Ask five different people what their favourite flower is and why. Write down their replies.
  22. Make a bark rubbing.
  23. Lift up a stone or log. How many different insects do you see? Note which insects like which habitats. UK Safari is a useful site  to help you identify what you have found.
  24. Count the number of petals on different flowers. How many arrangements can you find? How many had 3 petals? How many had four? How many had 5? How many had more than 5? Draw a bar chart to show your results.
  25. Lie on your tummy and look at the grass. Have a look at the tiny insects you can see. Can you see any more if your use a magnifying glass?
  26. Smell the flowers. Which one do you like best?
  27. Make a collection of leaves. Pay attention to the size, colour and shape. Are they smooth, prickly or furry? Are the veins (the lines running through the leaves) hard or easy to see? If they are leaves from trees, see if you can identify them from the Woodland Trust website or download the free woodland trust app.
  28. Watch a sunrise or a sunset to find out which direction is east/west. Remember the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Paint / draw what you can see, or write a description/poem about it.
  29. Plant some nasturtiums. They are climbing plants, so they look really pretty growing up walls and fences and you can eat the flowers and leaves on bread and butter!
  30. Look at the clouds. How many different types can you see? Have a look at the Royal Meteorological Society website to help you identify them. What colours can you see? How quickly are they moving? Can you see any pictures in the clouds?
  31. Grow your own potatoes.  Grow your own potatoes has some instructions for how to plant them and some instructions for how to look after them.
  32. Make a sundial. You can also do this with a stick in the ground instead of using a board and a nail, and by placing a stone where the shadow falls each hour, instead of marking the board with a pencil. Don’t forget to paint the numbers 1-12 on the stones!
  33. Enjoy a thunderstorm. Work out how far away the storm is. Is there sheet or fork lightning or both? Learn how to spell the word lightning (tip – there’s no ‘e’ in it)!
  34. Look at the sky at night and try to pick out some constellations. SkEye is a useful app for knowing what you are looking for, or you could try the Astronomy Now website.
  35. Feed the birds. Use proper birdseed – bread is really not good for them. Make sure that if you decide to put out peanuts, they only go in a proper peanut feeder – otherwise very small birds can choke on them.

And above all – have fun!

 

Roald Dahl Day

September 13th is the birthday of Roald Dahl – the genius who dreamt up Willy Wonka, the Big Friendly Giant, an oversized talking centipede and Miss Trunchbull. And since 2006 it has been the date for celebrating his life and works.

His books have made the leap from paper to film and to the West End, and almost everyone has a favourite. I remember asking one of my 11 year old pupils once what his favourite Roald Dahl book was and to my surprise he said, “His autobiography.” Having read it on his recommendation, I have to say that I admire his taste and fully agree with him. Dahl writes about his own life with the same quirkiness as he writes about Oompa-Loompas and magic fingers.

Roald Dahl day can be celebrated by reading, dressing up, writing revolting recipes – the sky’s the limit. And if you can find the right button in the Great Glass Elevator, why even stop at the sky?