Quote of the Week: 20 November 2017

Fair’s fair: if you think it is important for me to learn what a ‘360 No-Scope’ is, why can’t you get a grasp on similes and metaphors?  

BH periodic table
image:  https://othmarstrombone.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-elements-of-language-a-periodic-table-of-sorts/


Today’s quote is taken from:  David Crystal, Think On My Words – Exploring Shakespeare’s Language (Cambridge Uiversity Press:  Cambridge, 2008)

To my knowledge, the displays in my classroom had been up since 2012/13 – until this week, at least.

The non-existent magic money tree has been given a shake, and someone in the school has now been given paid time to do this for us.  It’s a bit bizarre, given we’ve had to do it ourselves, unpaid, in the past, which is part of the reason I didn’t bother.  Continuing the general thrust of this post, I felt that making me choose between covering my back by marking students’ work or prettifying the walls was an Rq.  See what I did there?

Anyway …

Setting aside the cynical conclusion that the school is being given a makeover because we are expecting ‘visitors’, I decided to go for it.  After all, 2/3rds of what was on my walls was stuff we don’t even teach any more.

A colleague had a beautiful Periodic Table of Subject Terminology at the back of her room – akin to the main image – until a newly-qualified teacher moved in and ripped it all off in exchange for a Y7 display of ‘my worst day ever’.  You know who you are … 😉

It was time to reclaim that gorgeous display.  After all, my main subject is largely language analysis; my main interests are in KS4/5 teaching; and the use of subject terminology is expected and rewarded on the AQA GCSE and OCR A Level markschemes.  As I always say to my students – you need to position yourself as a mini-expert in the subject, and that includes fluent and frequent use of the associated technical jargon.  I’m usually met with ‘what’s subject terminology?‘, or ‘what’s jargon?‘, or infinitely worse when you are two weeks away from an exam: ‘I can’t remember:  what’s an adjective?’

They are the tools in the writer’s toolbox.  The things you use to bake a cake, or build a house, or whatever.  They are the moves you execute in your video game.  Fair’s fair:  if you think it is important for me to learn what a ‘360 No-Scope’ is, why can’t you get a grasp on similes and metaphors?  

Learn what they are, what they do, and then THINK ABOUT WHY they were used at that point.  Spotting something, even defining something, will only get you so far, as I am fed up to the back teeth of explaining.

NO MORE EXCUSES, you wastrels.  They’re on the bloody wall (my version has definitions, too) …

BH think on my words

Anyway, here are a couple of quotations on the subject from the inimitable David Crystal.  (Dare I describe him as the Lionel Messi of the English world?)

‘Alliteration has been a basic fact of school life for generations, with students taught to identify examples in passages.  But the question of why it is there sometimes escapes them.  It is an important feature of English poetry because English is not a language that naturally alliterates in everyday speech.  So when someone uses a sequence of identical sounds (as in a television jingle, or a poem), we take notice.’

Memorably, some years back a top-set class (I still teach two of them) worked out seven different reasons WHY a writer might use alliteration. I think we can still go further on a good day …

Or, this try this quotation for the students I still have to convert:

‘No subject can exist without terminology.  It is a means of adding precision to thought, a communicative convenience between fellow practitioners, and a signpost offering increased illumination.’

Use it.  Be comfortable handling it, in the same way that the best footballers make a ball an extension of their bodies.  BE LIONEL MESSI: the goals will come in terms of better grades …

lionel messi
THIS MAN succeeds because he can do things most other people can’t.  Using subject terminology is a bit like that, students …


Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Hyperactive English Teacher and Tutor; Shakespeare-obsessed 'Villainous abominable misleader of youth'; 'old white-bearded Satan'; Friend of the Orangutan

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