Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ban pens to improve language skills

Yes, I thought it was odd too. Apparently, according to this BBC article, lots of kiddiwinks (over 50% in socially deprived areas) start school without having developed the ability to speak in 'long sentences'. This is a slightly vague term, but the article claims that a class of 5- and 6-year olds took six attempts to unjumble this sentence:
past the walked we shops
I wouldn't even call that a long sentence, so if this is true it's a bit worrying. The children, claims Wendy Lee from the Communication Trust, are only using short phrases and single words, and say things more typical of much younger children, such as:
went shops
The school in question is in Wythenshawe in South Manchester, but this applies to any area where there are high levels of social deprivation. Essentially, the kids aren't being talked to at home so they aren't developing language skills at the same rate as more well-off children.

So what about this no pens thing? The school, along with 99 others, is having a No Pens Day to try to encourage greater use of longer sentences. Sounds counter-intuitive, getting children not to write, but when you think about it, it makes sense. They're only young so when they're writing they're not using long sentences. And if they can't do it in speech, it's unreasonable to expect them to write lengthy accounts of a shopping trip. Instead, all the lessons on that day are discussion-based, encouraging the kids to talk more. The questions are open-ended rather than requiring single-word answers or short phrases. Who'd have thought it, wanting kids to talk more in lessons?

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