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Low ability year 7 don't appear to be progressing, help!

Discussion in 'English' started by PrincessVix, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. During my PGCE I only had top and second sets, now during my NQT year I again have set 1 and set 2s apart from my year 7 class who are set 6. They have end of year targets of level 4a, most of them are hovering around the 3a/4c mark but what is concerning me more is that looking through their books they dont seem to be making any progress, their spelling is still awful (whent, realy, carn't etc) and they still have little grasp of punctuation. I've done whole lessons on spellings and punctuation, done it as a recap in starters but it just doesn't seem to be sinking in - they can't even seem to copy off the board correctly!
    I feel I really need them to go back to primary and grasp the basics but have no idea how to go about teaching these things as previously all pupils I've had have been able to do them.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
  2. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    Have you asked yourself, or them, why? Your post concentrates exclusively on writing - how's their reading?

  3. Their reading comprehension seems to be good, they do better on reading assessments than writing ones and they are happy to read aloud, and quite capable. I have no idea why they can't copy off the board, it doesn't appear to be related to colour of pen / background (have tried a variety) or position around the room. The only thing I can think of is that they look at the board, read it and then write down what they think they saw - pictures often becomes pitchers, persuade becomes purswade etc - perhaps I just need to re-emphasise that spelling is important. I may speak to some of them next week if the problem still continues.
    Thanks for the advice.
  4. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    Copying from a board is difficult for children with limited literacy skills. Imagine doing it in another language; I'd make mistakes. Spelling is important but sentence construction and structuring extended writing more so. Perhaps, you could do more extended writing and get ten to redraft, correcting errors? Very few of my lessons involve copying from the board, unless it's notes that I don't mark. It often helps to print material and stick in books for low sets. More expensive but it makes their books nicer and allows you to get through more with them.
  5. Most of the copying down is success criterias that we create as a class at the start of a lesson e.g. What 6 things make a good set of instructions, we then decide as a class and they copy these down before then attempting the task, they then can refer back to the criteria to refresh their minds with what they need to be focusing on that lesson. I haven't tried redrafting with them as I am worried they will just copy out what they have already written. Do you mark the work at all before they redraft it (just putting comments like 'this sentence is too long') or do you just let them redraft it from an unmarked copy?
    The main issues I have are spelling and lack of full stops and capital letters. They normally have good ideas but struggle to put them down on paper, it just ends up reading 'and then this happened and then this and I said this and then jack did this'. I've tried getting them to read their work out only pausing where they have put punctuation and this has had some success, but not a great deal. (this was in paragraphs but for some reason they disappear when I post!)
  6. You have to explicitly teach redrafting skills. I model two different skills when I'm talking about redrafting. One is proof-reading and correcting technical errors where I do things like read the piece out loud and ask if the punctuation mirrors the way it is spoken (does the pause for the end of a sentence have a matching full stop and capital letter, for example) or get them to read it from the bottom line up, line by line, to check for spelling mistakes. The second is redrafting for writer's craft and again model this out on the board, picking out words that could be improved, thinking about where imagery could be used or looking at punctuation for effect. It's a good idea to focus on just one or two things at a time and do lots of peer assessment as well as you marking things. I do find that some of them know perfectly well how to use full stops and capital letters but just don't bother so you have to stress again and again, every single time you ask them to put pen to paper, that you expect them to be accurate.
  7. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    I get that in set 1!
    Ask them what a sentence is.
  8. Why should they be accurate in copying off the board if it's such a pointless task? Unless they are working on something at home, there's no reason why you can't just leave the criteria on the board for them to refer to throughout the lesson. You could even get them t come up and write their initials next to an item when they believe they have fulfilled it (kids LOVE writing on the board for some reason and a bit of gentle competition to see who can get the most ticked off in a lesson will encourage them). I'm assuming you have IWB so you can save the file or print it out and stick it up as evidence of learning too.
  9. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    Some schools insist that objectives must be copied from the board into books. Like you, I think copying from the board is a waste of time, though.
  10. I'd forgotten that. Sorry, OP, if that's the case.
  11. They have to have it in their book but I suppose I could print them out and glue them in, love the idea of them ticking off on the board when they've achieved, I think some of the boys would really rise to the competitive element. I'm actually feeling much better now I've marked the whole set of books, the majority of the class are making progress and although they are still underachieving they are gaining ground on their targets, just had a couple of disappointing books at the start which put me in a bit of a panic! Defo going to try teaching them how to redraft and see if that creates much improvement.
    On a slightly different note, how exactly do you define a sentence, when I ask the class I just get 'it starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop' - when pushed further the answers just turn in to 'it's made up of words'. I've yet to find a fantastic definition that shows a sentence is more than that without confusing them too much. The closest we have come up with as a class is 'it's s complete idea that makes sense on its own' but I am concerned that this is going to just produce loads of simple sentences (which might end up being just as frustrating as ones that last a page!)
  12. Yup. You have to get them into what a sentence is and then teach them how to join those simple sentences together. I've recently spent ages working on the idea of sentences having an object and a verb. If you mention the object again, you need to start a new sentence or use one of the joining strategies we have discussed. We also did loads of silly games where each kid was a different part of speech or punctuation (I have a small class but you could do it in groups) and as I read out and revealed a written sentence on the board they had to jump up when their part was said. I made one of them "Capital Letter" so, for example at the start of a sentence, "John threw the ball." both the Subject pupil and the Capital Letter pupil had to stand up simultaneously. It was really chaotic and silly at times but it did get them learning their parts of speech and kept the idea of capital letters and full stops at the front of their minds. I'm still getting loads of simple sentences, occasionally joined with incongruously sophisticated conjunctions, but we're getting there.
  13. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    There's absolutely no one correct definition of "sentence". (Probably hundreds of ideas as to how one might define it.) You need one that you and class can work together with.
    " I've yet to find a fantastic definition that shows a sentence is more than that without confusing them too much. The closest we have come up with as a class is 'it's s complete idea that makes sense on its own'.
    I'm afraid that notion is useless - unless somehow you and class understand the same thing by it and can make it work.
    "It is" is a sentence. You agree? Complete idea? Makes sense on its own? Don't think so.
  14. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    Dam' you, markuss! That's exactly what I teach my kids.
  15. I'm intrigued - how would you suggest I teach my class where to put full stops and capital letters. I was asking for advice so if you have some to share with me I would be very grateful but please dont just tell me my current strategy is poor without offering a suitable alternative as that doesn't help me progress as a teacher
  16. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    I have loads of work sheets on 'sentences' and 'not sentences'. They tick the sentences and have to complete those which are not sentences.
    FWIW I'd say 'It is' is a sentence. 'Is that a flower?' 'It is.'
  17. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    I would keep it simple for bottom set y7. Teach them subject, verb and object to establish simple sentences. Then compound, and then complex. Your idea about a complete idea that makes sense is sound. That way you can teach them full stops and commas for clauses. If they come up with something like is 'It is.' a sentence, you can say that there are different types of sentences and fragments but they'll come to that later. More importantly, they need to see where a sentence ends, otherwise, the dreaded comma splicing starts.
  18. A bottom set sometimes need to start with absolutes. You can dazzle them with the wonderful variety at a later date but an awful lot of errors come from trying to push children into too much complexity too fast. The idea of a set of words which makes sense on its own is useful because it stops them comma splicing all over the place.
  19. I just do a subject and verb to start with. Under that definition "it is" can happily be a sentence.
  20. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Subject - Verb = a clause is viable. If they hapened to have learned much previously about noun phrases and verb phrases, that'd be a great help but it's unlikely I suppose.
    You can have some fun with statement to yes/no questions, which is really important in understanding Subject/Verb.
    Statement - "It is" (= SV). Y/N Q - "Is it?" = VS
    When the verb takes do/does/did form as a Y/N Q, then The S is the noun phrase coming after the do/does/did.
    "She chewed a brick" (sentences don't have to make sense) - "Did she chew a brick" - S = "she".
    Same sort of thing when Verbs have modals/auxiliaries as well as main verb.
    "Our Ofsted friends are arriving tomorrow" becomes "Are our Ofsted friends coming tomorrow?" So S = "our Ofsted friends"
    "The hamster was being eaten by the dog." "Was the hamster being eaten by the dog?" So, the Subject is "the hamster".


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