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What's the point in discussing the features of an information text?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by gsm1380, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. Or "highlighting the features of a newspaper article", or "discussing the organisation of this page"?



    I can understand this as a 10 minute starter for a literacy unit on these things, but our school seems to spend ages (influenced by the NLS) on discussing the 'features' of texts instead of just getting on with it!



    Is it just me? We've just finished explanation texts in Y4, a good lesson starter was to label and highlight an article about frogs. The children were looking for key words such as "why?" and "how?" but our lesson planning seems to go on forever about talking about the different types of text and how they should look and organised. I don't think that by Y6 the children will see in SATs that they need to write an explanatory piece and then be able to form a mental bullet point list in their minds about what to include, or will they?



    I don't really feel like complaining to be honest as I'm fairly new (that could also be the problem!).
     
  2. Or "highlighting the features of a newspaper article", or "discussing the organisation of this page"?



    I can understand this as a 10 minute starter for a literacy unit on these things, but our school seems to spend ages (influenced by the NLS) on discussing the 'features' of texts instead of just getting on with it!



    Is it just me? We've just finished explanation texts in Y4, a good lesson starter was to label and highlight an article about frogs. The children were looking for key words such as "why?" and "how?" but our lesson planning seems to go on forever about talking about the different types of text and how they should look and organised. I don't think that by Y6 the children will see in SATs that they need to write an explanatory piece and then be able to form a mental bullet point list in their minds about what to include, or will they?



    I don't really feel like complaining to be honest as I'm fairly new (that could also be the problem!).
     
  3. Gareth-Brown

    Gareth-Brown New commenter

    In my own experience I have found that when I plan something out before I do it, even if it is a relatively simple task, I find it easier to complete and do a better job. Some of these things can also seem so basic in the minds of teachers but the students might not quite get it.

    When students understand the organisation and structure of a page or certain kind of text, they can focus their thoughts better and create a piece of writing that is understood more easily by a reader.

    I do agree however that it is unfortunate schools have to focus so heavily on certain things just to appease the NLS. In Australia we have the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy).
     
  4. teacherman2

    teacherman2 New commenter

    To write an effective information text they need to have learnt the features to then put these into practice.
     
  5. Yes they can if you teach it first and reinforce it.
    I can say to my English class (bottom set) 'write a letter of complaint' and they will have a jolly good go, but if I haven't helped them look at the structure and features of a good example it won't be an effective letter. The top set picks things up more quickly and needs less scaffolding but they still need these features teaching. Very few will pick it all up by osmosis.
     
  6. palmtree100

    palmtree100 Lead commenter

    Yes it's crazy. I remember when my daughter (Year 2 ) came home and I asked her,
    "What did you do at school today?"
    She replied, "Non-chronological reports."
    Ridiculous. Trouble is, many Year 5's and 6's still can't use full stops, apostrophes or spell basic words. They have not absorbed enough language.
    In my opinion Literacy should not be taught explicitly as an academic subject throughout most of primary school, once children have learnt phonics and can blend them. Reading and writing is just a means of discovering the world at that age. The focus should be on the content, not features, and "why do you think the author.....". It's killing their enjoyment of reading about space/frogs/the BFG etc. A bit of grammar each week is enough. Reading comprehensions for the sake of it are done to death as well.
    There's so much more to discover about the world at that age! We need to harness that innocent curiosity and natural aptitude to learn, but the NLS is the most boring and ridiculous invention ever.
     
  7. I agree up to a point, but as you have to teach grammar through writing anyway, it seems reasonable to use different genres for this.
    I used to teach upper set (in a high achieving school) and those children coped well with genre. They also, had generally good 'secretarial skills'. They could use punctuation etc. Their word choices were good. Having switched to lower set this year, I can see that teaching through genre is often a problem for children who have a poor grasp of grammar and syntax.
    I have continued to teach genre, but have vastly reduced the amount of time I spend on this. My focus this year (and pretty much sole aim for many!) has been to get every child using tenses, full stops and capital letters reliably. The more able have been focussing on the use of commas. To me, an able writer must have a solid grasp of these things, before genre, and even before use of language.
    What I have found, is that while their use of grammar and punctuation has improved, their understanding of different genres and vocabulary has also. For example, I have focused on all writing needing a beginning, middle and end. This means that I get this from them now, whether the writing is a story, or a NC report, or a formal letter.
    There are some things that need to be in ALL good writing, regardless of genre. Spending 15 minutes each week looking at the features of a genre (or rather, asking the children to tell me what a good example of that genre would have) and then the rest of the time on the content, is working for me this year.
    They may not grasp the finer detail of report writing, or an account at the moment, but they can certainly point out that there needs to be an introduction that grabs the reader, that there should be a middle 'main' bit, and a decent conclusion. They know they need to make the writing interesting and they know they need to stick to the subject of the report. They know, above all, that their writing must make flipping sense!
     

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