All Quiet on the Western Fronted Adverbial

There has been a rise in 'Teacher speak' over the last few years, especially since the 2014 National Curriculum. Vocabulary that most teachers wouldn't have heard of, let alone taught to children has suddenly become part of day-to-day patois. Phrases like 'past participle' and 'fronted adverbial' are chanted by teachers and pupils alike, referring to language techniques that they may well have used, but never needed to name previously.

Sometimes my wife looks at me like I'm speaking another language when I casually slip in words like the 'subjunctive' over dinner (as you do), and even though both of us studied English at A Level and both have degrees, neither of us knew this terminology before the current craze.

The National Curriculum, and the subsequent changes to SATs and writing assessments, placed a large emphasis on pupils' knowledge of this terminology, rather than them simply having an understanding of how to use them. Various literary figures have derided this process. Teaching pupils the names of various techniques is not the same as teaching them how to write effectively.

Is this emphasis on certain types of sentence eroding children's creativity? When it is possible to achieve 'Expected' levels by placing sentences like jigsaw pieces in a paragraph, is this just writing by numbers?

Only time will tell whether this emphasis on Grammar has a positive or negative effect on writing. Maybe future authors will include fronted adverbials and embedded clauses in every sentence. Maybe the next War and Peace will be packed with changes in formality (for no reason). Or maybe we are just creating a generation of writing robots.


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