The problem with the Framework…

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The Framework was and is is a laudable document, I am sure. It details the progress a child is expected to make in all aspects of English over the primary years. It told you, week by week, term by term where a child is expected to be in English and at what age.

Publishers love this stuff. They take the information kindly provided by the government and turn it into books with titles like “100 fantastic lessons from the Framework”. They produce a book for each year group with photocopiable worksheets and a CD with whizzy interactive stuff for the whiteboards we all have now, and offer teachers the Holy Grail – all the planning you need to copy and paste into whatever document the schools have concocted to ensure you spend every waking hour thinking about their next lesson.

If it were only that easy we wouldn’t need teachers, we would just issue the book to parents and let them get on with it, wouldn’t we?

The problem with the Framework, indeed any published framework or what you will, is always two-fold:

Firstly, the powers that be invariably put a time line to it, which enabled the publishers (you will remember) to make their lesson plans – no problem so far. The schools buy them and give each book containing a whole year’s work to the appropriate teacher in each year group, who presumes that that’s what he needs to do and gets on with it.

Every child in, say, year 5 is taught the stuff that the book says is appropriate to his age; and there’s the rub. In any typical class of 30 there is likely to be at least a couple of students with specific learning difficulties that clearly need an alternative approach if not a completely different curriculum. The rest are okay on the normal curriculum but will fall broadly into three camps; the flyers that are way in front, the ones that are working at an age appropriate level and those that haven’t quite got there yet for whatever reason.

So, in the end our teaching talent, when applied in line with a framework as portrayed in any given textbook, is only being applied to 27% of the student population. The rest are either bored out of their crusts, scratching their heads and blinking or off on another planet…

So, then, in order to work effectively one would presumably need to be juggling several of the “100 Fabulous Lessons” books at once. Hmm…

The second issue is that the worksheets that come with the published material engender a culture of correcting mistakes, not one of improving style – and that’s a big one.

Spellings and exercises in grammar are absolutely essential to practise and become accustomed to the way things are meant to be in the written form, I have no dispute with worksheets for this. They can be marked with a tick or a cross. All very tidy. Teachers like it because progress is easy to demonstrate and kids quite like ticks and crosses too, though I haven’t met one yet that cared what colour ink was used.

As far as style in writing is concerned, however, there is often neither right nor wrong; so it’s not quite so cosy and comfortable to deal with. Some writing is better than other. It’s a sliding scale, a continuum along which students can progress; some further than others – but they can all progress.

In order to improve children’s writing style someone has to stand in front of them and explain how.

The progression is not a secret, it merely needs to be taught so that students are aware of it understand it and can apply it to their own work.

This cannot be achieved in one forty minute session before moving on to the next item in the book, it needs to be ongoing and constantly referred to and insisted upon.

And when it comes to marking, a little one to one time needs to be spent with each individual to highlight the areas in which what has been taught either has, or has not, been applied…

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