I can remember, back in the dim and distant past, writing my ‘compositions’ for Miss Thomas. She was what I considered at that time to be elderly – probably in her early forties. With her iron grey hair back in a bun and a crooked index finger, the result of a cycling accident it turns out, she ruled with a rod of steel; no one messed with her.
At the end of a piece of work, always narrative writing genres had not been forced to percolate down to primary schools in the 60s, I would dutifully present my work at her desk. Desks in those days were high, too high for me to see what was happening as she read and marked my offering.
At the end of the process my work was returned to me covered in red ink which encircled each errant spelling and underlined grammatical errors. Omissions were indicated with an inverted v beneath the line. I was expected to review, revise and improve it for presentation. This meant look up spellings and correct them, put in the full stops and capital letters, change all the required instances of “were” to “was”, and write it out neatly.
In short it was all about spelling, punctuation, grammar and something pretty for the wall.
Not that anything I ever wrote was considered pretty enough to go on the wall, the girls seemed to have that department well stitched up. I talked to my son about his experience of “writing”, it was much the same except that he was merely sent away with the instruction to ‘improve’ it. Not much had changed in the intervening years; speaking to the children that would arrive each year in my year 6 class, every new crop told the same story.
What grammar was taught seemed to have been taught in one off bolt on lessons without cross referencing them to longer pieces of written work. They never seemed to have any concept of how to develop style; the main thrust of their education in writing had invariably been handwriting and spelling with a smattering of grammar as dictated by the Framework.
Don’t get me started on the Framework…