Whilst I know nothing about how English is taught in the US, I thought I'd throw my thoughts into this particular arena anyway.
I'm a former high school English teacher. I taught from Year 4 to Year 13 - 'A2' Level English Language (...and Media Studies too). I'm in the UK and
things are very different here. Our students are taught to pass an exam. Now that exam does include analysis of language and I feel that's important.
Okay, first our munchkins do need to get to grips with the nuts and bolts of our beautiful language. That's easier said than done. It makes no sense.
You try to learn a language like French or Spanish and, on the whole, you can rely on verb tables and rule to help you out. English? Forget it. It's
insane. There are 'rules' but they're more like 'guidelines' and are often tossed aside. When one rule doesn't work for a stylistic reason the odds
are someone's gonna just toss it aside and play with the words instead. English is flexible. Can anyone offer me an example of another language where
a words can be played around with so much and have such ambiguity?
So the nuts and bolts - that comes best with learning sentence structure and we do try to do that in the UK. Not very successfully, I may add. My job
these days involves teaching 'professional' letter writers how to write. I teach them how sentences are constructed. Simple sentences are punchy.
Compound sentences add a little more yet they are still easy to follow. Complex sentences, whilst the name is scary, aren't that scary at all. See
what I did there? Sad, ain't I? And that's another thing...semantics. I don't know about in other languages, but English experiences semantic shift at
an incredible rate. Sad - now means a range of things. Gay - well let's move on from that one. Hopefully you get my point.
To get our youngsters really close to the language we need to try to instill a love for it. A real enjoyment which, in my view, can only be drawn from
knowing how things are put together.
Let's take the opening of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. 'The man in black fled into the desert and the gunslinger followed.' Pure simplicity.
If someone cannot comment upon why that is and effective opening to a novel then they have been failed. I'm not judging anyone who can't - I'm just
making a point.
Then we move onto poetry. Poetry is a truly beautiful thing - capable of moving the most hardened heart to tears. Subtle word and syntax choices can
create tears, just by their relationship to one another and the impact they have. Let's take Mario Pettrucci as an example:
'...Tells me he
will teach me in his dreams -
will teach me to breathe if
I teach him how to fly. If
you go with Grandpa he
says - will you be able to
breathe? He says this and
his cheeks run wet and
he runs short of breath so
we sit once again to
teach each other how --
deep and slow. We are
flying I tell him. We are
breathing he replies.'
To deny anyone an opportunity to discover such works is wrong. Note taking? Great - if you can write well, that should be easy. Report writing?
Wonderful - make it creative.
I always taught my students that creativity was king. To be creative you need to experience writing - in all of it's forms. Pull it apart and put it
together again. Otherwise, they are only words: mundane and staid rather than exciting and full of vibrancy.
I'll be honest - I've kinda lost my own thread on this post. I guess what I'm getting is that I've the read the OP and the post following it but
teaching kids about what the author's intent is - well, that's paramount. How else can you figure out what's going on? Is it to entertain you? If so,
how do you know? Is it to inform you? If so, how do you know? These things are fundamentals. If I have to write something, in work, to persuade a
stakeholder to do something, am I going to use rhetorical questions? Damned right I am. Am I going to use threes? Definitely. It would be ineffective,
stylistically weak and, well, just kinda wrong not to.
Let's not make language a simple tool. Let's remember and feed to our children what it really is. It's mind blowing. It's pure power, in the right
hands. It's laughter. It's tears. It's everything we are as a species. Let's not deprive our children of that.
Unstructured rant over.
edit on 5-4-2015 by cado angelus because: I'm not perfect...
edit on 5-4-2015 by cado angelus because: drafting