Shitting the Gerunds and Other Namings

gerund - Copy

Don’t get me wrong: I continue to be so impressed with the understanding and engagement of students responding to the tough, terminal, closed-book GCSE English Literature testing of this year’s cohort.

I have just read and assessed an empathetic, knowing and articulate account of a student’s understanding of having studied War poetry. This student grasped the poems’ themes with considerable independence of thought as well as display a critical appreciation of their crafting – this latter usually the more demanding to assimilate for oneself.

Then there is the relentless namings. The gerund verbs, in this repetitive case. I won’t exemplify more, and I have presented such in a more creative mode here, but this is a woeful distraction [though it does not impact on the grading]. Unless more time could be spent on expressions of appreciation rather than regurgitation, but that isn’t a real, pragmatic issue.

I am genuinely disgusted with this. What/who is responsible? Is it the Literacy Strategy? Is it the KS2 testing regime – the SPaG and now GPS element championed by ignoramuses like Schools Minister Nick Gibb? Sadly, one has to ask as well, is it the teachers? Why would any English teacher teach students to respond to poetry by an intense naming of parts? If these teachers understand how to write and how to read writing, why would they over-emphasise such superfluous – and ultimately irrelevant – feature spotting?

As any well-trained student would respond, that is a rhetorical question. It must be fear of failure, some notion that assessment objectives require such a prevalence of subject terminology naming. I get this. But surely it is time that English teachers behave like English teachers rather than technicians and stop drilling students in this level of mechanical response?

Yes, that was too. But I’m not going to name it. Just feel it, for now.

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