To Spoon-Feed Or Not ?

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Anna Wells

Anna has an MA in Applied Linguistics and came into teaching via Schools Direct in 2013. She currently works at a prep school in Greater London teaching English and has previously been an Assistant Head, focusing on assessment. She is a self-confessed football nerd and...
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Are teachers stopping children from thinking creatively?

Teachers are apparently stopping children from thinking creatively by spoon-feeding them the answers they need to successfully complete their work.

I recently read an article explaining how teachers are stifling creativity by being too rigid with their modelling of a ‘perfect’ answer. The use of acronyms have invaded the classroom to the point that we seem to structure our lessons around them. Do we need to be ripping up the textbooks and ‘going rogue’ in order to allow our students creative juices to flow?

As an English graduate I often wish I could walk into the classroom, quote Shakespeare, put on an impromptu drama and then witness the forthcoming creative writing that would flow from the quills of my class. However, this isn’t quite reality. For a start, my degree was mainly in Linguistics, meaning I focused on clauses rather than Chaucer. I haven’t studied a book since I was at school and even then it was Keats. I still don’t know what was so great about his Grecian Urn.

Time To PEE?

My main point is that teaching writing to children is pretty hard. Maybe I’m missing the point somewhere, but in my opinion it is a highly refined skill that I’m still working on after 3 years in the profession. Every child is at a different point with their learning and progress; some can write reams of meandering prose whilst others struggle to capitalise a simple sentence. There has to be some means of bringing everyone together to help them along ,when you are the only captain of your ship.

During my NQT year I started with the acronym PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain). After a few sniggers around the class (including myself) I managed to get some paragraphs written that made a point and explained it. This was the learning objective and the main aim of the lesson.

I knew I wasn’t creating mini-Paxmans in the room, but it did the job and I could move on. Further down the line, I still have PEE in the back of my mind when teaching children to elaborate on an opinion they have. I understand that we shouldn’t be creating robot children who aren’t able to think for themselves, but we also need to realise that not every child is born to be a writer.

Some will have a passion for maths and engineering, others the sciences. If I can help any child along the way to a fulfilling career that is a benefit to the community then I consider my job well done. If that means I have to give them a hand by modelling a format for writing something, then so be it.

Force Fed?

I always look forward to the first day of an English module, where I can immerse my class in a book and get them thinking about the world they are reading about. However I also know that I will be covering SPAG and comprehension during the unit, skills that require a completely different approach to teaching. I want to be sure that every child who leaves my classroom has the understanding in these areas that they need to get by in the world.

Spoon-feeding is not something teachers set out to do; in an ideal world every child will take our lesson input and run with it, expanding the objective with their own creative thoughts and turning the lesson on its head. Sometimes this happens and its great. When it doesn’t happen, we need a back-up plan. Sometimes that back-up plan comes with an acronym, and I am perfectly happy with that.

Anna Wells writes for Teacher Toolkit.

2 thoughts on “To Spoon-Feed Or Not ?

  1. I think for children to write, they need to hear literature every day, read aloud to them, by someone passionate about it. They need to know what the language of books sounds like, and they need to enjoy it. Yes, walk in and quote Shakespeare, and see how that inspires their creative juices. To understand the process for young writers, it is also important for a teacher to be a writer. How will teachers know what a child is struggling with, if they don’t write themselves? I see you teach 3. Innovation on text is always a great way to get children thinking creatively, as is writing alternate endings, or what they would do if they were in the story e.g. what would they have done if they passed the bears’ house and saw Goldilocks breaking in? How would they help the three pigs with their housing dilemma? Poetry is great too to get children thinking. We need to look at children’s writing as we would our own first drafts and leave the red pen in the drawer. Have fun writing. I always do!

  2. @lizuren to engender creativity we must first insist exam boards change their rigid assessment objectives

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