Language Structure – Class 8 – Main Lesson
The Class 8 students had settled down at last in this, the first day of their new Language main lesson. There was a mood of ennui as the teacher toyed with a piece of chalk before announcing the subject.
“Grammar!” she said; 25 faces pales as one.
“3 weeks of Grammar?!!”
“That’s right; now this isn’t a life sentence you know (pun intended, ha, ha, ha) – er, after all, you all seemed to enjoy your grammar lessons right through primary – from Class 1 in fact. Even learning the alphabet was a kind of grammar. Most of the time you didn’t quite realize that you were learning grammar at all. you will now through – high school is a different kettle of fish…”
“That’s a cliché!”
“What? Oh, sorry.” Apologized teacher, blushing behind her glasses. “So we don’t want to start from scratch…! Er, I mean we, you, all know something about the subject already don’t you. In the ‘discovery’ principle, which is primary school, you were introduced to the whole spectrum of grammar elements – you were on a seven-year voyage of discovery of the genius in our most valuable heritage, The Word.
However in high school the emphasis is different; here there is an ‘exploration’ dynamic in the learning process; that is, we elevate our primary knowledge up onto a more conscious level (lift it from the etheric habitual, to the astral sense-dominant). After all, we’re going to cover in 3 weeks what too 7 years in primary.
The intention of this Class 8 Grammar lesson is to wrap up the whole subject into one neat, conceptual language parcel. The problem with learning grammar is that he student often feels that it is an endless labyrinth of ever-increasing complexity – which it is actually. But if you are not a professor of semantics, it doesn’t have to be. This parceling up means that this main lesson is the only one devoted to grammar in the whole 5-year high school syllabus.”
“A little respect for the miracle of language if you don’t mind. Besides, there is plenty more grammar learning through high school, but this is all of a corollary nature – more in support of other subject matter than as an end in itself.”
The teacher watched the color return to the faces of her 14-year young charges as she continued with her reassuring introduction.
“I know you don’t think it right now, but in ten years’ time you’ll thank me – and the school with its sensible language policy – that you are grammar-literate. It has largely been exiled form other learning establishments – been tried and found wanting you might say.
This is because the fundamental teaching methods, not necessarily the content, have been ‘wanting’; they are too intellectual in their approach in primary – which leads to poor attitude; and they are sacrificed on the altar of exams in high school – oh, dear, an over-used metaphor!
Anyway, you know what I mean; we learn grammar, not to pass exams, but to be more language-expressive. As the adage goes ‘If you want to mean what you say, you have to be able to say what you mean.’
This 3-week unit is the second of the three language main lessons, the ‘Expression’ strand actually. This is which equips the soul with skills for self-expression in both oral and written form. Grammar is a true personal-development path – like chakra massage! That was a joke!
You see, it doesn’t really matter if you find grammar, um, difficult, boring…irrelevant? Actually it’s none of these things; it doesn’t matter if for no other reason that you know that the unit only lasts 3 weeks – then life continues in its own happy – ungrammatical – way.
Besides, in 5 years or so, it, more than probably any other subject, will assist you in getting – and keeping – a job. A base requirement with many employers these days is “Must speak, and write well.”
Here are two ways of teaching English grammar in high school; the repetitious, based on tedious principles of materialism – and the impactful, with a more psychic or metaphysical focus. You don’t know what that word means? Then look it up in your dictionary, I know you’ve all been issued with one. Now that should be a matter of habit, especially in this lesson – every word I say that you don’t know – and I intend to use a pretty advanced vocabulary – you should look up.
If I use a word and I ask you what it means, and you don’t know, and you’ve been too indolent to look it up, I’ll …what does indolent mean? Er, sort of lazy I think – let’s see ‘idle’ – Latin ‘in’ meaning not, and ‘dolere’, without pain! Who would have thought!?
The first method is to stretch the material you are going to learn over the whole 5 years of high school. This is the ‘drumming in’ principle, learning through sheer length of exposure and endless exercises . Our way, the impactful brings a shorter but hopefully magnesium-bright light onto the subject, exploiting the spirit-filled qualities of enthusiasm and novelty.”
“Our goal is not so much for you to learn the facts, but to understand them when taught, so that when deposited in the great Treasury of forgetfulness, the resources can be later accessed, and if necessary, re-learnt, when needed. As an educational principle, understanding is far more important than mere learning – mercifully we forget most of what we learn anyway, understanding we never lose.
Some of you who do not have either an interest or particular talent for language, my never – specifically – call on this grammar knowledge again; others may find it an indispensable foundation for extending their expressive horizons in Life After School!
There was at least a murmur of amusement at this clever little aphorism. Indeed in the spirit of the ‘specialist’ teacher of high school education, the students did have a sneaking desire to be able to speak as well as the teacher; to express themselves as amusingly, succinctly and powerfully. One could tell this by their tentative attempts at New vocabulary and more complex phrasing when in her presence.
These specialists were brought in from the outside world with gay abandon; their main qualification being a deep knowledge and love of their subject. There was not the limiting ‘English’ teacher, but a different person for say, drama, grammar, creative writing and Australian literature – his was true specialization, not the token variety where one teacher was expected to carry authority across a too-wide range of language (or other) areas. The teacher in his case was a tutor in semantics at the local teacher’s college.
“So what are we going to learn in this unit?” asked one boy. He knew from past experience the school’s policy of ‘seeding the will’ of the class by providing a synopsis of the lesson content for the whole 3 weeks on the very first day – hour! – of the unit. These tiny seeds grow into the healthy plants of incentive, enthusiasm, optimism and acceptance; providing the on-going lessons with a positive tone, so important in high school education.
Indeed this sensible strategy is employed in the school more widely still; on the first day the high school, the awed 14-year-olds have their wills ‘seeded’ with a tableau of their entire 5-year high school curriculum. Then there’s the beginning of every year, when the program (easily modified as the months roll on) they will enjoy is presented – with the emphasis on joy! Of course each term has the same positive advantage, where the next 10 or so lesson units are foreshadowed. Smart teachers even do it for every single lesson. Naturally it’s the class guardians who provide this seed-sowing service, with the exception of the single unit-lessons of course.
“What are we going to learn then?” said a serious-eyed girl.
“What? Sorry, I was in dreamland – well the unit will contain two main streams, The Grammar of Words, and The Grammar of Sentences. Both of these contain four strands; so that’s eight strands As there are about 15 days in the unit, we have maybe 2 days per strand.
The simpler ones might take only on day, leaving 3 days for the more complex areas. Oh, and we should visit a grammarian, like a book editor – and of course there’ll be a test day, which includes classroom marking. Also time should be made available some time in the following week or so to present you with – and read out = your Class 8 Grammar Reports; the test results go these – naturally!”
“Aaahhh, I’ve never been good at grammar,” rued a tall, blond boy – what sort of test result could I get?”
“Well as you know it’s coming up, you’ll be more attentive – and the way I teach the subject, using lots of pictorial and plainly practical examples, I think you’ll do a lot better than you think. Besides, the Reports comment on lots of other things, nor just the test results, like; attitude, bookwork, contribution, attendance and so forth. So let’s get down to it! The overview of the Four Words stand could begin with The 12 Points of Punctuation…”
“We know that already.”
“What’s an ellipsis?”
“Just as I thought; then we’ll run through the 9 Parts of Speech – I suppose you know all about those as well!?”
“Er, yes, a noun’s a …. thing?”
“Sure – but how many kinds of noun are there?”
“Four! That’s how many; abstract, concrete, proper and collective – we can have fun inventing these – what’s the collective noun for – um- a group of mothers with new-born babes?”
“?!……. “Wait, a nipplodeon!”
“That’s er – blush – verrry good. (Gosh, high school’s different form primary!) These four nouns have each in turn 9 subtends – 36 nouns in all! The subtends are – you didn’t learn these in elementary school I’ll bet – nouns of person; place; thing; substance; condition; quality; idea; action; and state. And we’ll look at the Number and Gender of nouns.
Verbs are a breeze compared with nouns; the ‘doing words’ only vary with their three Tenses, past, present and future; and their Active of Passive divisions. This noun-complex, verb-simple aspect relates to their cerebral and will natures.”
“However it’s the Adverbs which will give you all a touch of grammatical vertigo, thee are 9 of them: Quality; Place, Time; Number; Cause; Opposition; Affirmation; Denial; and Degree. Degree again has 4 subtends – Affixation; Suppletion; Manner and Periphrasis.”
“Periphrasis?” inquired a boy with ice-blue eyes.
“It means…um, something to do with wind, the er, internal variety – long-winded in fact. The word literally means ‘to speak around’ – It’s the adverb that needs two words to say one thing, not just ‘happily’, but ‘more happily’ or ‘most happily’”.
Blue eyes sparkled with mischief “This lesson introduction could be described as ‘periphrasic’ by the sound of it!!”
“Ha, ha, ha – er, I don’t think there’s such a word! (14-year-olds can be smarter than I thought!) Prepositions are easy; over, under through and so on. But Pronouns become tough again, with their Personal (person, number, gender), Case (nominative, possessive, objective), Relative, Demonstrative, Indefinite. But after that it’s all downhill with the final 3 parts of speech, the Conjunction, Interjection and Article.
The 3rd Word Strand is Spelling Rules, or Orthography; and the 4th, the 5 Elements of Expression – Prosody, Orthoepy, Etymology, Semantics, and Syntax.”
“We’ll have to keep our shoes on in hat lesson.” Said a dark-eyed girl, her round face dead-pan.
“In case someone drops some on the floor … sin tacks!!”
After the class had collected itself form this attack of pin-sharp wit, the bemused teacher continued “The 4 ‘Sentence Strands’ begin with the 7 Sentence types. (Incidentally, much elementary knowledge of this broad grammar syllabus can be found in my three companion volumes on Langue, Genii of Language, Logios – Spirit of the Word, and Grammatica Grammatikos – Author.). These are the Declarative; Interrogative, Imperative – used by someone who yells at you! Ha,ha – Exclamatory, Wish, Prohibition, and Request.
The 2nd strand is based on the 60 main grammatical rules, for example, Rule 7 – If the collective noun is only one group, then its verb is singular…not ‘The crowd were large.’ But The crowd…me that The nipplodean!!…was large. Strand three if the 12 Figures of Speech, the ‘Round Table; of language expression…”
“hey, I remember those from last year – that circus play we did was fantastic, great, Awesome!!” exclaimed a red-faced, rotund boy “I was Balloon Boy Hyperbole!!”
“And you still are!! Chorused the class, dissolving in mirth.
“Ha, ha, ha…and – choke! There’s Gnomie, Who, plumBer, knowledge, wHine sCience, gHost, Wrap, stiTches….” And that’s what the class were in over their non-vocalized sounds exercise; the clever blue-eyed boy even making a whole – hysterical – text our of them.
“What’s the last strand?” inquired a sober black-haired girl.
“That’s basically sentence structure; you know, easy stuff like subject and predicate; simple, compound and complex sentences – full and minor sentences – and a look at the more common grammatical errors, like tautology, double negatives, mixed metaphors – those sacred cows of English push their snouts into every pigeonhole possible…!!!”
“Ha ha, ha …!!!)
THREE WEEKS LATER
“Well it’s the last day of the Grammar Main Lesson!”
“Awww, can’t we think up a few more of those funny examples – ‘snouts into pigeonholes!!’, Ha ha, ha!!”
“I’m sorry, but good things can’t last forever. Yesterday you did the test, today we’ll mark it – and we’ll have a quick reading of ‘Grammar – a Love Story’. Who wants to read Goldie Digger’s lines? This story’s surprisingly good, considering we workshopped it in class. Who would have thought, a moving saga of two people drawn together by their romantic voyage across the Sea of Solesism!”
“Why don’t we script it properly and perform it as a play for the rest of the school – and parents even?!”
“Hmmm – do you think they’re nature enough; some of the grammatica erotica scenes, with a syntactical sentence shamelessly exposing themselves, are a bit risqué!! Fine for you sophisticated 14-year-olds – but your parent? Some of them have led pretty sheltered lives you know! Anyway. I’ll speak to the Glass Guardian about it. Now, Question 1: Was Goldie’s cryptic use of the word rammarg an inversion, an acronym, an acrostic – or an anagram?”
“An inversion!! Grammar’s great isn’t it!?”
“Yeah it’s fun all right, but what’s a rammarg? Said the blue-eyed boy as he grumpily marked it wrong on his test sheet.
“Spell it backwards dear, spell it backwards.” Retorted the teacher snugly, happy at last to get her own back for this ‘periphrasis long-winded’ backhander at the beginning of the lesson.
A classic example of the split infinitive, from the Sydney Morning Herald: “A network of electronic sensos could one day allow farmers to monitor every hectare of pasture and every animal using a laptop on the farmhouse verandah.”
Nothing common about a Common Room!
Every good Steiner – or other for that matter! – high school should have a student’s common room. This should be well-provided with books, magazines and other reading material, all aiding in vanquishing that enemy of teenage literacy, the television.
In the interests however of social education, the common room also has music playing and other recreation facilities. There is also a small kitchenette. The common room is carpeted, with comfortable easy chairs, and is maintained by the students on a roster basis.
In a larger school, there may be two common rooms, one each for junior and senior high school. Even there a free-flow thanks place, adding to the social tone of the high school, so important in an education of excellence. Pictured is the author’s son Stephen, Class 8 Lorien Novalis 1981, enjoying a quiet reading time in the common room.
Considering first, second, and third person; it’s good for children to find words that can be pared down, one letter at a time – with each making a new word – to the first person “I”: Sparkling; sparking; sparing; spring; sprig; prig; pig; pi; I. As can be seen, this kind of exercise – no, game – is also good for vocabulary extension. And what about the word queue, which can lose four letters and still be pronounced the same way!
Two inmates were waiting to go up before the parole board. The first inmate says to the second that he doesn’t think he has much chance of getting out. The second inmate says, ‘There’s a sure-fire way for a good-looking bloke like you to make parole – proposition the chief warden’s wife. You’ll be out straightaway.” “Don’t’ be ridiculous, “says the first inmate. “Everyone knows you can’t end a sentence with a proposition.