Punctuation Pains

I’m wondering if teachers have seen a noticable drop in spelling/punctuation standards in recent(ish) years. 

I am currently preparing my fourth year for their Standard Grade exams and, worryingly, the main area they need work on is their punctuation.  This is obviously not a new concern: I’ve been trying to improve their punctuation skills over the past two years.  Bizarrely, there is not a lot of space within the standard grade curriculum to focus on it intently though.  My attention on this area, outside of general marking and discussion with individuals, has been sporadic.  Furthermore, when I have found the time to teach and practise punctuation points the majority of the class have successfully proved their ability to use full stops or direct speech or commas or apostrophes or whatever.  Applying these consistently within their every day writing is the problem. 

I’ve spoken to the fourth years about this several times and they know that it’s an area they need to work on.  I told them exactly what my concerns were and they decided what they needed was just lots and lots of practise.  Preferably in the form of games or competitions with rewards.  Of course… And that’s what I’m doing.  Can’t help feeling that I’ve failed them in some way though. 

Thai Basil Rice

No work talk today.  I’m having a lazy day on the sofa with books and DVD, watching the skies for snow clouds.  We have to get some snow this year, surely! 

Got another recipe to share.  Something Thai this time.  I’ve been making this dish since I visited Thailand 6 years ago (goodness, that long?) and its a firm favourite of mine and visitors to my house.

 Thai Basil Rice
(Serves 4 as a side or 2, generously, as a main)

4 tblspn ground nut/sunflower oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium red chili, finely chopped
200g prawns (could substitute bitesize pieces of chicken or pork)
500g cooked rice (chilled overnight if possible)
1 tblspn sugar
1 tblspn thai fish sauce
w spring onions, chopped
4 tblspn fresh thai basil leaves (Use Mediterranean basil if thai basil not available .  It never is where I live.)
1 tblspn fresh coriander leaves

  • Heat oil in wok over med-high heat. Stir-fry garlic until golden.
  • Add prawns and chili. Stir-fry till prawns are cooked.
  • Add rice, sugar, fish sauce & soy sauce. Heat through and combine gently over medium heat.
  • Stir through spring onions, basil and coriander. Cook for one more minute. Serve.

To Grade or Not to Grade

In accordance with AiFL I have been avoiding putting grades on the first drafts of pupils’ work.  The hope is that they will pay greater attention to the comments rather than looking at the mark then discarding the work contentedly/disgruntedly.  People generally liked to be graded though and so when I first started this practise the classes were not happy bunnies at all:

“But what did I get???”

“Miss, you haven’t marked this properly.”

“What’s the point then?”

After repeated explanations and assurances that I am not being lazy and, in fact, this is being done for their benefit they have finally come to accept this way of working.  And now I’m starting to question if it is for the best.  One of my pupils, Ryan, suggested an alternative.  He claims that whenever he gets a borderline mark (e.g. Standard Grade 2/3 or 3/4) he wants to know how to improve his writing skills to enable him to achieve a solid 2 or 3 or whatever. 

So I carried out a wee experiment.  I returned one class’s essays with comments but no marks (class A).  The other class (B) had their essays returned with comments and borderline grades.  The results were pretty striking.  More than half the members of class B came to me in the following few days asking for specific advice on their writing skills.  Only one person in class A did the same. 

Going to reverse the experiment after Easter and see if class B are just particularly motivated or if the “Ryan Method” is worth continuing.

Parents’ Night

I like parents’ nights.  Its fun meeting the creators of Liam, Stacey, Aiden etc.  So far (touch wood, touch wood, touch wood) I have only had one negative experience.  Super aggressive Mum convinced it was solely my fault that her son was not in the top set.  An unpleasant experience but certainly not the norm.  Generally find the parents to be highly pleasant.  Though an odd amount want to talk about their own school experiences rather than hear the ins and outs of how Jimmy is doing.  What’s that about?

Tonight its second year.  I have a fabulous 2nd year class.  Virtually all their parents are coming tonight.  Will I get out of here and be heading down the A9 before 9pm.  It’s unlikely.  Do I care?  Not too much tonight, actually.  Starting to feel some energy seep into my bones again after these manic last weeks.  I may even start seeing 10pm again soon.  Then again, maybe not.

Lamb Kathmandu

When I started blogging I went mad and started three at once.  This one, one for my seniors and a cooking one.  The first two are still going.  Chugging along anyway – the novelty of the blog seems to have worn off for my seniors (more about that later…).  The cooking one didn’t really get off the ground.  Started blogging a few of my favourite recipes then stopped.  I’ve decided to start including them in this blog instead.  Why not?  Teaching and cooking.  Love ‘em both! :)

LAMB KATHMANDU

What this dish has to do with Nepal, I’m not sure. Vaguely remember reading about a typical Hymalayan dish which involved lamb and a side of lentils. Could this be the inspiration? Not sure. I know where I can find out though.
There is a fantastic Indian restaurant in Inverness called Cinnamon. I’ve been a regular customer since I moved to the Highlands and simply cannot fault the place. Do not be put off by the bleak exterior and the unfortunate situation (on a busy road directly across from a big supermarket). The interior may not be chic but it is warm, colourful and inviting. The staff are wonderfully welcoming and the food is superb. To top it all off they serve a dish called Lamb Kathmandu. I love it! Lamb, lentils, ginger, spring onion… It’s heavenly.
Tonight I tried to imitate the dish. The result was reasonably successful. Not as stunning as Cinnamon’s version but it was only my first attempt. :)

Lamb Kathmandu
(serves 4)

500g neck of lamb, diced
Vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped roughly
1 large onion, chopped roughly
4 cm piece of ginger, chopped roughly
1 tsp cumin
1tsp coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 cloves
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

200g brown lentils
400g can chopped tomatoes
600ml vegetable stock

  • Heat 2 tbs of oil in a heavy based pan. Fry the lamb until browned. Remove from pan.

  • Whizz onion, garlic and ginger in food processor to make a paste.

  • Fry paste in oil until soft and lightly browned.

  • Add spices and fry gently for a further 5 mins.

  • Add the lentils and lamb to the pan. Stir.

  • Add the chopped tomatoes and stock. Stir.

  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 mins – 1 hr or until lentils are soft. Stir occasionally.

Restorative Practice

When I first started this blog I sincerely imagined I would be jotting down something every couple of days.  And here it’s been more than two weeks since my last post.  What a crazy term!  Between Standard Grade folios and senior prelims and the HMI visit I have barely had time to catch breath.  As knackered as I am it’s been a good term.

The visit went pretty well.  The brief comments we have so far received were good or very good progress made in all areas except for overall attainment (for which we got a satisfactory) and the school building (poor progress – out of our hands unfortunately).  My only gripe is that they didn’t pop their nose into my classroom once!  Would have expected that to be a relief but it really wasn’t.  I also wanted a chance to prove that our school is doing great work.

And in other news…  Last week I spent two days in a conference room in Caley Thistle stadium exploring the idea of restorative practice.  The BBBL website defines ‘Restorative Practices’ as a means to “restoring good relationships when there has been conflict or harm; and developing school ethos, policies and procedures that reduce the possibilities of such conflict and harm.”  It’s a concept I warm to naturally.  I tend to work restoratively in my classes and have had some wonderful experiences in return.  Some horrible failures too, of course, but the successes far out weigh those.  Working restorative practises into a whole school policy is another issue.  No-one is suggesting that entire behaviour management systems should depend upon R.P., rather it should slot into current practises.  The suggested mini-conferences particularly interest me.  The suggestion is that where a pupil has been acting problematically in a certain class a conference between the pupil, a teacher and a mediator could be held to resolve issues.  How many teachers would be open to such a system though?  Some of my colleagues view R.P. as a negotiation tactic and fear this would undermine teachers authority.  Wonder if they have a point?  My gut says RP could work with many pupils but I am aware there are risks if it is not handled properly.  Will have to think about it some more.