Showing posts with label English language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label English language. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 March 2015

To -ise or not to -ize

Gielgud as Hamlet
People have become very grumpy about the use of -ize.

We always spell several common words as follows:

advertise, advise, arise, chastise, circumcise, compromise, despise, devise, disenfranchise, enterprise, excise, exercise, franchise, improvise, incise, merchandise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise, televise.

It is not true that -ize reveals an American usage, as it has been frequently used in British English for centuries.

Those who want to be super-pedantic claim that -ize should be selected in cases where the classical Greek verb deployed the -izo ending.

As far back as the thirteenth century we find examples of usages such as baptize.

My preference is to use -ize. What's yours?

 Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences and 11+ English   

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

11+ English: Transition from Primary to Secondary School

This stimulating guide to Year 5/6 and 11+ English provides an excellent resource for children making the transition from primary to secondary school. 11+ English offers helpful and clear guidance for tutors and parents.

The six test papers use multiple choice questions to ensure that a student’s answers can be marked efficiently and academic progress can be monitored effectively.

Year 5/6 11+ English benefits from the following features:

- 300 multiple choices questions

- An introduction to communication skills for parents and tutors

- How to improve reading and comprehension skills

- Key skills for success in English comprehension tests

- The critical and creative training zone

- Pathways to success

- Six English Tests examine comprehension and grammar

- 52 Creative writing activities

- A Glossary / 62 Key terms explained

Available on Amazon.

"An extremely engaging collection of texts and enquiries which serve as a catalyst to enable students to become deeply enquiring. Useful for teachers on the run; helpful for parents who want to understand what the kids are up against and eclectic in its vision. Valuable." - - - REVIEWER

Research Interests: 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Art of Description: 25 Tips

'Scott has spent pages and pages upon describing a country scene, this is very uninteresting, but it is intensely good literature.'

(The Newbolt Report: “The Teaching of English in England” (1921))

In popular literature description appears to have been devalued in favour of character and plot. Description can be enjoyable in itself, but often it relates to, and helps to build the plot, mood, character, or atmosphere.  In our busy modern world perhaps we feel that we don’t have time to wallow in description. I have heard some writers saying that they don't bother doing the scene setting any more. This is sad.

In fact, our age is one of immense (simulated) visual and sonic richness and variety. Never have we had such an immense range of sensory stimuli. Nonetheless, we are often so caught up in the flow that we lack either the creative engagement or the critical detachment that would enable the production of delightful or striking descriptive prose.

Descriptive writing vividly re-connects us to the world, and it stimulates deeper, more sustainable thinking and feeling about our lived and our imagined experiences.

What techniques are involved in effective description, and what should be avoided?

In my view, description should avoid

  1. writing that is dull and flat.
  1. lazy words: had, was, get, nice, good, bad, really.
  1. padding - unnecessary description
  1. simply listing words or items
Effective description

  1. selects key details to convey and focus the primary impression of the scene
  2. cultivates magic and mystery
  3. presents what was plain or the banal so that it stands out in a more vivid way
  4. chooses interesting words
  5. aims for specificity and clarity in word choice 
  6. develops creative writing skills by reading and critically dissecting literary texts
  7. makes the scene vivid to the reader: clear, strong, credible
  8. considers handling of time and place, and transitions between them
  9. use frames, snapshots, or photographs. These can then be placed in a logical sequence
  10. considers the reflective mood of the observer
  11. employs the five senses
  12. copes well with a sense of proximity and distance
  13. plans its ideas in advance (e.g. spider diagram, mindmaps, notes)
  14. prioritises and foregrounds key details
  15. varies sentence type and structures, with a consciousness of pace and rhythm
  16. considers rhetorical strategies
  17. employs striking figurative tropes such as simile, pathetic fallacy and metaphors
  18. borrows from poetry a sense of sound (e.g. assonance, alliteration)
  19. employs a beginning, a middle and the sense of an ending
  20. attends to the flow of thoughts by using connectives and transitional words
  21. checks accuracy of spelling, grammar and punctuation

Sadly, even the models of excellence (A*) outlined by the exam boards seem to lack flair and imagination. But here they are, in case you need to refer to them:

Content and organisation

· content is well-judged, sustained and pertinent, firmly engaging the reader’s interest

· the writing is well-crafted in an appropriate form with distinctive structural or stylistic features

· paragraphs are effectively varied in length and structure to control detail and

· there is a sophisticated organisation of detailed content within and between paragraphs

· a wide range of appropriate, ambitious vocabulary is used to create effect or convey
precise meaning

Sentence structure, punctuation and spelling

· there is appropriate and effective variation of sentence structures 

· there is a sophisticated use of simple, compound and complex sentences to achieve
particular effects 

· accurate punctuation is used to vary pace, clarify meaning, avoid ambiguity and create deliberate effects 

· virtually all spelling, including that of complex irregular words, is correct

· tense changes are used confidently and purposefully

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The School Shakespeare Newspaper / Activities

In recent years we have moved a long way from teacher-led Practical Criticism Q&A. As learners we are always searching for fun ways to explore texts. Experience demonstrates that allowing children to be creative is an excellent way to build critical engagement. Fun means deeper learning, and in my view, play cultivates questions.

So let's have the courage to allow our students to play with plots and create their own interpretations of them. This approach need not displace traditional literary/critical writing exercises. Rather, it serves as a way of incubating enjoyable and engaging point(s) of entry to the text.

How does this approach work? I'm not going to write up a detailed lesson plan, but you will find a short case study below. The newspaper model can be adapted to any text. (I recently worked with this approach using Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.)

The project briefly sketched below will also help the learners to be more aware of style, tone, and the target readership. These are key skills and competences for any professional writer. And for the GCSE Exam.

Project Summary

I was asked recently how one might develop a school newspaper based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

Skills involved

The task outlined employs writing and literacy, ICT, visual analysis, and both individual research and collaborative team work.

Allow plenty of time to research the stories, to design the newspaper and to master all the technical skills. It's also an excellent way to examine professional roles and expectations, and to engage in practical group work.


Essentially, the key to any news story is answering these questions:

Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?


Creatively, maybe you could attempt one or more of these 'treatments' as a part of your newspaper

(1) write in the style of a celebrity gossip column and fill in the characters' background, hobbies and status

(2) provide a map of the happenings, or photo of the forest, and other key locations

(3) use images of the key characters to go alongside your text

(4) provide eyewitness reports of strange happenings and weird sightings of fairies etc

(5) parents' perspectives on their missing children with quotes from them

(6) have a legal expert explaining that those who disobey their parents will be put to death

(7) employ an astrologer to predict what will happen next

(8) record the views of trained psychologist

(9) print a statement from the police

Try to use different writing styles for each of these in order to gain a top class mark. You could also record short video clips, inlcudingh the latest news and interviews. Let me know how you get on!

Further Information on the author of this blog
Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.
Ian's most recent publications include chapters on romanticism and gothic in The English Literature Companion, edited by Julian Wolfreys  (Palgrave Student Companions 2011). 'Teaching and Learning Strategies' which featured in
The Eighteenth-Century Literature Handbook,  edited by Gary Day and Bridget Keegan (Continuum, 2009) is available for free online (download the pdf) but you will need to complete a very starightforward and short registration.

Ian's book on Shakespearean Tragedy will be published in December 2014.A chapter on Sex and Death in the Eighteenth Century  was published by Routledge in May 2013. Ian is currently working on a book about the grotesque in the eighteenth century, based on his doctoral thesis. Another related project will consider the treatment of cancer in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory Applied to Shakespeare

First World War - 1 Study Day: Applying Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences

Practical Software Guide
Newspaper Wiki

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)