Why ‘children’ and not ‘childs’?

Using TED-Ed Lesson animations to enhance Literacy

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When planning Year 8 Literacy lessons earlier this year, I was looking for a ‘hook’ and a way to engage the students which was different: something bright, lively, humorous but ultimately, educational. Luckily, a careful search through TED Talks led to me finding their excellent TED-Ed Lessons and a whole wealth of material which the department has mined for gems to perk up those perplexing questions, such as ‘Who invented writing?’ – just one animation available that I’ve used by Matthew Winkler.

Our Year 8 Literacy curriculum begins with an investigation of the English language and its diverse origins, along with reminding students of key spelling strategies and encouraging them apply these across the curriculum when dealing with tricky words. The first animation I discovered was one I alluded to in the title above: ‘A brief history of plural word…s’ by John McWhorter. I shared this at the beginning of the lesson and it formed the perfect ‘hook’ for talking about language origin and change, but also raised questions we had never considered as a class before – why don’t we use childs as the plural, rather than children? Year 8 were entertained by the animation and particularly the idea of hordes of Vikings arriving and cleaning up the existing system of plural words.

With a lesson and a resource such as this, the students’ view of language suddenly changes: it’s no longer immutable. It can be influenced by invaders, by people deciding they want to standardise spellings by creating the first dictionary or influenced by technology and the modern world too. It’s empowering to realise that although the system is there, it’s one invented by humans! Understanding rules and conventions is necessary and powerful, but it’s also more fluid and curious than perhaps they first thought.

There are many fantastic resources available on TED-Ed Lessons, not just for English and Literature. This Friday Year 8 and I will be watching ‘Grammar’s great divide: The Oxford comma’ by TED-Ed, following one student’s tweet to me about it. Last week they were begging me to have a go at working out whether we should be using ‘who’ or ‘whom’. In the next room they are desperate to share ‘Juicy Words’. Friday afternoon Literacy: the best way to end the week, in my opinion!

Sima Davarian @SimaDavarian

KS3/4 English Coordinator

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