Happily, the tests are now over. In theory, that means that a whole cohort of 11-year-olds can now decide whether they want to remember what a fronted adverbial is or not. Teachers, though, have no such luck and have to start steeling themselves to do it all again next year.
My own son is currently four, so he doesn’t have to think a great deal about grammar terminology at the moment. (He may never have to, if the current SPaG test has the same lifespan as other recent assessment concepts.) But I still fret. He has a reasonable grasp of metaphor: after I tried to explain what people mean by “the cat’s pyjamas” he started saying things he liked were “the moon’s hat”. But how would he react to writing a story and being told to put more fronted adverbials in it?
I suppose I would advise him to use my own favourite all-purpose fronted adverbial, “With no thought for his own personal safety”, as popularised by the trailblazing television star Timmy Mallet in the late 80s. Let’s take the start of a rather dull, insufficiently grammatically complex story:
Bert got up. He went downstairs and put the kettle on. He walked through to the living room and sat down in an armchair. He stroked his pet dog, Buster.
Not very good. Not many wow words. But if you add “With no thought for his own personal safety” to the start of any of those four sentences you create instant excitement, making it, I would say, at least 12% better. If you can come up with three more all-purpose ones, you can have a paragraph like:
With no thought for her own personal safety, Bertha got up. Disregarding every shred of advice she had ever been given, she went downstairs and put the kettle on. Bravely, she walked through to the living room and sat down in an armchair. With a steel found only in the finest of people, she stroked her pet cat, Sergeant Snuggly Ears.
That’s the moon’s hat. Actually I’m starting to have some sympathy with Michael Gove or whoever it was insisted that these arcane structures should be taught. Then again, if your adverbials are good enough, maybe you don’t even need to front them:
Zorlag got up, with no thought for her own personal safety. She teleported to the refreshment bay and initiated the beverage drive, disregarding every shred of advice she had ever been given. She glided through to the leisure pod and bravely sat down in a Comfortron 9000. She stroked her pet space-cat, Krunz’qik, with a steel found only in the finest of galactic officers.
Too much? Or exactly the kind of thing the DfE wants our children to be writing? Honestly, I’m not sure. Either way, the above musing probably isn’t a great deal of help in preparing next year’s blameless Year 6s for the SPaG test. What might be more help is our range of mobile SPaG resources (see here and here. With no thought for our own personal safety, we are currently revising and updating them, but of course if you order now for September you will get the new versions as soon as they are available.
Fronted adverbials: 10
Wow words: 5
Total marks: 16