Hayley Webster Profile picture
Mar 17, 2021 14 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
While I'm feeling brave I'm going to post my well-considered thoughts on fronted adverbials.
My background is: BA Literature (First Class) MA Creative Writing (Distinction) 6 books published, worked in magazine editorial, a secondary school teacher for a decade. Not once did I hear the words fronted adverbials. Not once.

Then I shifted to primary teaching.
Suddenly I had to learn a load of grammar terms I'd never heard before. And use them. And teach children to use them. My first thought was what a waste of time. How boring. How reductive. HOW THE OPPOSITE OF CREATIVITY. Because, yes I was an avid reader as a child. I could write.
I knew how language worked because it was IN me. The rhythm, flow, how to build and make and flourish a sentence. It came from my reading. A springboard.

Not all children are read to at home. Not all children read lots at home by themselves by choice. Language isn't flowing through every child with its nuance and its quirks and its fast hear.

It can be a puzzle, a hurdle, a locked gate.
Children are not just learning grammar stuff in English at primary school. They're really not. So far this year Year 5s at the school I teach in have written letters from Penelope to Odysseus and an extension of The Highway Man and they're currently writing their own Greek Myths.
Some can write in paragraphs with ease. Can write a fronted adverbial naturally, like I always have just because I knew, without knowing what it was called. They are not being held back by knowing. Not overall. They're not.
But! Those who can't do that. The ones for whom language is a locked gate...

You give them a list of fronted adverbials. The Wheres, Whens and Hows that can start a sentence, tip the first domino, and they're never stuck. YESTERDAY! CAREFULLY! BELOW THE SEA! BESIDE HIM!
Today I watched several children who were stuck on what to write next, build a page of work they were proud of with the help of fronted adverbials, knowing if they used one, they could continue eith their ideas.

The others wrote anyway. And used them. We all do.

How brilliant.
And. I. At first. In my primary shift, thought children even knowing the terms a disgrace.

I've learned. Not everything is about me and how I read or write.

There are things I'd change about the National Curriculm. About what we teach/ what fits into the school day.

Fronted adverbials. Learning what type of words can be used where and how.

I see the point, right there. In the stuck child going, ah ha, LATER THAT DAY! SNEAKILY! BEHIND THE SHIP! And writing on.

For the way they can help unlock the gate, I kind of like 'em.
I know I'm out of sync with most of Writer Twitter. But. Here I am.
(I have been teaching since 2007 and had my first book published in 2012. I moved to primary teaching in 2015. I love teaching. I don't want to be a full time writer. Teaching isn't a 'until I write full time' job for me. It's genuinely my vocation).
Of course. The thing is helping children feel brave. Allowing them the space to try and fail, and try some more. To know there is no best or right way and to help them believe in what they CAN do, not be ashamed of what they can't. This is different for every child in a classroom

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