Why a ninja?
When thinking about when to teach spelling, punctuation and grammar, some people groan because they think it’s going to be boring, but taught with a little bit of fun and imagination it can make for a great lesson. Not to mention that knowledge of grammar can act in literacy like the superpower Kuji-Kiri does for the ninjas in allowing them to do superhuman feats. Knowing, understanding and using grammar, spelling and punctuation can rocket acceleration of progress in both reading and writing.
The teaching of grammar, spelling and punctuation are at it’s best when it is covert. That means although the teaching is skill-led the skill in itself is not the end game, but part of what contributes to the overall lesson aim e.g. using powerful verbs to make strong arguments – the skills being taught are recognition of verbs, tenses and the use of more sophisticated verbs, but the aim of the lesson is to produce a contextualised argument.
The skills of a ninja included: espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination and guerrilla warfare. All skills that are needed in waging the war against poor literacy standards.
Espionage can be seen as obtaining secret or confidential material. Knowing grammar or the rules of spelling can often seem like secrets to students – secrets that they find difficult to decipher. Children like de-coding and using code so play on this.
Secret spy messages can be an excellent way to teach the spelling rules.
Sabotage can be seen as targeting specific weaknesses to help win a battle. The battle, in this case, is that against poor writing. Use sabotage to weaken an opponent’s argument by targeting the use of verbs, adjectives, discourse markers or nouns. Target their own defences by making sure that children use strong powerful words, not weak insipid words.
Infiltration can be seen as the bypassing of enemy lines by pretending to be them. This can be as simple as modelling. Children should know that they can use the words of others to support their own opinions or use the sentence structures they have been given in their own writing.
When writing a description, they should be looking at past masters such as Dickens to see what they did. When writing arguments, they should be using counter-argument – pretending to sympathise with the argument and then attacking it directly.
Assassination is one of the oldest tools of power politics. Words are the oldest tool in writing and reading. Help the students to slay description with similes, murder with metaphors or kill with a better vocabulary.
In the war against poor literacy, any tool which helps students to accelerate their progress is worth considering. Ambush description by finishing a paragraph with a one-word sentence of an emotion to summarise or by finishing a paragraph with a short sentence which summarises the main point are valid tactics. Raid an argument with rhetorical questions. Hit and run with powerful punctuation. Use KungFu punctuation to help children visualise what the punctuation marks are.