A is for Apostrophe

Dear 8B, Long ago in my laborious and unremarkable teaching career, I had a lovely colleague called Helen who had a creative idea for teaching apostrophes. She invented a character called “Agatha Apostrophe”, who suffered deeply when people misused these tricky little punctuation marks. Since apostrophes are one of the nightmares of English usage, Agatha experienced…

S is also for Status Swap

Dear 8B, Status swaps are the bread and butter of fiction writers. A change of status is the standard situation from which an author or film-maker can weave a story that fills the reader or viewer with empathy, dread, hope and ultimately a sense of relief or triumph. Consider these examples: Poor, deserving, beautiful girl escapes from…

S is for Story

Part 1: Will 8B get revenge on the wicked Mrs Grun? Once upon a time there was a cruel and heartless teacher called Mrs Grun. She taught in a pleasant school in the eastern suburbs and her students, a quiet, obedient class known as 8B, were modest, hard-working and well-mannered. Despite this, she was intent…

Q is for Questions

On the way to school a few weeks ago, my sixteen-year-old daughter gave me a new insight into the life of students that, despite about 25 years in the classroom, had passed me by. My daughter Sophie helps me to understand how teenagers feel, yet even with her aid, I sometimes fail dismally. That’s one…

P is for Precision

Dear 8B, Some words are vague, broad and general. We use them when we speak, because they are easy to pluck from our memories and cast out into everyday conversation. After all, when you are speaking, speed is essential. Your listeners would prefer not to wait while you consult your inner thesaurus. Here are some words that…

F is for Figurative

Dear 8B, Words have multiple meanings. Sometimes a word that has a concrete meaning can  be employed in certain contexts in a symbolic or figurative way. For instance, if you write the sentence, “It was a black night”, the word “black” is fairly concrete and limited, assuming that you are describing a dark night with not much moonlight. In the sentence,…