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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Evidence that bribery with chocolate is the new pedagogical essential


Two Fridays ago, I  made up a poem to teach some GCSE students not to use a comma to join two whole sentences together as in 'I love punctuation, I hate the way 16 year olds abuse it.'

A comma splice is not that nice
and should be used by no one.
Two sentences? Then use full stops,
or have a semi-colon.
Or why not use connectives
like but, because or and?
Then say with me, 'The comma splice?
It really should be banned!'

(Yes, I know.  It's not exactly 'The Prelude'.  But I only had five minutes to throw it together.)

I gave them fifteen minutes to learn it, testing each other until they were word-perfect, and then challenged them to recite it.  If they could do it, I promised them chocolate.  I only see them once a fortnight, so I wrote down a reminder to buy the prizes.

Four of them took up the challenge.  I was very pleased with them.  They're not all confident students.

So, I went to the shop last Thursday morning for some chocolate, knowing I was teaching the class again on Friday.  I bought four Curly Wurly bars.

Question (if you're a Brit):  How long since you ate a Curly Wurly?  And if you're not a Brit: Have you looked into finding a supplier that can send a box to your house?





It's actually a diet food, I've realised, like ring doughnuts and Polo mints and Emmenthal cheese.  Look at all those holes.




Unfortunately, by Friday morning, two of the Curly Wurly bars, destined for the students, had found a different destiny known as 'Fran's pudding', so I had to go and buy more.

I went to a different shop this time.  One so hates to go back to the same shop for a shedload of chocolate quite so soon after the last visit.

I couldn't see any Curly Wurly bars on the shelves so  I asked the manager.   'I haven't stocked Curly Wurly bars since the 1980s!' he scoffed, looking me up and down as if to say, 'But you seem to have been managing without them very nicely ...'

I had to go to the first shop again in the end, but fortunately there was a different assistant on the till.  I was relieved.  Apparently, new guidance has been given to betting shops this week; they have to advise anyone who's gambled over £250 to stop.  I suspect something similar might be brought in for chocolate.

I'm used to being laughed at in shops when I'm buying chocolate.  Once I got laughed at by an assistant because I was buying a Twix, a Double Decker, and a copy of Slimming World.

The year 11s were cock-a-hoop when I brought out the Curly Wurly bars, especially as I'd promised them a fortnight ago.  'Wow! A teacher who remembers her promises!' one said, which cheered me up more than any Ofsted rating would.

And then they recited the poem to me all over again.

(By the way, pedants may have noticed that I have used the phrase 'Curly Wurly bars' all the way through this in order to avoid having to make a decision between 'Curly Wurlys' and 'Curly Wurlies'.  Life is full of so many awkwardnesses.)

29 comments:

  1. Excellent poem, and good for you for teaching the use of semi-colons. I love semi-colons. I recently read a novel which had just two (or was it one?) sem-colon. It really showed.

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    1. I think they're dying out; it's a great shame.

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  2. As a lover of chocolate I'm surprised I've never heard of Curly Wurly bars. I haven't seen them here in the States, but no you've got my mouth droolin'.

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    1. They are ace. You must try and get hold of one. Do you have shops which sell 'British' sweets? We have loads of shops here now which sell American ones like Hershey bars.

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  3. Noted - comma splices are not nices...er, nice.
    I'm not a Brit, but I remember Curly Wurlys very well. I loved them when I had all my teeth and no fillings. I still love them, but can't eat them in case the chewy toffee pulls out a filling!
    One more thing, since when does four Curly Wurlys constitute a shed load? Should that be a semi-colon in there?

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    1. I'd probably have said a colon. And the tip about the teeth is to keep the Curly Wurly in a warm place for a while so that the toffee isn't too lethal. I know all the tricks.

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  4. At Cadbury World you can buy a whole box of them for a very reasonable price. I know this because I saw them there a couple of weeks ago when I bought a big box of chocolate Freddoes. And, unlike you, I don't have a school class to give them to.

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    1. Ah, Freddoes! A colleague at work used to keep a box of them in the fridge to give to keen students, but then the school brought in a merit. Merits don't taste so good, though.

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    2. They're also less fun. You can't bite the head off a merit.

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    3. a woman at my fitness/ weight loss class eats one Freddo every night !

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    4. Sounds like a good strategy. I'd be looking forward to that ALL day.

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  5. Great post, very amusing. I don't remember being taught how to use a semi colon at my excellent grammar school back in the dark ages. I tend to often put a line of dots between " sentences" . Is that where I should be using a colon or semi colon? Please teacher advise me.

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    1. The main way I teach the kids semicolons is to say that when they have two whole sentences which love each other and want to be connected for ever, a semi-colon is the thing which marries them. If they don't want to be married by a semicolon, they can be married by a conjunction instead. But if you marry them with a comma, the marriage is not legal. The colon I teach by saying that it translates as 'And here's what I mean'. So - 'I like a whole range of chocolate bars: Twix, Mars, Curly Wurly, Snickers.' Or - 'There's one thing I can't bear: a cupboard without chocolate in it.'

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  6. Ha! Brilliant, Fran! Planning to use the jingle with my Year 4s. My own kids have taught me that some learning points, somewhat depressingly, never change from the year-group I teach to...degree level. Love this post. Will share...

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    1. Yes, I perhaps ought to say here that they have memorised the poem and can still remember it, but whether it will translate into the correct use of them on paper has yet to be seen ... Thanks for your comment and for sharing.

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  7. What do they taste like? I haven't had a candy bar in a good long while. I tried rewarding students with small chocolate bars. It didn't work. As soon as the chocolate ran out, they returned to their usual occupation: trying to kill me.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. That made me laugh! You survived, then! Er .. Curly Wurly bars ... how to describe them? They're like chewy toffee surrounded by chocolate and it's a double whammy of amazingness.

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  8. I tend to use dots too...I like tapping the dot key three times !
    Curly Wurlys ...those were the days !
    Do you cringe when you see bad punctuation in blogs ? A friend of mine corrects my spelling mistakes in emails !

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    1. No, I don't cringe in blogs, because I make mistakes too and often have to edit/re-edit! But where I cringe is where they're in official notices or advertisements which should have professionals checking them ...

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    2. ah yes, " Eats, shoots and leaves " I gave a copy to my mother also my daughter's excellent teacher when she became the head teacher of another school. She said it was going to be her holiday reading !

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    3. She's a woman after my own heart!

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  9. Excellent ! Your students will all write impeccably correct English by the time they leave you . I do hope they remember how to longer than I have .
    I can't remember what a Curly Wurly tastes like , either .
    Do you run refresher courses for pensioners ?

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    1. Refresher courses in how to enjoy a Curly Wurly are available for a small fee. As long as I can join in.

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  10. Well, I've just read "The Prelude" (prompted by your post) for the first time since about 1970 and I've decided that your poem is much better. Gosh, old Wordsworth does go on a bit, doesn't he?

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    1. I taught some sixth formers a couple of years ago who said very much the same thing about him...

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    2. Or ... did they mean me? It was one or other of us anyway ...

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  11. Unlike Curly Wurlies (I've taken the plural plunge) which last hardly any time at all!

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  12. If the mention of a Curly Wurly wasn't enough to make my stomach remind me that it likes them, the picture certainly did the job!

    Shame I only have a box of Creme Eggs. Oh well, I suppose they'll do!

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    1. Creme Eggs are a very suitable substitute, I'd say. It's just more difficult to convince yourself they're a diet food, what with having no holes. But I don't think you need to worry about diets anyway ...

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