Both parents and teachers have a tougher battle to fight when trying to teach children the English language. They now read more online than on paper and they communicate in text language with their friends.
It’s true that reading is an excellent way to help children to improve their English spelling, punctuation and grammar, but only if they’re reading high-quality material.
The problem with online content is that most of it isn’t edited. There was a time when content consumed by readers was subject to an editor’s pen. Books were edited, newspapers were edited, magazines were edited; but today ebooks can be published without passing an editor’s eyes and the same applies to most online content, blogs, articles, information websites and downloadable ebooks. There is no longer any requirement to have your content edited.
Of course, reputable organisations still edit their material – all the major newspapers and quality magazines (and, of course, all our learning material) – but this is becoming more and more the exception rather than the rule. The popular bloggers don’t get edited, they write stream of consciousness, spelling errors, typos, creative grammar and all – and let’s not get started on apostrophes!
The student’s little friend
If students are working on a digital device, they get help from a range of automated tools. Mobile phones have predictive text so they don’t have to be able to spell – supposing they’re not using txt shorthand (Gr8)! Word processing applications on the computer come complete with spelling checkers, grammar and punctuation error warnings and mean that mistakes are flagged up, instead of the writer having to make an effort to get it right.
The use of these tools has become habitual and when students are doing online tests, they automatically use these, because they’re used to them. It’s not really deliberate cheating, simply a habit they’ve got into. This means that computers being used for online English tests need to have these aids disabled.
Does good English matter today?
How important is it that kids learn correct English and pay attention to grammar and spelling? Some people may say that it’s becoming less important, but poor written English can be an influencing factor for:
- University entrance
- Work experience applications
- Job applications
- Volunteer roles
Judgments are made – sometimes wrongly – but you don’t get a second chance. Even with online recruiting, you need to present yourself in a positive light. Young people who submit a CV or a personal statement with spelling errors or poor grammar are starting with a disadvantage.
Let’s be honest, even many adults struggle with the apostrophe – so maybe asking your kids to explain it to you is a good place to start. Teaching someone else something is an excellent way to ensure you’ve learned it thoroughly!
Encourage your children to know the rules, before they break them and you’ll be giving them a strong foundation for whatever future they choose.