Spelling, punctuation and grammar are an essential part of learning and communication. Teachers and students understand the importance of SPaG and if they don’t, have a word!
I have shared this idea before on Twitter and at various Teach Meet events where I have presented. The concept itself may come across as a gimmick but students have responded really well to this activity! Reflecting upon that point, metacognition is a massively important element of successful learning. By stressing the importance of certain elements of learning, such as spelling, grammar and punctuation, children are able to ensure that it is at the front of their mind when learning in class. This is why, whilst on the face of it seemingly ‘gimmicky’ the SPaG watch activity really is an integral part of learning in my classroom.
SPaG watch acts as a form of peer assessment or peer support. Originally the idea was intended for the more able and gifted students to help others in the class. However, due to its popularity I have adapted the task, because lots of my students want to be SPaG watch!
I certainly don’t use this activity every lesson but if the class are completing an extended piece of writing then the ‘High Vis’ jackets come out. I always have keen volunteers on hand to take on the roles of Spelling Squad and Punctuation Police! This has to be very structured so that SPaG watch don’t spend too much time helping others, as they obviously need to be focused on their own learning and progress.
The person in the role of the Spelling Squad will be armed with a dictionary and a board pen to write correct spellings on the board. When they are on patrol their duty is to check other students work ensuring that they have spelt key words correctly.
Punctuation Police purely focus on the punctuation, naturally. This could be punctuation in general but that can depend on the volunteer, class, ability etc. I may ask the pupil to check specifically that capital letters and/or full stops are being used accurately. It may be more complex, such as checking parenthetic commas are being used correctly.
At certain points in the lesson I will play a short music clip (this has varied from The Bill theme tune to the A-Team…but I am in need of updating this!). The music is the cue for SPaG watch to go around the class. The music will often only last 3-5 minutes and I will probably only play it twice in a lesson. The music does add another element of fun but this is mainly to ensure SPaG watch stick to their alloted time to help others.
Students have been very vocal that they like this activity, whether they are SPaG watch or not. I use this with Key Stage Three but this has also been used by Primary School teachers too (see example below).
Other schools have adapted this idea to suit their classes with Sarah Lidell from Ysgol Bryn Alyn, Wrexham creating ‘Grammar Gangsters’. Rhys Cocoran at St. Mary Immaculate, Cardiff adapted this idea to use with GCSE students, having ‘Literacy leaders’.
The High Vis jackets were a purchase from a pound shop, #PoundlandPedagogy, they are just a bit of fun to identify who the SPaG watch are. Year 7 love these jackets! Who knew correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar could be so exciting!
Thanks for taking the time to read my post. If you’ve been inspired by any of these ideas I’d love to hear from you to find out how you’ve taken them / adapted or remixed them and used them in your classroom. Please feel free to follow my blog and leave comments below or why not just drop me a message on Twitter.