Beginnings

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First impressions matter. In September, establishing routines, setting expectations for learning and getting to know the pupils is the focus in classrooms around the country. Starting the year right is important, teachers are blogging about it in their droves.

I completely intended to write a similar piece on how to start the year ‘right’ for this month’s #BlogSyncEnglish – I’ve blogged about beginning this year to some extent in this post here, however after what feels like a half term of teaching already and moving towards the iGCSE exam in November – this piece is looking at the impact discourse markers have.

A discourse marker is a word or phrase whose function is to organise discourse into segments. Examples are things like ‘by the way’ in conversation and ‘furthermore’ in a more formal context like an essay.

Further information on discourse markers here.

When looking at beginnings it it important that we realise, time stricken examiners will make a judgement on our pupils based on their impression of the candidates work. Their use of discourse markers can dramatically affect this impression.

For example:

Othello is a tragic character and his fatal flaw is jealousy.

A perfectly valid introductory statement to a paragraph that could lead on to how his jealousy inevitably creates his tragedy. The same point phrased with more complex discourse markers however sounds much more complex but makes the same point.

Firstly, it must be acknowledged that Othello is a tragic character. Furthermore his jealousy develops to become his fatal flaw.

To ensure my classes make a good impression, for the next few lessons I will be playing discourse marker bingo – having class discussions around a thunk with students crossing discourse markers off on their cards as they are used in the discussion.

I also intend to apply some stealth tactics and start putting them up around the classroom and corridors as the term goes on. A good list of some great discourse markers is available here.

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