SPaG, SOAP and VCOP – structure, expression and growth

A significant area of concern, with respect to my role as a primary school class teacher, is literacy. I must be effective in delivering SPaG – spelling, punctuation and grammar. With respect to grammar, I must be clear about two other acronyms, which represent important areas for lesson planning, provision and progression. SOAP is similes, onomatopoeia, alliteration and personification. VCOP is vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation.

Grammar is the structure of language, comprising sounds, words, syntax, and semantics. SOAP is figurative language, the distortion of language to make the reader think about what the writer is trying to convey. Figurative language is not literal. It appeals to the imagination. Figurative language compares things that are different, in order to make their similarities seem interesting or unique or unusual.

Figurative language can be thought-provoking or manipulative. I teach children to understand and identify different types of figurative language. When teaching onomatopoeia, for example, I enable and encourage imitation of sounds as they are named (‘hiss’ or ‘buzz’) or used to describe an event or attribute (‘the crisp, yet uncertain, rustling of leaves’). When helping children to understand poetic and musical terms and forms, I teach children to recognise and understand how different types of figurative language are used by composers and poets. Poetry is often most enjoyable for children, in my experience, when they can express or understand ideas through personification, giving human characteristics to non-human things in order to explain actions or emotions or reasoning (‘a smiling moon’, ‘a happy sun’, ‘a growling stomach’).

Teaching VCOP, for me, is a subtler experience than teaching SOAP. Take a simple sentence, and expand it, and learning progresses with expansion. Take this: The cat went along the wall. It becomes, with a greater range of vocabulary, this: The fluffy, ginger cat quietly prowled along the unstable wall. This sentence becomes, with a connective, this: The fluffy, ginger cat quietly prowled along the unstable wall while the unsuspecting bird pecked for worms in the garden below. Adding an opener makes this: Licking his lips, the fluffy, ginger cat quietly prowled along the unstable wall while the unsuspecting bird pecked for worms in the garden below. Throw in additional punctuation and we have this: Licking his lips, the fluffy, ginger cat (who had missed his breakfast) quietly prowled along the unstable wall while the unsuspecting bird pecked for worms in the garden below.

So much growth, by growing a single, simple sentence.

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