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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Resource for teaching fronted adverbials: 'Something about a Bear' by Jackie Morris

‘Where the water churns with salmon, thick and rich with leaping fishes, there the Brown Bear stands and catches the wild king of the river.’

What a poetic opening this is!  Of course, it is just the rich, beautiful language we have come to expect from Jackie Morris and, once again, she has provided teachers with a quality text for exemplifying certain sentence structures. 

This book could be used to develop understanding around many aspects of grammar, but here we are going to focus on fronted adverbials.  Below are some examples from the text which could be used in the following ways:
  1. Using Talk for Writing techniques, children can learn the patterns of the text and innovate/invent their own sentences from these. 
  2. Discussing the fronted adverbials will also help children understand this grammatical feature.  For example, is the adverbial position filled with one phrase, more than one phrase, or a clause?
  3. In some sentences, there is subject-verb inversion after the fronted adverbial and children could use this pattern for a more literary style.  This structure can be used when the subject is a noun (not a pronoun) and there is an initial place adverbial (position or direction).

I would not discuss sentence structure beyond points 2 and 3 above, since many of the sentences have lengthy, sophisticated constructions and there is no need to understand how these are put together to appreciate the beauty of the language.

On the shore the young bears watch him; still others swim …  (Fronted adverbial phrase)

In the wildest lands of China, in the forests and the mountains, lives the white-and-black Giant Panda, hidden from the world. (Power of 3 opening: 3 adverbials followed by subject-verb inversion and a final, non-finite, adverbial clause.  Note that the third listed adverbial has the preposition ‘in’ omitted for succinctness.)  This would be a great structure for children to imitate, innovate and invent their own.

Through the forest, hunting termites and the honey hives of bees, where the mangos and the fruit trees grow in plenty, walks the shaggy-coated Sloth Bear.  (This is a complicated structure, with two clauses placed between the fronted adverbial and the inverted subject-verb.  The basic sentence is Through the forest walks the shaggy-coated Sloth Bear.  This is split by a non-finite adverbial clausehunting termites and the honey hives of bees,’ and a finite adverbial clausewhere the mangos and the fruit trees grow in plenty’. Children learning to use fronted adverbials do not need to understand these two clause structures grammatically, but it is useful for the teacher to be aware of them. 

With her cubs aboard her strong back she keeps them safe from danger, for there are tiges in the forests, and wild dogs and leopards too. (Fronted adverbial phrase)

Up in the crowns of tall trees, in the softest nests of green leaves, the Spectacled Bear sunbathes through the heat of the day.  (Two adverbial phrases fronting the sentence.)

By dawn light and dusk light the great Moon Bear of Asia hunts and searches, for insects, and for noney, nuts and berries.  (Fronted adverbial created by a preposition + two noun phrases linked with ‘and’.)

Where the forest meets the snowline she watches from her bear’s nest for the wild leopard of the mountains, who hunts the higher ground.  (Fronted adverbial clause)

In the cool of night he searches…  (Fronted adverbial phrase)

Besides the lakes and in the forests Black Bear fishes in the water, …  (Two adverbial phrases linked with ‘and’ fronting the sentence.)

You will note that many of Jackie Morris’s fronted adverbials are not punctuated with commas, unless embedded clauses or phrases follow.  For more about punctuating fronted adverbials, click here.

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