The Elements of Language (a periodic table of sorts)

My recent project has been to reduce my displays from being crutches upon which pupils were relying, to being the sites of memory cues for things that they should know.

Previously I’ve used all sorts of displays, full of poetic and rhetorical devices, sentence structures and examples of uses of punctuation. I found that pupils were not committing these things to long term memory and solely relying on what was written on the classroom walls. Clearly, this doesn’t help them when they write elsewhere, most obviously in the exam hall.

I wanted to ensure that my displays didn’t replace knowing for the pupils (and that it also didn’t replace teaching for me).

So, I looked at a way of reducing all of the information I’d previously been giving them to mere cues that could help them access the information from memory and this is where I am now: the periodic table of English.

The codifying of terms will hopefully not only serve as memory cues, but also be useful as shorthand for annotation.

It’s currently a work in progress, and if I find its use is limited I will go back to the drawing board. One of the areas that I am concerned about is the information on each element: this will be revisited as I begin to gauge its use – whether it is to reduce the amount of information or just the visibility of it.

Interestingly, I tweeted a picture of this a few weeks ago and the response was one of aesthetics. I wanted to post this brief précis  of how I’m using it because it has its basis in something other than just aesthetics: it is a project on learning, memory and memory cues.

Many people have been asking for the files, so here is a link to them. I would add a caveat that, as these are the elements that I teach my classes, you should adapt them for the things that you use with yours and not just rely on these as standard elements.

(And I apologise if you lose any formatting due to font changes on your operating system – this was created in Helvetica Neue.)

16 thoughts on “The Elements of Language (a periodic table of sorts)”

  1. 1. Thank you for the idea, James. A very useful organisation of concepts.
    2. Couldn’t agree more – the display must have value in deep learning. My version is such that certain sections can be taken down for use as card-based activities.

  2. This is excellent. I remade the chart with a higher resolution so it prints quite nicely to A3 and also turned it into an interactive PowerPoint. If you”d like them, send me an email and I’ll pass them on (presumably you can see my email address through wordpress’ comment moderation).

    Thanks for the work you put in to this – it’s a really impressive resource.

    1. I have completely lost the formatting when I downloaded this excellent resource – I teach in Dubai, so it could be the fact that we have Word set up for Arabic, but I could not fathom it. Would you be kind enough to send these to me, please?

    2. I would really appreciate the resources that you have developed. I am working on sets of flashcards.

  3. This looks amazing! I would love to experiment with it… unfortunately the link appears to be broken. Any chance you could check it? Thanks for all the work you’ve put into it.

  4. Great resource. Well done. The fun will be in generating the activities round it that means it becomes a reference tool the majority of pupils readily refer to and this own without looking at the wall itself. Wonderfully creative challenge.

  5. I too have found the link inoperable… If possible can you please send to me…I love the idea and would love to see what exactly you have to build from and make use of for me

  6. This is an awesome display. I am amazed and grateful for the extraordinary work you put into this. Thanks so much. I will definitely be using a variation of it in my 6-8 ELA class. Well done!

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