GCSE Secondary English

The Lazy Larry Show: assisting you in the teaching of SPAG

The Lazy Larry Show: an online animated series designed to assist in the teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar, from Peter Morrisson.

“Once again ladies and gentlemen, for both your edification and your entertainment, welcome to The Lazy Larry Show, starring that paragon of teenage idleness himself, Lazy Larry!”

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About The Lazy Larry Show

For my own students, and for those of my English teaching colleagues in the college in which we work, the above has become a familiar refrain. It is the introduction to an educational resource that I created and uploaded to Youtube some three years ago. As stated in the online description:

‘The Lazy Larry Show’ is a series of thirty (plus three seasonal) short animated lesson-starter activities which star bone-idle teen and would-be superstar vlogger, Lazy Larry, in a succession of comic misadventures designed to reinforce prior teaching of the essential skills of: correctly spelling fifteen of the most commonly confused words: correct apostrophe usage: and correct usage of capital letters. The learning objectives for these lesson-starter activities are achieved as students attempt to correct the deliberate mistakes which have been written into the transcripts of these videos.

(I teach full stops and sentence construction separately so as not to over-complicate a single resource.)

What is particularly gratifying to me is that in the process of creating these animations, Larry seems to have taken on a life of his own as my students now relate to Larry as if he, rather than me, is master of ceremonies at the beginning of each lesson. Personally, I am happy for Larry to receive the attention because whilst delivering these video logs, he has had to both bare his soul and be put through the mill. Not only does he have to endure the endemic sarcasm of his parents, as well as the frequently scathing criticism of his on-off girlfriend, Emma, but, in addition, he is further maligned by school femme fatale, and immensely more successful online rival, Kiss-me-Kate, whose personal fan base, as she proudly boasts, consists of “many millions of teenage boys all around the world!” To augment his woes, he lives in constant fear of being tracked down by Scrapper, school bully and budding psychopath, who Larry once imprudently referred to as a “gorilla’s armpit”. He also suffers from additional anxiety caused by sleep deprivation owing to the incessant barking of next door neighbours’ rabid Doberman Pinscher, Satan. Unfortunately, when Larry does finally attain his life-long ambition of going viral, it is only because his little sister has blighted his appearance in a clumsy attempt to style his hair. Needless to say, the haircut is persistent, though the success is short-lived.

But, as is often the case with ‘great literature’, life imitates art – for not only is Larry’s cartoon world riddled with detractors, but the show’s online presence is also plagued by the equally hostile attentions of a troll who goes by the tag of ‘Just_Diagnosed_With’. Now I have no idea what ailment this acerbic soul has just been identified as possessing but, if I had to hazard a guess, I’d rule out generosity of spirit. For some reason best known to him/herself, J.D.W. has got it in for Larry, even once attempting to post the following triumphantly disparaging observation: ‘At last, I’ve found the worst educational resource on the internet!’ Fortunately, Larry and I don’t allow unmoderated comments. However, every new episode of The Lazy Larry Show generally suffers from a thumbs down within twenty-four hours of its upload and, although I can’t prove it, my money’s on J.D.W.

Now I know that Larry can be irritating – after all, he is lazy – but what I can’t comprehend is what J.D.W. fails to understand about this project. It should be perfectly obvious to anyone involved in education that the lower-attaining 50% of secondary school students generally struggle with spelling, punctuation and grammar, despite having experienced years of sitting in a classroom. Therefore, it seems self-evident to me that occasional one-off lessons on such areas are destined to fail, and that what is required is a programme of intensive reinforcement, which is exactly what The Lazy Larry Show is designed to provide … and in a context which is, at least from my own personal teaching experience, extremely engaging.

Peter Morrisson currently teaches English at University College Isle of Man. As well as an author of several textbooks on English Literature, he is also a Certified Director of 2D and 3D animated films – The Lazy Larry show!

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