With many people having to support their children’s learning through homeschooling, I’m seeing many cries of “what’s a fronted adverbial, anyway?” There seems to be an underlying feeling of “If I don’t know what it is, why are they expecting my child to know?”
The simple answer is that it’s far easier to learn about something if you can name it. Can you imagine the problems with learning about that type of question where you don’t expect an answer but you’re asking it for the sake of moving an argument on, if you can’t refer to it as a rhetorical question?
Whether you remember, years down the line, what it’s called, or whether they start calling it something different, doesn’t really matter. The point is whether at the time of learning you can understand what you’re being asked to do if you’re asked to make your sentences more interesting by using fronted adverbials.
We do the same in fiction writing generally. We talk about point of view, or POV. We talk about 1st person or 3rd person. We discuss omniscient versus limited. We throw around terms like protagonist, antagonist, adverbs, imagery.
And it will be the same in any other activity that you look into – each has its specific terms, and use of those terms is a big step towards understanding what they are and how to use them. Naming something gives you power over it. It grants the ability to discuss it and focus on it.
So that fronted adverbial? It just means that instead of starting a sentence with the subject (John kicked the ball), you start with a word or phrase that describes the action that follows.
So you might get:
Early in the morning, John kicked the ball.
Angrily, John kicked the ball.
Unaware that it was directly in front of a glass window, John kicked the ball.
In this way, you can vary sentence structure. You wouldn’t want every sentence to start that way, but it’s one of many techniques available, and the more a child has at their disposal, the more interesting they can make their writing. It’s far easier for a teacher to teach the children the name of the structure, and then encourage them to use it, than to try to refer to it without a name.