5 ways to say something meaningful in analysis

“’The end is nigh!’ This tells us that the summer is nearly over.” It does, but you haven’t told me why it has been said in that way or what effect that is having on the text at this moment! This made up example exemplifies many comments I encountered marking Macbeth essays last term; students who thought they were analysing language but were actually offering a modern translation of the quotation.

One key indicator that the end of the summer holidays is rapidly approaching is that a teacher support group I’m a member of on Facebook (‘AQA 9-1 GCSE English Lang & Lit’ – I would highly recommend joining if you are not already a member) has burst back into life in the last week. One post asking for ideas for higher level activities reminded me of the Macbeth essays and the result of them: one of my most successful year 10 strategies last year which I have been meaning to blog about since. Continue reading “5 ways to say something meaningful in analysis”

Conflict Poetry: 5 Ways to Use Image Strips

In my early years of teaching, I spent many hours cutting up coloured cards, agonising over the correct image to correctly illustrate a skill and differentiated by making a terrifying range of different resources for every possible level within the classroom. Now? I realise less is more and  I save my laminating for those multipurpose resources that I am going to use again and again. These conflict poetry strips are quick to create and incredibly versatile when exploring and revising poems. Below are five different ways that you can use them in lessons to enhance your teaching of the conflict poems.

Although these can be useful for students of all abilities, the visual element is particularly helpful for lower ability students who struggle to move between the literal and figurative element of poetry. For those students who are intimidated by elaborate lexical choices, subtle tones and unfamiliar imagery, image strips are a perfect way to give them a visual frame of reference that allows them to fearlessly explore ideas within the poems and gain confidence with poetry. Email us at resources@creativeenglish.co.uk for a set to accompany the AQA conflict poems.

Pre reading activities

Explore poems by using an image strip to explore the imagery contained within a poem before students read it. Give out the images and ask students to make predictions about themes, tones, content and even the words that they might expect to see within a poem. Continue reading “Conflict Poetry: 5 Ways to Use Image Strips”

Why we should still be having fun

Last week my class were totally absorbed in a set of lesson on synthesis. They spent hours carefully poring over several articles and meticulously sifting out quotations, information and inferences to create a precise and accurate summary of what they had read. The subject? Not Paper 2 skills as far as they were concerned but ‘Animal Attacks’. The most bizarre, gruesome and delightfully shocking accounts can be found in abundance thanks to the excellent Guardian Experience range here (I was swallowed by a hippo is a personal favourite). Here’s the thing though – I am totally convinced that my boy heavy,  gore loving class would not have enjoyed working through the specimen papers provided by AQA nearly as much – in fact I would go as far as to say that I would have inevitably lost some of them along the way; however clearly I broke down the process of synthesis and summary, the extrinsic motivator of being able to perform in a GCSE exam would not be enough to hold their attention or help all of them really embed that skill. It’s not that they don’t care about their GCSEs, it’s more that summary and synthesis are not necessarily fun skills to master for most of us. Useful? Yes. Necessary? Well sort of. But fun? Not really. Animal attacks are intrinsically interesting to them and picking them as the source material would have made any subsequent activity a winner.

I read the debates on Twitter about engagement (or ‘investment’ as James Durran elegantly re-terms it in his post here) and I do agree that much of what we do is intrinsically interesting and that when we approach it with enthusiasm and passion, we shouldn’t need to rely on gimmicks and ‘empty activities’ that are more about entertaining classes than really bringing on their knowledge and skills. It is also true that there is nothing worse than observing ‘fun’ lessons that are full of activity with no real thought or value behind them. Continue reading “Why we should still be having fun”

World Cup: Lessons in the Language of Football

I will admit that the start of the world cup leads to my partner and I adopting stereotypical roles: him an excitable, uncharacteristically optimistic die hard patriot and me beleaguered and abandoned, seething with resentment at having to switch over Love Island in favour of yet another crucial match. This year though I have decided to embrace it. Well in the classroom at least. During the World Cup, students who are sometimes almost comatose with apathy in class are transformed; it is quite amazing to see them so energised and animated in the corridors as they debate the relative chances of different nations with an encyclopaedic knowledge of players, coaches, managers and strategies. It seems too good an opportunity to let pass which has got me thinking about the power of not just the topic and subject matter but of the language which surrounds it.

There’s a sense of passion that pervades the rhetoric of football and how writers achieve this is really interesting. We can break down lexis into its component parts and consider the power of semantic fields, euphemism, idiom, colloquialisms and even cliché. The dense complex sentences brim with embedded clauses and provide efficient delivery of lots of information; they become goldmines for constructing and dissecting syntax. Continue reading “World Cup: Lessons in the Language of Football”

Tapping into Fortnite Fever

Computer games and Literature have more in common than we might first think. Complex narratives, immersive escapism and compelling characters are often the most appealing elements of the books that we read and computer games often offer these in abundance. Far from the passive act of watching television, gamers are highly engaged with their activities applying problem solving skills,  weighing up moral conundrums and working out successful strategies in tense and fast moving situations. Am I trying to convince you that all computer games are intellectual pursuits? Of course not but there is an awful lot for us to tap into here (explored with more academic rigour in Ki Karou’s blog post here)

The wonderful thing about so much of English Language is our ability to teach skills that can be applied in any context. As ‘Fortnite’ is the game of the moment, this lovely summer term, in which there is time to experiment with approaches, seems the perfect opportunity to tap into something that so many young people (interestingly of both genders) are so fascinated with. Its addictive blend of fast paced cartoon violence and ruthless competition has inspired widespread joy and a plethora of  near hysterical journalism about the corruption of the next generation; This presents us with the perfect opportunity for some really engaging reading and writing work.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to have played it at all to use these resources. Though as we are all exhausted and crawl toward the end of term, a bit of post-exam virtual massacre might be just what you need…

Continue reading “Tapping into Fortnite Fever”