Thursday, 21 June 2012

Gothic - Exploring author's craft

Year 9 - Gothic Unit: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

It looks like a bit of a boring one this one but it works so well every time!
This is a follow up lesson to reading/discussing/hot-seating characters from the extract in Ch.4 when the Creature awakes.
The overall objective is to analyse the author's craft and explain the ways in which Shelley manipulates our feelings, makes us empathise with the characters.
This comes afterwards to consolidate and stretch students' understanding of narrative techniques and to encourage them to deploy similar tricks in their own writing. It can lead to a Reading piece as well though we did it more informally this year, having done a BIG piece recently. (PPT from previous year)

We'll also keep doing the next piece in which the events are re-told from the creature's perspective (minutely re-told following the structure of the original - great for inference as well!). It also allows me to distribute a copy of the chapter in which the creature takes over the narration to all who want to read it (usually quite a few!)

Here, the idea is simply to focus on matching narrative techniques to parts of text - in pairs, armed with scissors, glue and pens to annotate further once it's all stuck down. Straightforward lesson, straightforward plenary, much discussion generated by the different examples the students find, how they justify their choices, how effective the techniques are, and also how old-fashioned... Some always argue that today's authors wouldn't use some of the really long sentences that are found in the extract for instance.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Home Learning - Investigating the Gothic genre

Thoughts and Crosses Home Learning

First I came across this from

I was looking for something in order to set homework that would allow a certain degree of choice. I also wanted to see a range of writing and research. Looked interesting...

Then I came across this:
So I came up with this thing below.

BUT: done too quickly, needs a re-think of some of the tasks for next year. It also needs quality control all the way through and a lovely sharing / celebration session at the end. I wanted to do something much better such as a gallery where students would present their work. We settled for merits, a bit of feedback of what was learnt, particularly about conventions and words such as 'macabre'.
Some students read extracts from tasks plus a wonderful, shiver-inducing poem.

I'm not sure the lower ability students really stretched themselves on all tasks but it was partly my fault as there was so much going on with A'Level revision that I wasn't on the ball enough to check quality. The higher end completely blew me away. They really enjoyed (or so they say) the freedom to choose some of the tasks.

I should have made better use of Fronter as well. Many decided to submit work through Fronter on the interim deadlines - Had I had more time, I would have written comments there and then to encourage them further. Actually, it works out really well as they don't have to print until it is improved. As it happened, it was oral feedback in class most often (brutal on a very few occasions in the 'Are you kidding me?' vein) but it worked anyway. The high ability students produced written work mostly - interestingly...
  Thoughts and Crosses Gothic Research Project-1

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Getting to the end of the novel...Revising themes.

Straightforward but challenging as we're revising the novel before the exam.

-  Revise and stretch understanding of themes in LOTF
- Grapple with challenging vocabulary and points
- Sum up and teach the rest of the class about your sub-topic/theme
- (and working collaboratively, independently of me)

I used some online notes (was it Sparksnotes?) then pasted them and cut them up in domino-style cards.

One card per student on arrival to classroom (differentiated then as the sub-topics are written on the back of the cards. All cards are difficult but some more so than others).

Used the Effect of Fear set of cards to demonstrate. Two students quickly worked out who had to read first (=who had the opening sentence), shared the reading aloud, then aimed to explain what could be learnt from the cards/the main points.

I did have to ask a few questions to help them clarify for themselves what the cards were saying. Then others joined in to ask questions and clarify.


I then witnessed some very different strategies being used by different groups to find the right sequence but they were absolutely determined to get it right. As predicted, many spent time reading and trying to explain as they went what the main points were.

 Chuffed with the quality of the discussion. Students did ask me for key vocabulary that none of them knew (but they did seek to clarify amongst themselves first)

 The second part was more challenging - students attempting to sum up and clarify the main messages in their group to share with the class. Had to speed up the last 2 groups to get them to stick to most important points.

They did struggle with some of the language - no doubt about it - but that was part of the challenge in the first place.
VERDICT: They liked the challenge
They liked the sophisticated language
They liked having to clarify amongst themselves what the main points were
They did not like having to explain it to the rest of the class - partly because it was hard to be clear and we were rushed for time. After their focused group discussion, they felt disappointed at their own lack of clarity at that point. I do believe they were a bit hard on themselves... They did a good job and i'm particularly pleased at the language they have picked up.

Cards Match Up I have also put together a quick wordcloud to have on desks as a mat (and one to take home for exam practice responses and revision)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Asking the right questions... And airing the hexagons...

Year 11 - Chapter 11 and 12 - LOTF

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: Always a favourite lesson - Always works a treat.

Students are asked to ask questions about the text, plot, characters and relationships, themes... Well, not in so many words initially.
Initially: Jot down any questions (groups of 2 or 3) - I did show them some examples of interesting questions after a couple of minutes.
Then: Rank them / group them
And: Choose most important/ relevant ones...
OR  which questions is most likely to be asked to test your knowledge and understanding...

We had a bit of reading to do.

Then easy questions addressed first. Time to discuss some of their big questions. Some initial feedback and class discussion, stretching ideas.
Back to their big questions and extended responses in note form on the sugar paper.
Final plenary:
One question /group is answered/presented to class.

Note taken of any question that might have been too hard to answer fully or that we feel has not been done justice --> to be tackled in next lesson.

Below is a mix of slides and photos (taken at an early stage of lesson 1 for the questions... as usual, forgot to take more pictures... Doh. The other photos are from lesson 2). It's all a bit mixed up for now...


Starter was easy: looking at our question (there was only one) to be revisited and after a few min of Think, Pair, Share, some good class discussion.
Reminded us of what makes a good answer.

But first, we have abandoned the SOLO levels for now and refocused on GCSE grades, but at least they understand the progression better between one grade and the next.
Most of the revision books focus on C grade and A* grade answers so it made sense...

I also reworked David's grade ladder as spotted in one of his posts about Zooming in and Zooming Out (@LearningSpy) (I should tell him)

Anyway, this time, they had to write one or 2 'good' questions in pair on a post-it on the final chapter; should be a question they would be happy to answer in an exam as they would have plenty to say.
The twist was that instead of answering their own selected question, they swapped questions with another pair (they actually loved that).

Cue good look at the ladder (by now, the vocab is fairly familiar but at least the focus is firmly on the fact that ALL can progress further)
Hand out envelopes with hexagons to pairs, some with prompts, some blank. Back to question we started with to demonstrate how the hexagons could help build the answer. To be honest, that was quick as they felt they 'got' the idea straight away.
They then build their points and fleshed them out.

I remembered to take pictures as they were needed for plenary (no visualiser in department).
Plenary: Pop memory card in USB and into computer. Pairs came up to present their work and some of 'richest' connections they'd made.

We watched a few more more the next day after they had been given time to add to their initial work, improve, analyse further.

I'm happy with that.

chp 11 and 12