In my post earlier this week I shared a number of stretch and challenge activities for helping students navigate the transition from KS4 to KS5. These are a work in progress, but I mentioned a new set I am working on currently, also a work in progress, but here they are as they stand.
Teaching risk taking
Something that sets A grade year 12/13 students apart from others, is their ability and willingness to be bold (or risky) in their interpretation of the text. I have really struggled to teach this skill. Students are willing to taken certain risks, but not often true risks.
In Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, the narrator describes the children she is employed to educate as “princes of the blood”. Our conversation on this quote, went something like this:
Mrs E: She describes them as “princes of the blood” what could she be suggesting?
Student A: Royalty, doesn’t “the blood” suggest the royal family.
Mrs E: Excellent what else, what about the word “princes”?
Student B: Princes is a masculine word, she is describing Flora and Miles using a masculine word. Does this mean anything?
Mrs E: Errr… you tell me.
The gender term debate went on for some time. Finally.
Mrs E: Does the phrase “princes of the blood” suggest anything else? Forget the text, think literature as a whole.
Nervous student C: “blood” suggests violence, so if they are princes of the blood, then they are princes of violence.
Mrs E: Yay, what else?
Even more nervous student D: vampires…are princes of the blood, it’s a gothic novel, so it could be a vampire reference.
Mrs E: Wow, that’s fabulous. Now we are beginning to be bold and take risks. What else?
Student A: If they are princes, who is the king or queen? It suggests they are not in charge.
Student D: Who are they heir to?
Mrs E: Keep going.
Student C: If they are the heirs of Quint and Jessel, they were born out violence and also passion.
Mrs E: And…
Student D: Maybe they aren’t vampires, but they are monsters, they are like vampires as they suck the life blood from the governess.
This was probably the most risky conversation we have ever had whilst studying Henry James. And I didn’t have to lead them to water. I didn’t spoon feed the possibility or even hint at the interpretations.
This got me thinking, how can I teach independent risk taking skills. I am slightly obsessed with my stretch and challenge activity cards at the moment and so here are a few “risk” activity cards, in an attempt to develop risky independence. Download them here: Risk activity cards. I will add more as I go along.
A post on iceberg thinking cards to follow.