4 week project – lesson1

A couple of weeks ago I posted that I have time: precious, beautiful, sparkly time with my year 10s.  Below is the first installment of what we have been up to.

Lesson 1: Best laid plans of … 

My great plans of starting this unit with a kick ass short story were scuppered by a trip and a rounders tournament.  With around half of my usual 32 students out, I couldn’t risk setting the scene with some many absences, so a quickly shuffled pre-opening lesson resulted in my posing this question:


Now my class is bright, very bright.  But they are also teacher pleasers, which is just fine – as they have learnt that vital skill of getting to the root of what a teacher wants and then doing that.  Except in this case, they had no frame of reference.  So – what did I get?

Overwhelming comments like “Good writing – spelling, vocabulary, punctuation” and “grammar”.  Now, don’t be too judgmental.  We have just come out of three months on the OCR Imaginative Writing unit. So we are somewhat “good writing’d” out.

Now – it would have been really easy for me to say “BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT LITERATURE IS ABOUT!” steaming with righteous indignation that the cannon has been reduced to a VCOP checklist.

But where would be learning in that?  Rather then – I gave students some more freedom (eek – yes – controversial) and asked if we were exploring the ideas below, what sort of things would you see?

  • Self
  • Individuality
  • Community
  • Relationships
  • Male identity
  • Female identity

The result was this: not un-thoughtful, but by no means a sophisticated analysis of the ideas. But then, they had nothing to anlayse – so what next?

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Without a great deal of further ado, I showed students this rather odd, silent-ish film – Copyshop.  Asking students, as we watched, to consider one idea and write notes on how that concept was presented in the short film.

If you don’t know the film (and it is worth a watch) it is fairly abstract.  Therefore we spent some considerable time after watching it, working what was going on and if we could really pin it down or whether the meaning was ambiguous.

One interesting discussion stemmed from the question: What literally happens to the man in the Copyshop?

The answer, of course, is that he gets cloned.

My next question was: If cloning is the event that happens in the film, what is the idea behind that? What idea does the cloning of this man reveal?

One student has recently come into her element and after some thought her contribution was “that we are all the same”.   This then segued onto a discussion about government and power, the internal self and the external self.  Students wanted to discuss why the ‘male’ was chosen to be cloned or a not a female? And then comments on the male persona chosen and gender stereotyping and the oddness of replacing the solitary female, with that same male.  We looked at what it means to be part of a community, and yet always isolated.  We realised that all of us are lonely even when we are in a room of people. Fascinating and wholesome stuff.

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Now we were ready to read some kick ass literature.

Lesson 2 – 4 to follow.

Get in contact via twitter if you would like access to any of these lessons and resouces.

Thanks for reading.



Thank you

I don’t know whether you mark the longest day, we do.  It coincides with our wedding anniversary.  Not by artifice, but by accident – like so much of my life.  16 years is not bad. Particularly given that this year has been one of the hardest.

I don’t want to get into ‘that’ here.  But I do want to say a few thank yous. There are a whole bunch of people outside of my family, who have (probably entirely unknowingly) kept me going this year.

So the longest day this year coincided with another anniversary of sorts.  The day we said “life is good again”.  We sat in the sun, drank a glass of wine (just one), watched the kids play in the garden and were thankful.  Thankful for the days that feel the longest and thankful for the longest day.

I don’t think I say thank you enough.  So I am going to set that right now –  here friends, is my thank you to you – for helping make life good again.

@Gwenelope – for unfailingly being there, day and night, for keeping an eye without expecting anything back. Your hugs keep me going.

@ASTsupportAAli – for honest to god, making me laugh every week.

@joeybagstock – for being the nicest bloke on twitter.

@Xris32 – for being the nicest bloke on twitter, who lives up north.

@fod3 – for dragging me out to Wellington when I had nowhere else to go.

@agwilliams9 – for keeping an eye on what I eat.

@KerryPulleyn and @FranNantongwe – for unfailing cheerfulness and positivity.

@tstarkey1212 and @willtayloruk – for making me laugh.

@HuntingEnglish@joe__kirby and @LearningSpy – for keeping me interested in the intellectual side of my subject.

@Edutronic_Net – love you x.

@c0rvuscorvus – for appreciation of Katie Morag, jumpers and students annotating their own work.

@DrPhoenix21@DiLeed and @cazzwebbo – for being new friends.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but please know – I am thankful.

Thanks for reading x

The 4 week project

If you could teach anything to a year 10 class what would it be?

I have an excellent opportunity at my new school, I’ve been thinking about it for a week now and am still grinning with glee.  You see my year 10 class have finished everything they need to complete this year and I have been told I don’t need to start the year 11 curriculum yet.  So I have about 15 hours of lovely lessons to teach them whatever I want.


What! How is this possible?

I only started at my new school in Feb.  Picking up a year 10 class part way through the OCR English Only course (they do iGCSE Literature in year 11) meant getting all 3 literature and 2 imaginative writing CAs under my belt fairly sharpish.  Essays on Owen and The Tempest were done. The OMAM essay was partial prepared for when I arrived.  I got in a snit about their essay writing skills and used up what was thought to be valuable time teaching essay writing.  Then came imaginative writing and yes, we spent some considerable time looking at good short story writing.  But it is done.

The iGCSE Lit course involves studying Jekyll & Hyde, revising The Tempest, an anthology of poetry and some unseen work, as well as the preparing for the *cough* *pointless* OCR Info and Ideas exam.  Nothing can be gained from kicking off any of this 4 weeks before they disappear on work experience.

So what can be gained?

I love this class.  They are top set.  It’s been a long time since I have had the pleasure of sharing a classroom with such an intelligent, like-able and hard working group of students.  And they aren’t boring, thank god.

Yet, as a result of rushing through the curriculum, I think we might have missed a prime opportunity to stretch them beyond what we now consider an A*.  Many of them will achieve A/A* grades but genuinely not from any particular input by me.  It is within their natural ability.

So if you could teach anything to a year 10 class what would it be?

Now is that time.

Where will I start?

If I wanted to we could study a great novel. But then we will be studying Jekyll next year, so I’ve ruled out reading an extended piece of fiction.  Added to this that many of the class have read already some of the novels I would considering teaching – Catcher in the Rye, Heart of Darkness etc.

Also it would be foolhardy to go so far off piste that the class don’t learn anything useful for the coming year.  I can lay the groundwork for year 11 and perhaps prelude some A Level work using texts that rarely get any space in the English classroom these days.  Also, I am in love with short stories at the moment and am hoping the new GCSE will see the renaissance of short stories in KS3 and Ks4. So I might as well get ahead of the game.

What groundwork do I want to lay?  Well, they write good essays and having lived imaginative writing for two months, they now write well full stop.

What I don’t see, quite yet, is the ability to explore concepts in literature in an abstract way.  To discuss “childhood” or “ignorance” as an idea in literature.  They can discuss “ignorance” in Of Mice and Men and “childhood” in The Tempest.  But their ideas are specific, wedded to the text rather than discursive and exploratory.

So this is where I will begin:



I imagine this list will expand or reduce. But it is my starting place.

Here are some of the texts I will use:

The Open Window – Saki

The Possibility of Evil – Shirley Jackson

The Invisible Japanese Gentleman – Graham Greene

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

12 Angry Men (the film version) – Reginald Rose

The Pit and The Pendulum – Poe

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce

The list will also include poetry and extracts from drama.  I am aware that it looks relatively Gothic heavy – there is a reason for that (Jekyll & Hyde remember).

Just think – if you had this opportunity – what would you teach?

f scott


Thanks for reading.