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?
Thanks for reading.