Teaching restraint in descriptive writing

What does good descriptive writing look like?

L6 writing

This was written by one of my year 7 students last week. It reads:
Bottles lay on the ground, infront of an unused bin. A small dark melancholy cat sat on the cold stone ground looking around for any sign of food. There was an eerie silence. Drops of water flushed out…

It continues in a similar vein for several paragraphs.

This is the picture the student was describing:

descriptive image

Most students arrive in Year 7 with the understanding that good writing is technique heavy.  The overuse of adjectives and adverbs has replaced writing that demonstrates subtlety or sub-text.

When we being writing, we begin with simple sentences: The boy ran.
We develop these to add visual imagery – The boy ran quickly.
Later we add more precise adverbs – The boy ran sluggishly.
Modifying adjectives and verbs: The overweight boy staggered painfully.
We introduce different openers: Late again, the overweight boy staggered painfully onwards.

Vocabulary work adds:  The corpulent man-child blunders unseeingly onwards into the grimly lit darkening streets.

When I ask my pupils what good descriptive writing looks like – this is what they seem to think I want.

The curse of “show and don’t tell” has meant that pupils as writers are spoon-feeding their readers on a whole new level.  Don’t show and don’t tell is perhaps a better maxim.  (A side note on this – when we teach students techniques like ‘show and don’t tell’ remember they internalise language and I end up marking GCSE exam papers that read “The writer’s use of show and don’t tell suggests…) As I said, don’t show and don’t tell is sometimes better.

It is disheartening to have to unlearn these skills but pupils must.  Laborious descriptions that are laden with adjectives, adverbs and literary techniques (CRASH! BOOM!) are not good writing. Nor will they ever be.

On becoming writers who read

The literature that we study at school is only worthy of study if we have to study it.  The reader’s interaction with the language of text – gleaning meaning where it is hidden is what we do when we analyse.  It’s not easy to write an essay paragraph using the quote “He slammed the fork down angrily” as there is nothing to infer.  The writer has set it out for us.

Pupils arriving in Year 7 though have been taught that when writing themselves, they must create such a vivid image for the reader than we have no work to do.  Their writing is filled with subjective emotional language, but by placing this into the text, they have robbed the reader of their own reaction.

Writing as detectives

I am teaching a scheme of work studying Mystery and next week we are due to start reading Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue.

In order to get into the mystery swing of things – this week I wanted pupils to pare back their writing, by writing description as detectives.

The lesson began with this extract from The Road by Cormac McCarthy (at this point I would like to thank Dr G for championing McCarthy endlessly – and finding me this extract):

descriptive writing 2

As detectives, pupils identified all the nouns and then explained what exactly was being described.  I then asked them to remove all the grammatical words to force their focus on to the nouns and noun phrases.  Finally we identified the adjectives.

By focussing on the nouns – students were more able to understand the ‘mystery’ in this extract. It almost sounds counter intuitive but this literal description allows for detailed inference – “the sagging hands”.

Students had to explain this forensic, scientific approach to writing, that did not use any emotional, subjective language. They described McCarthy’s landscape as realistic or ‘true’ as the students named it.

This image then required a detective’s eye to describe.  We started with nouns – precise and detailed.

descriptive writing 3

A few we listed were:
– a man, wearing a overcoat and hat
– a shuttered door
– four windows with six panes
– a building with high eves

Next I asked pupils to describe these nouns in the most scientific way possible and I asked why the sentence below is not forensic.

The shadowy, mysterious path went up to the crumbly, ancient building.

It was this part of the lesson that resulted in the most discussion and debate among students.

“You can’t use ‘eerie’ since when would a detective say it was ‘eerie’?”
“Gloomy is out – right Miss?”
“How can I say the building is old without exaggerating, it’s not ancient.”

By giving students the vocabulary ‘subjective’ and ’emotional’ they were able to critique their own ideas. Often writing down and then removing words that were weak.

The final 15 minutes of the lesson was spent writing just 10 sentences of scientific description.  Here are some of their attempts:

“Walking towards the light, a man alone digs his hands into the pockets of a long overcoat.”

“Stretching away to the left, the uneven cobbles absorb the black and grey of night.”

“Four, six paned windows reflect the streetlight exaggerating the darkness beyond”

“Darkness to the left and to the right. Light cuts threw the centre”

On the face of it this ability to show restraint in writing allows students to write in a manner that is more ‘true’.

Subjectively, I think this writing is closer to ‘good writing’ than writing that is created via a checklist of word types, sentence types and techniques.  It would certainly uphold more analytical scrutiny.

Thanks for reading

Louisa

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Article of the Week #3

Body image pic

 

Here is this week’s gathering of non-fiction articles and questions.

Body Image is the topic: with one article on criticism of the Obama girls’ fashion sense and the second extract an NHS fact sheet on body image.

As ever I have included new GCSE style short and long answer questions, a comparison question and two transactional writing tasks.

Download here: Body Image – Obama girls and body image

Have a great week.

Louisa

Helping hands

Super simple strategy today, this one is a structured approach to exam questions for students who need extra support.

structured support

The idea originated from a Primary colleague (who attended the epic #TMLiteracy), Paul and his colleagues use hand templates to provide students with feedback and easy to action targets.  Students were able to self assess using them as well, as the hands could either work as a memory cue for success criteria or a review template.  I have used the template in a number of ways over the last few months (see the end of this post for ideas).

However, the most practical seems to have been for students working towards the iGCSE Core paper this summer.  Here’s an example of what students were given to memorise.

Written on the palm of the hand and each finger:

Reading Section – 1 hour

1) Highlight the key words in the question (students are drilled that this includes the line reference).

2) Read the passage.

3) Answer all the questions.

4) Do the 1 and 2 mark questions quickly.

5) If you can’t answer a question move onto the next one.

It’s a ridiculously easy set of instructions isn’t it? But for this particular group of students, they needed the memory cues to keep them working, otherwise if a question stumped them, they would just stop.  In the mocks, I would stand at the front of room and point of my little finger, then my students would mouth their way through the instructions and remember that “if you can’t answer a question move onto the next one”.  A light came on, the pen started moving again.

I want to thank @Kris_Boulton at this point, for his very useful session at #PedagooLondon on memorisation, which has prompted me to rethink the importance of recall for English.

The purpose is not to teach students a structure for answering questions, but to support them with the process of answering.

It takes a lot to be exam ready; content and skills are all very well, but if the process of working through a paper is a challenge, then we start on the back foot.

More ideas for the hand template:

1. Target setting – stapled into the front of classwork books, each time a target is met and a new one set.  I have used it for “5 steps to Level 5”.

2. Success criteria – teacher sets 3 of the criteria, students sets the last 2 individually.

3. 5 things I know – this week it was 5 things I know about Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

4. 5 sentence structures – a permanent prompt for the best writing structures. The more, more, more sentence etc.

Lot’s of possibilities…

Reinventing the wheel #2

Sometime ago, I wrote a post on reinventing the wheel  for our year 7 literacy lesson.  I was determined to pick up these ‘left behind’ students and see their love of reading and writing increase rapidly, as well as their ability to analyse and explore different texts.

I am now 8 weeks into the new plan, so here’s an update.

Firstly, a little context.  The class I am working with (one of 4 similar classes in my school) has about 25 students, mostly boys.  Their reading ages range from 5.8 years to 9.8 years.  They openly admit to never having read a chapter book themselves.  They might have been in the room, at primary, when a book was read.  But they did not do that reading.  These are the students who drift off 2 mins into class reading and never catch back up.  In addition to my literacy lessons, these students also have 3 hours of English (with me – wooo), paired reading with a prefect and if at the lowest end Lexia / Ruth Miskin from our specialist HLTA.

So what I am I doing?

Getting excited about books

So, how to get students excited about books and reading.  Taking them to library is a definite plus.  Our library is amazing and the kids love it in there.  Rewarding reading, not just reading skills.  For every 30 mins read, students gain an award point.  For every book read, they gain a house point.  If every student in the class, reads a whole book by Christmas, the class get a ‘starbucks lesson’. Yes – it is what it sounds like, and no, it is not healthy.  Hot choc, marshmallows, cupcakes, muffins, bean bags, cushions: sitting around in my classroom chatting about the books we have read.

So, we went to the library, we all chose a book (of at least 150 pages and slightly beyond our current reading age). Then we started reading.

we love reading

Every student a different book

The idea stems from the desire to see students demonstrate independent reading skills.  Not relying on someone else’s answers or knowledge to help them.  So having decided to build a scheme around students reading different books, required a different approach to lesson time.

If your interested in this concept, I would highly recommend “Trust Me, I Can Read“, this practical guide from a number of high schools in the US, outlines the approach to teaching real reading skills to disillusioned students.  They champion a choice based curriculum, where the teacher presents mini-lessons on an idea and students demonstrate this in application to their own book.  This book covers so much more, parental involvement, thematic schemes, encouraging independent analysis.  I have only just begun really.  So, below is an example of a mini-lesson as I start out with this class.

The concept is funnel based – the teacher provides the generalisation, the students funnel this and provide specificity and detail.  So for a 20 minute period I teach, front and centre, chalk and talk style.  Students apply my generalisation to the sample text, which is most often a youtube short film.  This is followed by the ‘read-anywhere’ slot.

mini lesson

This part of my lesson was structured and ordered.  What followed was less so.

Read anywhere

Being painfully aware of the students’ lack of experience and confidence in reading and also wanting myself and the 2 support teachers for this lesson (yes, I am spoiled) to hear students reading aloud.  We went for a read anywhere approach.  read away

Given the freedom to sit on the floor or window sill, lie on the desks, students read for 30 minutes. During this time they had to complete a task based on the mini-lesson and some would read aloud to myself or my support staff.

I cannot believe how useful this was…

Firstly, as an English teacher I tend not to read during class for extended lengths of time because it’s pretty dull for students and they tend to drift off.  Also, I very rarely have students read to me for an extended period, because it can be slow and laborious and they find it hard to follow a narrative if they are panicking about how to say that word 3 lines down.

So listening to students read out loud to me was useful, partly because a number of students admitted problems with reading (like the words moving around on the page etc) and partly because it is amazing how the weakest students were some of the more fluent readers.  It also flagged very quickly the students who had chosen books way above their reading (Kathy Reichs uses a lot of technical language which can be very hard) and how students can read a complex book (The White Queen) and then only be able to say – it’s about kings and queens.

I have all the evidence right in front of me now.  All I need to do is work out the steps from A-B.  What is that I should expect from these students after 8 weeks of reading?  Greater fluency, more confidence, more independence, better vocabulary, analysis of ideas and character?

If you would like to see my scheme of work for this 8 week independent reading unit, I will be sharing it over the next week or so.  So keep an eye out.

Be my village

Teacher friends, I need a reality check.   They say it takes a village to raise a child.  My problem is I don’t have a village and two hours a week won’t raise a child.  So, I’m asking for your help.

village

I have a small group of students (yr 10) who are sitting the core IGCSE (0522) this summer.  We have nearly completed the c/w assignments and will be doing the S&L tasks between now and Christmas.  It is the exam prep I want to talk about.

This group of kids is very weak.  Many didn’t get Level 4 at the end of year 9.  Many are SEN and most cannot read a sentence of text without some support.  My bold, and perhaps deeply misguided comment to my HoD at the end of term was, “after the S&L I am going to teach them to read and then do the exam prep”.

I have these students for two hours a week (they also have two hours a week with another English teacher, covering the Edexcel Lit course).  One hour is in an ICT suite.  They have 2 hours with an HLTA called support, which is used to do homework and develop on ideas covered in my lessons.  We have just bought Accelerated Reader, so this a possibility.  We also have an HLTA, who is a phonics specialist, and could work with our weakest reader, who’s reading age is below 5.

All of these interventions are ongoing, patchy and as far as I am concerned have shown no progress.  Most of the students in this group, don’t get any literacy support beyond the occasional TA in lesson.

Towards the end of last term, I received an email from their Maths teacher pointing out that some of the students were unable to read the worded maths questions, and therefore were likely to fail.

So, 2 hours a week.  11 kids.  iGCSE reading exam in May 2014.  For anyone of you, who haven’t seen these exams, you can be lucky but the reading tends be pretty technical, always on something my students will have no knowledge and complex vocabulary heavy.

Where do I go from here?

My old self would say, just do as many past exam papers as humanly possible.  Teach the students a really structured approach to each question.  Hold out that the writing task will get them the marks that they need.

My new self wants more.  I want these students to be able to read.  I want them to leave school being able to read a newspaper, a manual, a book!

Here is where I need your help…

Do I go for it?

If yes, how?  I don’t have much experience at teaching kids to read (beyond my kids).  Do I use Accelerated Reader? Or something else?
Do I demand that they read every day somehow, somewhere?  I can’t possibly do this myself, can I?

Do I go for some of it?

Like perhaps using real texts to improve their reading but also to cover some of the exam stuff.

Do I go for results?

Take the exam prep approach and hope that by doing this, their reading improves.  Knowing that my results are going to sketchy anyway but this is the best option to get them closer to the C in the exam.

What do I do?

Over to you, my village.

25 ideas for increasing student talk…

As requested on this week’s #ukengchat, here is my toolkit #1 for increasing student talk in all subjects.

25 ideas

Here is the powerpoint that outlines each idea, if any of them are unclear let me know and I will explain more.

25 ideas for increasing student talk in lessons

More to follow on other student talk activities.

Prizes (imaginary prizes) for the person who spots the deliberate mistake…

More than a bowl of spag (my Goldsmiths presentation)

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with PGCE students at Goldsmiths University, talking about literacy and working with students who struggle to access reading and writing.

Here is what we discussed.

If you are interested in the texts we used and the activities we shared, here they are:

The strategies handout – Handout – strategies

The poem – Auschwitz by Elizabeth Wise

The non-fiction text Auschwitz info

Outside the box in a box

A hand-drawn mini unit on developing creative thinking skills (or what I did when I had finished all the schemes of work and the holidays were still two weeks away).

2013-09-03 20.26.06

Lesson 1: Kids probs

Ask students to come up will all of the problems they experience as kids.  Get a big class mind-map going on somewhere.

Around that mind-map put 4 sheets, titled:

  1. Outside the box ideas
  2. Bizarre and strange ideas
  3. Ideas from the future
  4. Friends and family ideas

Starting with “Outside the box” ask students to think about someone they know who has a very different life from them.  It could an elderly relative or someone who lives in a different country.  Students place themselves into that person’s shoes and answer the same question – what would this person say about kids problems?

Then you can get “Bizarre and strange” ask students to come up with the wackiest, craziest and most ridiculous problems they could experience (like being kidnapped by zombies on the way to school).

Next it’s “ideas from the future” students imagine childhood in 100 years time – what problems might these kids experience?

Finally, onto “Friends and Family” and this can be a nice think-pair-share-square activity or a fantastic homework.  Students need to gather other people ideas to add to their list.

2013-09-03 20.26.21

Lesson 2:  Solving the problem

Using the same style of expertly hand-drawn worksheet.  Students choose one problem from the previous lesson and attempt to solve it, using the same process.

Then you can get creative – make a homework machine, make the never-disappearing key ring, make the mum’s bad mood muncher.  Students can just design or they can design and make depending on time and resources.  Or get creative writing – use these ideas (sometimes all of them to together) to write the wildest, most hilarious adventures out there.

Lesson 3: Looking at my world

Now turn this way of thinking to analysis and criticism.  Using the same, now somewhat hackneyed worksheet ask students to spill onto paper everything they know about their school.  “Imagine you are a year 6 student, about to start at our school, what are you thinking, what do you want to know and what should we tell them?”

This can then form the basis of a piece of non-fiction writing (we made an A-Z of our school).

2013-09-03 20.26.46 2013-09-03 20.27.15

Sometimes thinking outside the box still requires boxes.

The Vampire Strikes Back

I have mentioned before my vampiric nature when it comes to borrowing ideas from other teachers.  This post is my experience of teaching Luke Neff’s “story keys” idea.

Luke’s original idea can be found here http://squishynotslick.tumblr.com/post/22121050121/keys

Whilst I am bigging up Luke’s ideas – I would also highly recommend his writing prompts.  http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/

In the UK it feels like we have less classroom time for instant writing or journaling as seen in the US, but this year my yr 9 class spent the first 15 minutes of every lesson completing a piece of creative writing.  I used Luke’s prompts every time.  They are excellent.

Anyway, back to the story keys idea.

It all started with these which I found at a junk shop in Rye.  My girls and I spent a car journey thinking up all of the places the keys could unlock, which villains would steal the keys and how our heroes would snatch them back.

keys

By coincidence, not long after that I saw Luke’s story key post on Pinterest and decided I wanted to teach this activity to our incoming year 7s attending summer school.

The only snag with this activity was getting hold of 60 keys.

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I went and sweet talked a few people.  First the caretakers at school, who gave me a collection of old locker and door keys.  Then my parents, in-laws and friends and my collection grew,  Finally, as I needed to get my daughter a front door key I sweet talked our local locksmith and he gave me some old keys and some rather tragic broken keys.  I ended up with over 40 keys.

Then a friend of mine who organises weddings showed me some keys on Etsy and I feel in love.  https://www.etsy.com/uk/transaction/145040671?ref=fb2_tnx_titlekeys

Once you have your key collection, the rest is very simple, I used some of the tiny charm keys and some of the normal ones donated by friends.  You can make the tags from paper and string or buy some.  I got these tiny red ones to match the key charms.

keys 2

I used Luke’s story starters and added a few of my own:

  • The sign read “213 locked doors.  Which will you choose?”
  • 43 locks, 15 numbers, 9 seconds, 1 key.
  • The last page of the book contained two words “Page 45”.  Underneath was taped a key.
  • The cinema was pitch black, the exit locked.  Where was the key?
  • Claudia awoke and slipped her hand under her pillow, expecting a coin, she found only a key.
  • The lock was shaped like a gun.  The barrel faced towards me.
  • The lawyer spoke quietly, “His last will and testament stated you should receive this key.”
  • Since Jacob had disappeared, I no choice but to find the key myself.
  • “Regrettably, you cannot proceed without choosing a key” he declared.
  • Perhaps it was the rain, or the darkness, but should a key glow like that?
  • The blood dripped down, pooling around the tiny key.
  • Mary Jane promised she would never give away the location, but that wouldn’t matter if she couldn’t find the key.
  • Stumbling down the mountainside, the key guided me onwards.
  • The instruction read “The key is not the key.”
  • Despite the crowds in the museum, I was the only one who saw the velociraptor’s key.
  • Like Charlie, I was nervous as I opened the wrapper, would I get the last key?
  • Jamie slumped on the roof, where was the key?
  • “Whatever you do, don’t touch the key, it’s cursed.”
  • The soldier holding the gun, stepped closer, “Turn the key, now” he ordered.
  • The key’s tag said “Thank you” on one side and “Run!” on the other.

As you can see, each key had a different story starter, meaning I got a huge variety of amazing, funny, terrifying and adventurous stories to read.

I am falling more and more in love with teaching creative writing and this activity is particularly fun and engaging.

I hope you enjoy it too.  Don’t forget to check out Luke’s writing prompts.

 

Killing the question, becoming more

I am free

When I first read about Kill the Question on @rlj1981’s blog (http://createinnovateexplore.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/3d-planning-and-kill-the-question/) the idea got me pretty excited.

I am vampiric when it comes to borrowing other people’s ideas and I loved that Rachel’s idea was so easily adaptable to the English classroom.

Below is what worked and what didn’t work as I tried to figure out how I could use this activity with my students.

Kill the question

Working up to it:

Rachel described this activity as a starter, for me it became a whole lesson and later as you will see a 2 hour workshop.  The idea is to ask students to look at a concept (or an essay question) from every conceivable angle.

Our year 12 students return after their exams and we normally start teaching year 13 material.  This year we were given a free reign and I decided to do some year 13 Literature prep by looking at philosophy and some of the great philosophers who have shaped the way we think.  Prior to this lesson, students had worked in groups to research and present on a specific philosopher or a period of history that saw some great advances in philosophical thinking.

The activity:

The activity itself is based on CSI and the idea is that students gather evidence to “kill” or in some cases “resurrect” the question.

You can see from the above, we “killed” to ideas – the only truth is knowing you know nothing, and freedom is a redundant idea.

Students were then allocated cards of a specific colour, and in their philosopher groups they had to gather evidence from their works (I would like to spare a moment for a quick thank you to Squashed Philosophers http://sqapo.com/ at this point).

Once students had gathered evidence, this was placed around the idea and we debated from the stand point of each philosopher, what they might say to “kill” or indeed “resurrect” this idea.

Kill the question 2

It was then that I realised I wanted to try this activity lower down the school.

As S&L debate this could be very useful – think of the connections that students could make – links to themes, character and setting, links to context, links to other texts and writers.

kill the question - lord of the flies

With my year 9 students, studying Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale, we took the bold step of using chalk on the carpet in my classroom.  Note – it did come off eventually, but only I after I scrubbed it…

The idea we killed this time was Malcolm X’s quote: Nobody can give you freedom; nobody can give you equality or justice.  If you are a man, you take it.

To begin I allowed students to write their “first response” to this idea on the carpet in chalk (another learning point for me here – don’t even bother trying to discourage year 9 boys from making your dead body anatomically correct – you are wasting your breath).   I was pleased and surprised that I got a full range of responses, not just what they thought I wanted to hear, but what they really thought.

After this, I put students into small groups and gave them each a non-fiction text that in some way added evidence to the idea.  I had an in-depth article about the science of the murder gene, another on nature vs nurture, one on dictators and the world history of overthrowing a government.  Students worked together reading this texts, using my summarising annotation scheme and then chose evidence to support or oppose Malcolm X’s idea.   Their evidence was placed on different colour cards and placed around the body.  We began to discuss it.

Finally, I have each student some green cards, I asked them to find evidence from either of the texts we were studying (most chose Lord of the Flies) or from the contextual evidence we had gathered about Golding and Takami.

Again, we then together looked at each piece of evidence.  As a class we weighed it against our own thinking, what we felt to be true and we created a collection we were happy with.

This collection could have been used to write an excellent essay – if that had been the plan, which it should have been, looking back on it in hindsight.

Next year then.

What came next?  The workshop

Kill the content  kill the question

For the first time this year, we ran a year 12 literacy day.  A colleague and I were asked to do a session on “talk for writing”.  Our kill the question activity, became Kill the content, kill the question.

We had about 40 students from the whole spectrum of subject areas and so needed something that would grab the attention of everyone.

The idea we went for was “religion and racial inequality are still the greatest flaws in our society”.   We knew everyone would have an opinion, we knew the ‘slightly’ slanted perspective of the question would insight fierce opposition and strong support.

year 12 literacy 2

As a warm-up each student was given a different statement which they had to respond to in writing at the start of the session.  We then placed students in groups and introduced the idea we wanted them to “kill” or “keep”.

Each group was given a whole bunch of different colour cards, which we had labelled in advance for them and they were sent off to research as much evidence as possible, from as wide a spectrum as possible to support, oppose or just explore the idea.

year 12 literacy

We expected each group to provide evidence from:

  • Their own personal experience, or their gut feeling
  • Historical evidence
  • Contemporary culture and current affairs (we quoted Black Skinheads at this point and discussed how music and art could be used as evidence)
  • Literacy and artistic
  • Political
  • Philosophical
  • Scientific
  • Psychological

We challenged them to come up with evidence from ‘their subjects’ that could contribute.

Once all the evidence was in, we then re-allocated one evidence collection to each group.  They summarised it and wrote that summary in one of the big thought bubbles on our chalk floor.  Together we read and digested everything.

Things that surprised me (and perhaps shouldn’t have) – the kids found it hard to come up with literary evidence (even the ones doing literature) and ended up citing Of Mice and Men.   Contemporary cultural evidence and current affairs evidence was very obvious – they cited the Woolwich murder and 9/11 but weren’t able to reference anything from the Middle East.  They couldn’t find any scientific evidence.  They didn’t bother looking for any artistic evidence – when I asked why, they couldn’t see what kind of art might deal with race or religion.  We discussed music but they couldn’t apply it.  I mentioned graffiti – they laughed.

The above makes it sound like this wasn’t a very successful workshop, but it was.  The debate, a standing debate – which I am a big fan off, once we got going covered a lot of ground.  Far more than we had evidence for.  Students did use the evidence they had gathered.   Most students contributed to the debate, they were about 5 who led it and were polarised in their own thinking enough to make it interesting.

Did the workshop or debate change their thinking on racial inequality or religion?  No.  It wasn’t meant it.

Did the workshop and debate help them see that in many ways everything is connected (don’t worry I’m not about to break into The Circle of Life)? Yes.

Becoming more

This workshop got me thinking.

For my year 12 students, I was left feeling that in those last few weeks before the summer I wanted to challenge them to broaden their horizons a little.  To become more than a Croydon teenager.

I stumbled across this resource on TES – http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/50-things-to-do-before-you-and-39-re-twenty-6180376/ and I fell in love.  This became my year 12s homework task each week until the holidays.  We made a list of 50 things and each week they would choose one (so did I) and come with some kind of evidence (generally photographic) before the following week.

50 things

The most popular by far was learning to cook a roast dinner, but students also learnt to iron, do the washing, do the supermarket shop.  They visited farms and museums.  One, who was afraid of hills, learnt to run down a hill.   We learnt to say “thank you” in 10 languages and to say “no”, particularly important when your Saturday job boss asks you to do extra hours the week before your exams.  I learnt to play the guitar and they wrote a song about Stanley and Blanche  – I would share it but it is inappropriate.  We googled the space elevator and asked our parents why we were given our names.

For those few weeks, we became more.

spaceelevatornicechicken guitar