Roald Dahl’s poetry – a forgotten gem

I’ve been falling love with Revolting Rhymes again. I remember loving it as a child, watching the VHS animated versions over and over again – my mum must have been absolutely sick of them.   Teaching a Year 9 unit on character, I’ve returned to some of them. It’s a challenging unit about re-imagining characters. A typical series of lessons, for example, will have us look at the original Pygmalian story, read a section of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalian, watch a section of My Fair Lady, explore Duffy’s ‘Galatea’ and then write their own monologue of Galatea coming to life. I …

Word tricks: adding line numbers to an extract

I love Word sometimes. Its headers, tables of contents, and line numbering features save loads of time – when you’re writing example papers, or booklets, they’re so helpful! I mentioned this on Twitter (ages ago admittedly) and a few people asked about it, so here’s how to do it: The screenshots are Word 2016 – if you have an older version it’s still under Page Layout in a similar way   Paste the extract into the document. Choose the font and size – it’s easiest to do this at the beginning. I usually just highlight it all and click “Normal” …

Flowers and fancies in Shakespeare

We all know if we ask for symbols of love, the rose is high up the list. Floriography – studying the meaning of flowers – has more or less dropped out of English custom. We might occasionally hear that lilies are better for funerals, but most of us don’t attach much symbolic meaning when our loved ones show up with a bouquet. Pre-twentieth century though it’s a different story. Victorians wrote whole handbooks on the meanings of flowers and dedicated time to deciphering the hidden messages of a buttonhole. Flowers in paintings back to the medieval period were also loaded …

Towards a model of well-being in the English department

In September I take a step up to lead the department in which I’ve been second for two years. From personal experience and looking at the year ahead, one of my major areas of focus will be staff well-being. We have increased responsibilities, shrinking budgets, higher expectations and a highly pressurised timetable which includes a lot less planning time. It’s essential to take what steps we can to make the department an enjoyable place to work. Schools aren’t (take a deep breath!) only for the students. Happy, balanced and enjoyable work lives enable staff to do better jobs, no matter …

Is Offred too passive to be satisfactory? (part 2)

Read part one of this blog here Thirty years of feminism later In the television series, Elisabeth Moss’s Offred is more feisty from the start, with out-loud sarcastic quips and internal bitchy comments. She still doesn’t fully rebel, but there is definitely something more spiky about her – a sense that she hasn’t given herself over to the regime of Gilead even for the self-protection that it offers: her mind is still her own. She offers comforting conversation to other handmaids, seeks out quiet private moments with the handmaids and Nick, and on several occasions bites back at Serena Joy’s …