Shelley’s Love’s Philosophy: analysis and linked text ideas

Percy Bysshe (“Bish”, apparently) Shelley is a Romantic poet – the capital R meaning not necessarily overcome with love all the time, but part of a group of poets who took a particular attitude towards life. They used a lot of natural imagery, thought and wrote about the excesses of emotion, and were often a little melodramatic. Shelley also has some extremely scandalous personal life-stories, which I’ve found great hooks for students! He was married to Harriet, when she was 16, and they had two children together before he abandoned her for Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin – also 16 at the …

Why colour matters: symbolism in literature

Towards the end of the summer term, I was teaching a lesson on “Your Shoes”, leading to monologue writing – it’s a nice one, usually provokes interest and some creative responses. But this time, one girl in particular was very frustrated by the shoe imagery and ended up exclaiming “how am I supposed to know that white means innocence?” It got me thinking about the use of literary symbols – what I’ve started thinking of as a literary shorthand – and the way that I often take for granted that students will see some of them. Not all, of course, …

Planning to teach a poetry cluster: Christina Rossetti

When we’ve been teaching Rossetti this year, we’ve been preparing for the AS-level. We’re not doing that next year (switching to linear now every other spec has caught up and reformed!) but I think it’ll probably take a similar approach: Identify the poems that work well together in comparison and teach them alongside one another (in the new Y12, teaching them at key moments in their comparison text) Each ‘mini-unit’ of poems ends with a written assessment in timed conditions, in the class room. In a single lesson, I use a question/answer format, which usually guides students through a discussion …

How to write brilliantly: Blogsync English

Ok, so I’m a little behind, but I do like the blogsync idea – a team of twitter teachers all blogging about the same topic each month. I’m pretty sure “great writers” was May, but hey  it was half-term. This time around, it was all about how to create “convincing and compelling” writers. In the teaching of writing it’s easy to condense writing into frames and acronyms – PEE, PEA, PEAL, PETAL, WETRATS and so on. While these do have some merit, in making sure students understand basic paragraphing, I’d argue that by the time students get to thinking about …

Revising poetry collections: comparison

I always prefer to have ideas-based comparisons for my analytical work. Trying to get a very features-driven comparison only, in my experience, leads to muddled answers. Either you’re trying to force a comparison and identify a technique that’s not really of any use, or you end up trying to say more about it than you actually can.  It’s far, far more effective to have a comparison based on what the writer is trying to do. So when it comes to poetry revision for GCSE and A-Level, isolating some lines and really focusing on the ideas behind them is what we’e …

Great essays: The killer introduction is a must

Just a VERY quick one – most of a musing, really. Having spent the day moderating coursework – aka reading All The Essays – it is so clear that the great introduction is so important. It creates an argument, it sets the tone – it proves that you know what you’re doing. It doesn’t make up for an essay that doesn’t deliver on the introduction’s promise. But it sets the expectations – and then it’s up to you to prove them. What about the difference between these: “In Soeur Louise, Rossetti explores the role of desire in relationships using language and structure. She …