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 …

5 tips for the week before the Hamlet/Rossetti exam (OCR)

There’s no doubt about it – revising can be stressful. But there’s some crucial things to do in the week before the exam. School-run revision sessions can be helpful but think: why are you really going? Many students turn up to mine for reassurance – nice to have, but not the best use of their time. If there’s a question you really need answering, is it possible to get an email or message without adding the journey time? think about how you’re spending your time at this crucial stage. Here’s my suggestions for a top revision week: Monday: Re-read your past essays. …

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 …