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 …

Revision tips plus guidance booklet to download

Re-read the set texts For some this is the longest bit! Re-read them, peeferably in full study mode making notes and annotations as you go. if you need to use some of the audio books – you can find most of the set texts on youtube or the BBC (radio 4 on the iplayer can be helpful!) and have someone read to you. Get your books in order They’re the best revision guide you can have. Go through, make sure your notes are thorough and detailed, you’ve filled any blanks and know what you were doing! Try highlighting the page …

GCSE Language paper 1- student revision booklet

With loads of reading from @fkritson and Mr Hanson, I put together a student revision book for GCSE Language 1, It’s got some top tips, space for notes, peer assessment (inspired by C.Spalding!). The sharing of #teamenglish on Twitter is amazing. I think the best way through this paper now is individual practice. I’m giving this booklet to students as a quick-reference guide in lessons. It’s also got a list of terminology suitable for each question. We’ll be doing regular questions at the beginning of lessons with a combination of self, peer and teacher assessment, and there’s a tracker at the …

Whole-class feedback and triadic structures in English lessons

My GCSE groups are studying The Lord of the Flies – I like doing the same texts with them as it eases up my planning a little bit. One is slightly ahead of the other and wrote an essay on the significance of Simon in the novel. I wanted a feedback lesson that would give them the opportunity to improve their own work but which would also get them to read each other’s, as I think they often have so much to gain from this sharing. I read all their essays, and wrote a grade on the bottom – a …

Represents / Characterises / Symbolises literary analysis

Recently, I’ve been working on ways to improve students’ analysis of language.  For me, it’s always the weakest assessment objective and is difficult to achieve a balance. You risk moving into the plodding “write three things about this word” approach, or tortured variations of PEA. On the other hand, neglect language analysis and you end up with a fluffy high-level essay that floats somewhere above the text without ever really pinning it down. My students often have a real flair for the interpretation of ideas, themes and characters, but the issue is that close analysis of how writers create meaning. …

GCSE – a more chaotic approach to medium term planning

This term, I’ve approached my Y10 English class slightly differently. Traditionally, we’ve done what the majority of English departments (I think) do: half-termly unit blocks on Shakespeare / modern novel / poetry etc. An assessment at the end of each half-term. Teaching the old spec, we interspersed the language paper simply because we found it so dull we couldn’t face a full half-term of it. Reading a lot in the last year about memory, interleaving learning and so on, I decided to take a slightly different experimental approach. I’d teach it all at once. Essentially, returning to learning regularly is …