Performing the good girl

Reading Time: 6 minutes Chris Curtis’s latest blogpost – https://learningfrommymistakesenglish.blogspot.com/ – chimes with some things I’ve been writing / thinking about for a while now, about the ways that girls adopt different personas depending, in large part, on the expectations they experience in different places. I’ve had conversations at parents’ evenings that reveal the dilemma he describes, that “The home persona will say something and challenge things when the school persona will not, because they are worried they’ll get told off. Life for them is the battle between these two versions of themselves.” Working at a girls’ school for a decade, I’ve had lots of …

Unpicking language in literature: why the blue curtains do matter

Reading Time: 3 minutes As a teacher, the thing I find myself saying over and over again to students is, “develop your language analysis”. Every year, every student, almost every piece. It’s not that they’re bad at it – far from it, mostly! But it’s always the thing that makes their explanations more precise and, in the exams they do, will get them better marks. The thing is, we’re trying to make the implicit become explicit. The feeling that you get when you read gets unpicked, understood, and stitched back together again. I usually get shown this meme at some point in the year too: …

Reasons why teaching is awesome

Reading Time: 2 minutes 1. You get to spend LITERALLY all day talking about books and stories which is basically what makes us human , creates relationships, consciousness, and empathy. It’s the thing that makes us amazing 2. You get to make young people confident. In a way that you weren’t at their age and still aren’t, really, and maybe they’re faking it too but goddamn they can argue their point well 3. You spend your day with intelligent thoughtful people who always challenge you. Staff and students. Who ask ‘whys Macbeth worried about legacy? Or ‘do you know whether that’s from the Latin …

Building vocabulary through pairing of words

Reading Time: 2 minutes I occasionally have a competition with my classes, to find a pair of words in English that have precisely the same denotation and connotation (which is a nice way to introduce those terms as well.)   Basically, they provide pairs of words that they think are the same, and I explain why that’s not true. It builds competitiveness – especially when I get two classes going at the same time and they want to win first – and it gets them exposed to a wide range of language and meaning, as they start looking for ways to win! Although we …

Roald Dahl’s poetry – a forgotten gem

Reading Time: 2 minutes 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 …