DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: LITERATURE

We live in an era when the act of reading is changing as rapidly as any time in its 5,000-year-old history. Children have gone from reading on clay tablets in ancient Sumer (modern day Iraq) five millennia ago, to… well, reading on electronic tablets today!

Today’s students are digital natives. They multi-task while immersed in interactive digital media with vibrant content on their PC, PDA, MP3 player and mobile phone. These mixed-mediums just make sense to young people, and they can make sense in an educational setting too. 

When the changes to GCSEs were announced, English teachers across the land were bereft. George and Lennie had been “canned”. Like Candy’s dog, they had been cast aside and denounced as useless. What would we do now? The frustration felt was not so much that years of experience teaching this great book would be lost, but that hundreds of young people wouldn’t get to know George, Lennie and the other characters on the ranch.

“Thinker”, “Hero”, “Avenger”, “Pioneer”, “Lover”, “Gossip”, and “Fool” are all words that remind us of types of characters in movies, plays, books, and perhaps our own lives. These one-word character descriptions immediately paint vivid portraits in the reader’s mind and can be a useful way for pupils, age 8+, to bring characters to life.

Chances are, you’ve read, listened to or seen a version of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Here, teacher and author Lisa Jane Ashes applies themes and characters from Douglas Adams’ sci fi classic to look at how teachers can best create great questions.

Why 42? Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a great demonstration of how questioning can open up the imagination. Adams questioned everything we believe and a masterpiece of creativity was born. What if mice were more intelligent than men? What if the planet was created by technicians in a large factory? Underestimated dolphins, falling whales, improbability drives and the search for the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything; this story is creativity at its maddest and best.

For the last fourteen years I have taught English to secondary-aged pupils at a Pupil Referral Unit in the Midlands. Many of these students are vulnerable and complex, some are in care, and a large number have severe behavioural difficulties. All of this means that we must be especially cautious when choosing a location for school trip. Notwithstanding the risks, last summer I made the decision to take a KS3 group to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Back in January, my school set upon a new initiative. The marking of core writing skills – that is, spelling, punctuation and grammar (or SPAG as us educators, who never shy away from a good acronym, like to call it) – was to be implemented across all departments. No longer just a proviso of the English faculty, now History teachers would have to check for syntactical errors in their students’ essays; Science teachers would have to ensure that methodologies and conclusions which came to them did so with the required requisite of full-stops and capital letters; Geography teachers would have to supervise not just the correct spelling of ‘oxbow lake’, but also the correct spelling of all the words which surrounded it in their pupils’ books.

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