[Traveling In The Dark] is not a poem that is written to support a position that I have chosen, it's just a poem that grows out of the plight I am in as a human being.William Stafford The poem 'Traveling Through The Dark' by William Stafford is one of my favourite poems to share in … Continue reading Five tricks to help your students get to grips with a new poem
The feature story is a potent and vital form of literary non-fiction. Here, Anthony Cockerill charts its evolution through the years. Of all the different ways to tell stories, the feature article is one of the most compelling, especially when it's in the right hands. It's a mainstay of contemporary journalism: a set-piece at the … Continue reading The indispensable guide to what makes a great feature story
The forest trail is gently yielding. And the forest is a place where the imagination is allowed to wander too. The woods of the North York Moors are, without doubt, my favourite place to walk. Yes, a hike up a fell in the dales is sometimes just the job – a formidable trek as the … Continue reading ‘Follow the forest trail: walking in the North York Moors’
The auteur's 2004 film works brilliantly in the classroom. I've explored some possible ways to use this great film below. The Village (2004), M Night Shyamalan's beautifully shot, atmospheric film, is great for the classroom. It's a rare beast: often gripping, always provocative and certificated '12', which means it can be used from Year Eight … Continue reading Literacy and film: learning about storycraft with M Night Shyamalan’s The Village
Writing about Robert Zemeckis's motion-capture adaptation of A Christmas Carol teaches students to develop an individual response to a 'text'. It's that time of year again. The last week of term arrives and Merry Christmas erupts into merry hell as some Tweachers declare their intention to work right up until the final bell, whereas others … Continue reading A Christmas miracle for the English classroom (it involves a film, but students are learning too!)
Essential advice that draws on examiners' reports, past papers and students' responses, with some great downloadable texts and helpful resources. 1. Encourage your students to explore deeper layers of meaning. 'Some [students] offered a basic, generic comment, for example, ‘it creates a picture in our heads’, which could apply to any example of language in … Continue reading Teach your students to ace AQA’s GCSE English Language P1, Q2
Essential advice on how to craft a great English literature essay at university - and how to avoid rookie mistakes. If you've just begun to study English literature at university, the prospect of writing that first essay can be daunting. Tutors will likely offer little in the way of assistance in the process of planning … Continue reading How to write great English literature essays at university
Want to improve your stories - or help your students improve theirs? Flash fiction is a great way to start. The enduring appeal of short stories 'Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still … Continue reading Nine things you need to do to start writing great flash fiction
We used to call her The Stick Insect. It was cruel but completely appropriate. She had a tall, awkward, brittle body. When she walked, it seemed like she might snap or be blown away by a strong gust of wind. Her face was pale and cratered, puckered like pink polypi. Her cheekbones were misaligned, eyes … Continue reading ‘The Stick Insect’
How to plan a scheme of learning as part of a thematic curriculum: essential advice and lots of useful downloadables. Planning a scheme of learning as part of a thematic curriculum In a previous blog post, I advocated for the benefits of a thematic curriculum in the Engish classroom, arguing that structuring learning by theme provides … Continue reading Devising a scheme of learning as part of a thematic curriculum: an in-depth example
A thematic curriculum allows us to learn about those important touchstones of literary study alongside cultural totems of our time. Why a thematic curriculum? Spoiler alert. In the excellent film Arrival (2016, Denis Villeneuve), Amy Adams plays Louise Banks, an interpreter who is called upon to make sense of the multimodal scrawlings of intergalactic visitors … Continue reading Why a thematic curriculum is brilliant for Key Stage 3 English (and why it’s also great for your GCSE students too)
When they're tackling Paper 2, it's crucial our students know exactly what each question is demanding of them. Here's how. In my Year Eleven class, Josh is a Great Dane, on account of his height, which is somewhere in the region of a pro basketball player. Marcus is an Irish wolf-hound. He's got long legs … Continue reading Help your students feel much more confident with GCSE English Language, Paper 2, Question 4
Discover some really effective techniques for persuasive writing that will transform students' planning and allow them to write compelling responses. The writing section of GCSE English Language Paper Two, Section B - persuasive writing or writing to express a viewpoint - is potentially the more challenging of the writing tasks. Perhaps this is because it … Continue reading Ten Persuasive Writing Techniques to Transform Students’ Responses to GCSE English Language, Paper 2, Question 5
Learn some of these brilliant strategies for teaching really effective poetry comparison for GCSE English Literature, Paper 2, Section B.One of the elements of our students' exam performance we identified as a weakness in last summer's examination series was comparing poems from the AQA poetry anthology, Poems Past and Present, which forms part of GCSE … Continue reading Teach your students how to compare poems for GCSE English Literature, Paper 2, Section B
What can we take from urban legends and their cinematic equivalents when teaching those elements of great stories and narratives? As a university student in the late 1990s, I was fascinated by what was, in hindsight, an early example of viral marketing, for the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project. The film's use of found footage … Continue reading How to use urban legends to teach students to write compelling narratives
It was a place of frustrated ambitions, low aspirations and barely suppressed cruelty. It was a despondent place. The urinals were old and cracked, heavy with the smell of ammonia and disinfectant blocks. The tiles were dirty; soaked paper towels had been compacted and thrown at the ceiling. The stalls had doors with large … Continue reading ‘Vantage Point’
The iconic bridge scene is a great stimulus for writing. I've developed some resources to make the most of it. 'I was twelve going on thirteen the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1960, a long time ago, although sometimes, it doesn't seem that long to me.' … Continue reading Why my favourite film, Stand By Me, is a brilliant prompt for creative writing
This question offers some really great opportunities for students to productively engage with the idea of thinking and writing analytically. This is a sequence of learning for GCSE English Language Paper 1, Question 4. I think this question offers some really great opportunities for students to engage with the idea of thinking and writing analytically, … Continue reading Two very creepy but highly effective extracts for teaching AQA’s GCSE English Language, Paper 1, Question 4
I was intrigued to see how the provision of a 'fictional construct' might bring about effective learning connected to story-telling. Early in my teaching career, I taught as part of the Key Stage Three curriculum, a sequence of learning to Year Eight, delivered principally from a text book, which was based around the premise of … Continue reading How to teach dystopian creative writing through a ‘creative construct’
What would happened if the students were part of a collaborative planning process when attempting to form a successful answer? There are some notable challenges in preparing students to respond to AQA's GCSE English Language, Paper Two, Question Two. The question essentially asks students to synthesise evidence - ideas, information, textual detail - from two … Continue reading Some great suggestions for GCSE English Language, Paper 2, Question 2
Herbert Simon said ‘everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into desired ones’. If we see learning as a process of developing knowledge, skills, or behaviour, then we, as educators, are those who devise a course of action to effect such change. We are learning designers. As learning designers, it … Continue reading Guest blogger, Jonathan Brown: A Design Narrative – collaborative writing in Google Docs
A previous blog post - How can moving image help us to teach narrative structure? - has explained some of the steps that we have taken at Boroughbridge High School to embrace the new challenges of GCSEs whilst sparking the interest of our students and building their confidence as writers and critical readers. When initially … Continue reading Guest blogger, Julie Stonehouse: How can moving image help us to consider the impact of structural choices?
My Year Eight class and I have recently read Robert Swindells' novel Brother in the Land, which has regained much of its potency given the nuclear posturing of various nations recently. It is a great novel to teach and which the students love to read. Writing in The Guardian a few years ago, Owen Jones praised its … Continue reading How can we re-imagine a novel as a film?
Could playing creatively with narrative perspective help our students to grow in confidence as writers, cultivating more confidence, control and awareness of voice when they write? Almost definitely, as playing creatively has a tendency to boost confidence and foster a sense of discovery. During our 'Writing From The Outside' scheme of learning - which forms part … Continue reading What Happens When We Tell Stories From Different Points Of View?
The introduction of 'structure' as a focus of assessment in GCSE in AQA's GCSE English Language Paper One, Question Three has been a welcome shift toward thinking about the 'bigger picture' of how stories and creative writing are 'built' to be compelling. “Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use structure to achieve effects and … Continue reading How can moving image help us to teach narrative structure for GCSE English Language, Paper 1 Question 3?
The PEE paragraph and its errant siblings PEEL and PEAZLE have become so ubiquitous a method for laying the foundations of analytical writing with our students — showing understanding, selecting evidence and explaining the ‘effects’ of quotations — that for some learners, they can be representative of their whole English experience at secondary school. It’s easy to see why. … Continue reading What makes great analytical writing?