Tag Archives: Lesson idea

Subverting Fairy Tales

28 Oct

I have recently read Kissing the Witch (Emma Donoghue), a collection of interlinked short stories which subvert well known fairy tales.

I wish I had read this a little earlier as one of these stories would have been a good addition to a recent lesson sequence about subverting fairy tales.  Inspired by the three tales told by the monster in The Monster Calls, I decided to examine texts that incorporate some fairy tale elements but subvert or challenge others.

To illustrate the point, we engaged with a picture book retelling of The Three Little Pigs and a FANTASTIC short story entitled ‘There Was Once’ by Margaret Atwood.  After this discussing these and making connections to A Monster Calls, I asked students to select a fairy tale and subvert it.

Together we brainstormed some amazing ideas, framing our potential points of challenge or subversion as a series of interlinked questions.

  • What if the bears trespassed in the home owned by Goldilocks?  What if she was home?  What if she had a gun?  New bear skin rug?
  • What if Belle has taken the Beast from the wild?  What if the animal rights advocates found out?
  • What if Pinocchio was a real boy?  And a minority?  And he lied to the police?
  • What if Snow White’s experience of a poisoned apple prompted her to pursue an organic farming venture?
  • What if the witch in Hansel and Gretel was involved in human trafficking?
  • What if Cinderella was told from the perspective of one of the stepsisters?
  • What if Aladdin needed a visa to travel to a whole new world?
  • What if the Emperor was arrested after engaging in public nudity?
  • What if the Princess in The Princess and the Pea did not discover a pea beneath her many mattresses?  What if she discovered a handgun, or drugs?  What if she was undercover detective?
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Representations of Youth

31 Jul

I am always interested in new ways of engaging my students in Shakespearean texts.  I am also always interested in new ways of teaching these texts.

This year, extending an idea raised by a colleague, my students studied Romeo & Juliet through the lens of representations of youth.  We engaged with key scenes, sought to identify how youth were portrayed and to understand how these representations were constructed.

I began the unit by showing students a number of trailers for Romeo & Juliet appropriations.  For each trailer, students had to identify and account for the characteristics of youth, explain which representations had continued resonance, and explain why particular representations frustrated/angered them.  They also had to identify and explain continuity and change in terms of representation across the trailers.

I found this to be an interesting way of understanding the depth and detail of students’ thought processes.  Some students, for example, saw only the demonstration of romantic passion and suggested it was not an accurate representation of youth today as young people do not fall in love so quickly today.  Others however, looked at romantic passion and saw, instead, young people’s abilities to throw themselves into projects with enthusiasm and commitment, often in service of causes they believe in.  For these students, the representation of passion was then both accurate and as relevant in Romeo and Juliet as in contemporary society.

Twelve micro-poems

9 Sep

In Twelfth Night, Orsino sends Cesario to woo Olivia  Students struggled to relate to this element of the text and criticised Orsino for not stepping up and declaring his feelings in person.

This precipitated a wider discussion about communication and how, even in the modern-day, we often do not engage directly and in person with others.  For example, we might chat on Facebook or send tweets or like posts on Instagram.

As the end goal in this unit is for students to create a teaser campaign for their own modern adaptation of Twelfth Night, I thought it appropriate to invite my students to experiment with how the wooing of Olivia might take place over social media.  With this in mind, I asked my students to create a series of micro-poems which could be tweeted from Orsino (@DukeO) to Olivia (@LovelyLiv).  Students embraced the challenge, making each word pack a punch.  It was great to see them engage with the need for the micro-poems to flatter Olivia, extol Orsino’s virtues, and persuade Olivia to give Orsino another go.  In fact, if this were real, I think #GiveDukeOAGo would probably have been trending!

Orsino’s soundtrack

7 Sep

At the start of Twelfth Night, Orsino is a bit sad because Olivia is not returning his affection.  In a bid to get students to understand Orsino’s mood, I asked them to work in pairs to create a 10-song playlist that reflected Orsino’s mood and emotions.

It was really interesting to watch my students discussing ideas.  Some students wanted to only include songs that reflected Orsino’s sadness and disappointment.  These students selected a number of melancholy songs as well as some love songs.  Other students picked up on Orsino’s desire to alter his mood, and thus sought to include songs which would help Orsino to take his mind off Olivia.  For these students, a few upbeat songs also found their way into the mix.

I was really pleased with my students’ justifications and the way they tried to get into Orsino’s head and accurately represent his complex emotional state.

‘See, Think, Wonder and Represent’

1 Sep

I had a lot of success recently using a ‘Hear, Think, Wonder‘ routine (an adaptation of the ‘See, Think, Wonder’ Visible Thinking routine) in one of my classes.  My students really responded well to the stimulus, listening intently and engaging with the language and sounds of the poetry.

With this in mind, I am keen to test drive my latest variation to the tried and tested ‘See, Think, Wonder’ routine.  This time I will be using the routine with a junior class and adding an additional element, represent, as a fourth step in the routine.  The stimulus for this task will be the cover of a novel that students will study.

The first three steps of the routine will play out as per usual: students will list what they see, interpret these elements and note down what they think the text is about and what they think the illustrator is attempting to communicate, and write down all the questions they have.  The final step will require students to give consideration to (a) how they would represent the cover in musical form, and (b) how they would construct a collage to represent the cover of the text.  In relation to (a) students would consider and describe pace, pitch, volume, beat, instruments etc and justify their choices.  In relation to (b) students would consider the materials used with a particular emphasis on the colours and textures needed to replicate/emphasise the key meanings they draw from the cover.

I am hoping that this activity will help students to think critically about representation, providing a perfect lead in for me to discuss the interaction of language, ideas and form in their set text.

Show rather than tell

26 Aug

We constantly tell our students that, when writing, they must show rather than tell.  I have finally found the perfect video to explain what that looks like!

I want to show this clip to my students, offering them opportunities to find examples of ‘showing’ in a range of short story extracts.  I then want to provide them with examples of ‘telling’ (ideally from earlier drafts of their own writing) and have them transform the ‘telling’ into ‘showing’.

Comparing sample responses

18 Aug

I am a huge fan of deconstructing sample responses with my students in class.  I think it is really helpful for them to be able to understand and apply the criteria to a piece of writing.  Sometimes I provide my students with A-range responses and, in doing so, give them something to aim towards.  However, on other occasions I provide them with weaker responses and we work together to improve them.

Typically the samples I provide are paragraph extracts. I have observed, however, that students struggle with creating introductions that meaningfully engage with the question.  As such, I think this time I will provide my students with a selection of introductions, all responding to the same question.  One of these introductions will be A-range, and the others B, C and D-range.  Students will be required to annotate the introductions according to a provided set of a criteria and, based on their annotations, order the introductions from A to D range.

 

Lyrical timeline

16 Aug

I have a difficult time convincing my Year 9 students to put aside their headphones and participate in my lessons.  Unable to find a solution, I have decided to embrace my students’ love of music.

We have been studying Romeo and Juliet, and I want my students to demonstrate their understanding of the plot by creating a lyrical timeline of the play.  Students are to identify key sections of the plot and locate a line from a song to represent ideas and emotions at each point.  We will then pool our resources and make a timeline along the wall of our classroom.

I am hoping that this will help students to engage with the events, ideas, experiences and emotions at key moments in the text.  I also hope it will give them a memorable shorthand for the main plot points.

Selecting examples

14 Aug

During my recent bout of Year 12 marking I noticed that many students in our cohort are having difficulties selecting examples that are relevant to the question.  To help these students I want create a mix and match activity: quotes will be printed in one colour and questions in another, students have to work in pairs to find the SIX BEST quotes for each question.  After each round, students will have to complete a grid in which they list and justify their chosen quotes.

Character Game: Guess Who?

10 Aug

Over the course of a school year, students learn about, analyse and explore the lives of a number of different characters across a range of texts.  I like the idea of testing students knowledge of all the characters they have encountered by asking them to create their own versions of popular game ‘Guess Who?’  Here, the generic faces typically provided with the game will be replaced by students’ rendering of the characters encountered over the course of the school year.  Students will then need to utilise their knowledge of texts in order to play the game.