Verse and Prose in MAAN

A revision lesson powerPoint looking at the use of verse and prose in Much Ado About Nothing. Aimed at Edexcel IGCSE and appropriate to open discussion with A level sets.

verse and prose

Leave a comment

Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, GCSE support, IGCSE support, Shakespeare


I am planning to teach Catherine Johnson’s novel Sawbones in year 7 next term. I love this novel and hope that I can engage Year 7 not only with the murder mystery element, but also in the context. After all, Slough is not that far from London and we should be able to bring the streets and locales to life in one way or another…

It is always going to be work in progress on this post… bear with me.

However this is what I have thus far:

An activity book for the students:
work book- sawbones

The beginnings of a teaching outline:

Term project outline:
A slide share “features of detective fiction”


Filed under KS3, teacher training

Year 7 poetry

I like it when a plans produces good results. Earlier this term I blogged a poetry teaching outline for year 7.
The materials are here:
stressed out poem

the future in poetry

at home abroad poem

duncan gets expelled poem

colour charts

The New Atlantis by Sir Frances Bacon

We Evengy Zamyatin 1920

And here are some of year 7′s poems, produced at the end of term… I love these especially, though none of the class let me down. I wonder how my colleagues reading this assess creative responses such as this? It seems such a shame to possibly curtail the creative energy seen here by chasing a level. I tend to praise and discuss and relay on other work to give me levels… poetry is personal and at its best it utterly defies levelling: ” I feel that young Mr Cummings needs to revisit his basic grammar…”

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. poetry examples
dead words

Leave a comment

Filed under KS3, poetry, Uncategorized, writing skills

Blogging award, moi?

I have been shortlisted for a blogging award by UKEDCHAT! If you like what you find here please feel free to support me by emailing and sending the address of this blog:

How easy is that?

Many thanks,

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“To know Curley’s Wife would be to love her…” A response

Driven by a feeling that students tend to take Curley’s Wife at facevalue, even when encouraged to think beyond the obvious, I recently set an essay based on this quotation by John Steinbeck. The PowerPoint attached seeks to address the whole quotation as a means of engaging consideration of a wider perspective on Steinbeck’s (and my) favourite character in the novella Of Mice and Men.

I hope to have time to deliver this PPt as a short revision lecture and will post a sound file if I get that chance.

Getting to know Curley’s wife
A screencast for further discussion:

1 Comment

Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, GCSE support, IGCSE support, podcast for english revision

Twitter in action in the classroom


Do you use Twitter?

Many teachers do use social networking as a valuable source of CPD. Events like the brilliant and inspirational #TLAB14 exist through Twitter and the range of comment and discussion is often spectacular.

Yesterday it really worked.

The document attached shows two responses from authors whose work I am reading with years 9 & 8. Lovely work had been produced, so I copied it and tweeted to Patrick Ness (@patrick_ness) and Tim Bowler (@tim_bowler). The texts being read are The Knife of Never Letting Go, in 9, and Starseeker, in 8.

Within the lessons… a reply and retweet. Brilliant affirmation of hard work by the students and a reminder that authors are real people and alive!

My resource plans are below:
lesson 1-16

knife of activities guide

a reading guide to The Knife of never letting go

teaching outline

activity booklet starseeker

Leave a comment

Filed under teacher training, writing skills

Beach Safety: a model response.

This post comprises a slightly embarrassing passage written under exam conditions this morning.

Year 11 were given a passage question relating to Edexcel Certificate Paper 1: Remind yourself of the passage Beach Safety.

Using the middle pages, explore how effective the language used
is in delivering the clear message of the leaflet.

I wrote my response at the same time that they did,m in an attempt to highlight the detail needed to achieve a Band 3 response. I allowed a maximum of 25 minutes for the task. I then marked and explained my response under the visualiser. Due to my horrible handwriting, I am indebted to our wonderful head Boy, Daniel Aduakwa who can be found debating in videos elsewhere on this page, who actually typed up my handrwitten offering!

My response is below, since they felt that they would like to see it again.

The leaflet has two main purposes: to inform and instruct about safety and to persuade readers to donate to the RNLI.

In the middle pages, the language mostly reflects the first purpose. The yellow section to the right of page two delivers clear information and instruction. The information about ‘rips’ is laid out in a single sentence at the top of the column. The language is simple and allows for easy comprehension. Beneath the column, the bullet points and the imperative verbs – “keep hold…” “Revise” give clear instruction. In the first bullet point, an antithetical pair is used to reinforce the instruction with the vital double imperative “stay calm – don’t panic”. The instructions even cover information about emergency telephone numbers.

In the two illustrations beneath the passage, the language is brief and clear, helping to ensure speedy assimilation of this important safety message. This idea continues on the next page, where the visual prompts of the flags are accompanied by clear, yet simple, explanation of the purpose of each. The message of the red flag is reinforced by the exclamation mark, following the emotive single word sentence: “danger!”.

In the right hand text box on the same page, Second Person address is used to communicate directly with the reader: “even small waves can take you by surprise…”. Once again the focus is on the clarity, the bullet points and the imperatives reinforce the instructions to ensure safety. The second person address is continued in the useful information boxes at the foot of the page, emphasized by the use of the illustration within the warning triangle.

On the first page, a personal anecdote is used to reinforce the message. Carolyne Yard is quoted, giving details of how her sons got into trouble and how they were rescued. The way she writes in the past tense in paragraph one sets up a relaxed tone at first, however, with the use of “but”, the reader is prepared for a contradiction. Verbs such as “swept”, develop the idea that her sons, despite being “big teenagers” were being caught by elements beyond their control.

The passage uses a clear, chronological structure to ensure that readers can follow the steps which lead to the rescue.The RNLI is name-checked in paragraph three because this section carries an element of advertising within it. The language remains calm and is not over-persuasive, The anecdote is an effective tool on its own. In paragraph five, the sentences are short and simple – each showing a clear stage in the rescue: “Angus and Will were shaking with shock”. The alliteration helps to reinforce the strength of this image.

The final paragraph is a first person response to the efficiency of the rescue – The function of the passage is clear: to raise assurances of “beach safety and to raise awareness of the RNLI.

4EA0_01_msc_20130822 Grid for Question 5

Leave a comment

Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, IGCSE support, teacher training, writing skills

What if we didn’t mark any books?


Thought provoking. Gallery critique has cropped up a lot in my reading recently… Must be telling me something!

Originally posted on Reflecting English:


Okay, so here goes. It’ll take some courage for me to utter the words – please stick with me. Perhaps my career is on the line for this one. What the heck. Are you ready for it?

What if I didn’t mark any books?

There, I said it.

What if we eventually realise that marking is inefficient and we came up with an alternative?

I have read so many blogs recently – and written one myself – about the importance of marking. Some of these pieces, written with the best of intentions, have even suggested that teachers on a full timetable – after they have finished planning for tomorrow, sitting in meetings, phoning a few parents and filling in data-entry sheets – mark every single book after every single lesson. Coupled with this is the evidence from everywhere you care to glance of the vital role of feedback: to take…

View original 790 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why are we teachers? Reflection on delivering classroom safeguarding…

I do not often post on matters relating to teaching as a profession, but in the last few days, this one has been growing… I don’t know – in order to keep it in the remit of English Teaching Resources, why not use it as a discussion piece or show elements as a yr 11 non-fiction unseen?

For the last eight years I have delivered a break out session on Classroom safeguarding at my school’s annual Diversity Day – a day devoted to trainee teachers and which should encourage them to reflect on issues of race and religion or on disability and often on education seen from a traveller’s perspective, which I blogged about a short while ago here:

I am not sure why this year is special and has provoked a post -possibly because it is my last, since I am moving on to a new school in the summer and possibly because this year is the last that i am teaching in a school where one of my sons is a student (deep joy for us both, no doubt!). Anyway, it is and the feeling that I might have been missing the point for a while became increasingly strong as the day went on.

As it happened, Friday was the day on which Coventry Child Services were hauled over public coals for their failure to protect Daniel Pelka form the litany of abuse and neglect that led to his death last year. I mentioned this at the start of the talk, since my opening puts the notion of Every Child Matters into some context. If I mentioned Victoria Climbie and Baby P. in this context without mentioning Daniel, my talk would lack something. Now, I am not pointing fingers and I can not imagine the anxiety and worse that any professional must feel in these cases – the press and all commentators stagger in shock on learning that a small boy could be scavenging for food in the dustbins, or appearing covered in bruises and in filthy and ill fitting clothes and these signs going unchallenged. I don’t know. I can not believe that no none raised an alarm,; i can not believe that his teacher who saw him every day for five or six hours did not worry about him and did not seek to pass on his or her concerns to the relevant people in the school. In the face of animal cruelty and human deceit, there is little that can be done.

Before 2003 this was broadly the status quo. The various services had little real opportunity to engage in joined up thinking and planning. ECM changed this. ECM introduced the idea of the multiagency meeting and the sharing of information across all interested parties. No longer could a young child be picked up by the police with an injury, be taken to a hospital, treated and returned home without some form of joined-up note being kept and the beginning of a record being made in order to keep a child under watch in case of development. The fact that there have been high profile cases since 2003 does not mean that ECM does not work and nor does it mean that we are involved in a fruitless exercise. Instead, we need to acknowledge that evil will often flourish and our constant vigilance is possibly the only way to address this.

By this stage, the trainees might have been forgiven for thinking that their day was turning a little dark.

But this is the thing. Alongside telling the trainees about paths to follow in the event of needing to raise an alarm, and reinforcing as strongly as possible the need never to offer confidentiality, I began to muse on the role of the classroom teacher. Whether at primary or secondary, we are vital in the chain of protection. Children spend more time at school that in the company of their parents, in many cases -especially in primary. A secondary form tutor might look after a group of children for five years, from year 7 to 11 – think about it, that’s puberty, first love, first break up, home issues, possible family deaths… the list goes on and on. Yet in many schools it seems that the focus of all staff and management is increasingly focused on sublevels progress and the need to target progress 8 above all else. Are we in danger of overlooking the fact that we work in a caring profession and one that can make or break a vulnerable child in a situation of danger? We are not surrogate social workers, but we should be aware of the incredible responsibility that our position as possibly the only stable adult in a word full of potential violence or neglect. If we do not follow up on our hunches, might we be breaking the first link in the chain of “safeguarding”? I think so.

I am lucky. We have 3 designated Senior Persons at my school. All are well trained and approachable and one – the miraculous Penny Earle – is simply one of the Best people in the world. Penny is our SENCO and nobody is more aware of potential issues, clash-points or trauma than she. I know that an email in which I ask the question “is there anything going on with X that might explain…” will be answered swiftly and with an invitation for a quick chat, whether the response is positive or negative. Because of this, I feel no guilt that I might be wasting her time, I ask first. I offer the trainees some personal reflection at this point:
Most teachers who have been in the profession for a while might recognise this. A girl who is bright and perky sat a Controlled Assessment in my class, several years ago. The task (thank you WJEC) was “The Test”. The children came in to write for an hour and on my right, young xxx started. A manic determination was noticeable as her pen flew over the paper. I was aware of her breathing and a certain intensity. By the end of the task, she was in tears. At he end, being busy and male, I handed her on to a friend, having asked if she was OK. She grunted; I sent an email to her next teacher to say she was a bit upset and that she might be late and she and her best friend left the room. It could have stopped there. When I marked the essay however, things changed. A pair of A4 sheets written in a single sentence, the shift from third person to first becoming evident as the heroine of the story – a young girl – recalled waking up on the morning after a party, knowing that something was wrong. She had had a few drinks with some boys, including her boyfriend and then fallen asleep… The test was of course her pregnancy test. The story ended with an anguished plea for advice about what to do with “my baby”. Explaining this gives me goosebumps and the memory of reading that essay is still vivid in my mind. I could barely read it and felt in no doubt that although I could (and did) award it an A* for narrative style and complexity of subject matter, the truth was deeper than this. I took it to Penny. She read half of it, laid it down on her table and said “Thank You”. It appeared that she and others had known about a party a few weeks earlier at which older boys had preyed on younger girls -alcohol was consumed and there was rumour of what can only be called date rape. My involvement ended here. The girl who had dared to use this chance to reveal her concerns was counselled and looked after by professionals; other girls were able to come forward and action was taken at some level against the boys. ON the day she left the school, the girl came to my classroom and simply said “I wasn’t pregnant” before running out of the room and away into the rest her life.

We don’t act in expectation of thanks, but we must be prepared to at least discuss concerns or else we neglect our responsibility as being “in loco parentis”. We are adults. We can read the runes and we know how to respond. The children we nurture and help on the path to maturity do not. It is surely up to us to guide them in any way we can – whether to a 5= or to a safe and prosperous life.

There, got it off my chest.

I have removed some school specific case studies from this powerpoint, but otherwise, feel free to use it.
blog version

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Explore the character of Claudio in MAAN. In what way could he be seen as the protagonist of the play?

In this post I am going to try to suggest a potential approach to this essay. Hopefully I will manage to answer the question whilst hitting the requirement of the marking rubric which insists, quite rightly, that writer’s craft should be at the forefront of any response. The essay is not intended as an exemplar in any way, but a vehicle for discussion:

Level 3
13-18 Sound knowledge and understanding of the text evident in the response
Comments about the writer’s use of characterisation/theme/plot/setting for literary effect show sound appreciation of the writer’s craft
Engagement with the text is sound, examples used are clearly relevant Where response requires consideration of two or more features, a clear balance is evident
Level 4
19-24 Thorough knowledge and understanding of the text evident in the response
Comments about the writer’s use of characterisation/theme/plot/setting for literary effect show sustained appreciation of the writer’s craft
Engagement with the text is sustained, examples used are fully relevant Where response requires consideration of two or more features, a thorough, balanced approach is evident
Level 5
25-30 Assured knowledge and understanding of the text evident in the response
Comments about the writer’s use of characterisation/theme/plot/setting for literary effect show a perceptive appreciation of the writer’s craft
Engagement with the text is assured, examples used are fully relevant Where response requires consideration of two or more features, a perceptive, balanced approach is evident.

I feel that alongside detailed response to key quotations, awareness of the FORM of the play and the consequent requirements on Shakespeare to adhere to the comic stereotype should be brought out in an essay on this subject. The same approach should also be made if Hero is the subject of the essay. In addition, it is clear that there should be regular well-chosen quotations to support and develop the argument and which are the subject of close, word-level analysis when possible.

Shakespeare prepares the audience for the arrival of Claudio in the opening discussion and scene setting between Leonato and the Messenger. The comic genre requires a young protagonist, preferably in love, whose trials the audience will watch until the eventual revelation of the truth and the subsequent happy ending. Since Claudio is the first character of this type to be mentioned, it is fair to assume that he will take on this role. His character is given depth when the messenger uses the metaphor that he has enacted “in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion”. This description gives a clear indication of his character: pure and innocent outwardly, but capable of acts of great power and cruelty or savagery. The noble connotation of the lion should not be allowed to hide the potential for destruction that the animal holds.
In the early scenes of the play, Claudio is all “lamb”. He is young and naive, quick to respond to his emotion and easily swayed. Not only does he fall in love without even a word passing between he and Hero, asking Benedick whether he “noted” Leonato’s daughter, but his youthful ardour is supported by his assertion that she is the “sweetest lady” that he had ever seen. Though he is teased by Benedick, he gains support and Don Pedro is impressed enough by his protestations of love as Shakespeare shifts into verse form at the end of 1.1- “… come thronging soft and delicate desires”. There are potential indications of trouble to come as Shakespeare plants discreet references to possible greed – “hath signor Leonato a son?”- but at this stage the protagonist of the comedy fits the required description – a young man, deeply in love.

Shakespeare quickly moves to add complexity to his character. After briefly introducing Don John in 1.3, Shakespeare develops the poisoning of Claudio’s mind which is necessary for his character to undergo a shift towards “darkness” required by the genre. At the masked ball in 2.1 and again in 3.2, Don John tries to trick Claudio into doubting Hero’s faithfulness. Claudio – a willing deceiver of Benedick in 2.3 is on the receiving end of deceit and, as is expected in a play in which mis-noting is such a key theme, is led to believe the evidence of his eyes when observing a midnight tryst. Not only does he fall out of love with the impetuosity of youth, but Shakespeare enhances his credentials as a comic protagonist by ensuring that his response is clearly vindictive and cruel: “If I see anything… there will I shame her”. Claudio is made to present the darker side of his character in an instant reaction which requires not just refusing marriage, but also, by shaming Hero, public humiliation of the innocent victim.

The crisis is reached in 4.1 when Shakespeare allows CLaudio full vent to his malign anger. Prepared and guided by the “bastard” Don John, he humiliates Hero, calling her a “rotten orange” and accusing her of knowing the “heat of luxurious bed”, both accusations carrying clear overtones of a loss of virginity and of sexual practices, with the word “luxurious” carrying the meaning more of “lustful” than the modern sense of comfortable. It is only after Leonato has joined in the attack that Shakespeare begins to mix the core comic plot and the subplot of Beatrice ad Benedick. The comic genre requires a crisis and often a hiding-away of the victim in order that her innocence can be proven. At this time, once the Friar has drawn attention to the need for “noting” in all situations, Hero is taken away and centre stage is occupied by the pair who have hitherto been seen as the comic subplot -Beatrice and Benedick. It is a mark of Shakespeare’s genius that this much loved pair, who can seriously imbalance many productions of the play, should be seen as the supporting cast. They are romantically intriguing and entertaining, but do not carry the weight of the comic plot which is based not so much on the need for humour, but on the need to provide entanglement and a happy resolution. Once Benedick has agreed to “kill Claudio”, the resolution can be shown.

In Act 5 Shakespeare shows the audience Claudio’s arrogance in the face of the two old men “without teeth”. He has not fooled Antonio who sees through the leonine projection of cruelty and pride to see behind it not a lamb, but Claudio as typical of a “fashion-monging boy”, repeating the noun four times in as many lines to emphasise the point. It is only after the much delayed revelation of the truth and Boracchio’s confession a tthe end of 5.1 that Claudio’s character can return to its earlier state. He is forced to make a public statement of sorrow for the “death of Hero” and to take part in a punishment that will see him wed to another girl. Once he has done his penance, Shakespeare can re-introduce Hero, veiled in keeping with the theme of noting and reminiscent of 2.1, the scene in which the deceits began. Claudio’s response -”another Hero!” is a response of shock and pleasure, as indicated by the exclamation mark, and he speaks no more in relation to Hero in the play, giving her a slight dominance over him for the first time, suggesting that he is still totally aware of the wrong he has done. The comic plot has been brought to its conclusion and the protagonist of the play has been presented as having learned some humility after the excesses of his behaviour when he was under Don John’s spell.

Although Shakespeare still needs to wrap up his second couple and bring Beatrice and Benedick together, the comic plot of the play ends with the wedding of Claudio and Hero. Claudio’s character is revealed as having undergone a significant journey during the play and finally, all the troubles that he has been instrumental in causing have been smoothed out. That he can be described as the protagonist of this play is without a doubt.

Leave a comment

Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, Shakespeare, teacher training