Mockingbird table top plans

Year 10 worked to create plans for two questions:

“Explore the significance of Heritage in the novel”

‘”The summer is going to be a hot one” – explore this quotation with particular focus on ch 12-15″

Their work is on the PDFs for them to download – -feel free to use it.

heritage essay

hot summer planning

Leave a comment

Filed under EDEXCEL IGCSE, IGCSE support, KS4

Jerusalem: Butterworth

I am very excited about the appearance of Butterworth’s play on the OCR A level teaching lists. Yes, I am a Wiltshireman and proud of it, but this play is a radically new step in terms of the material often being taught. I can’t wait.

Except that I have no idea where to start – quite apart from anything else, Butterworth refused to allow the play to be filmed when it was running in London…

I have put together some thoughts and begun to put documents from the internet into a document to be found here. I would love some help with this. If anyone is teaching this play next year, please get in touch.

An article on the play by Julia Boll: jerusalem article

A group of articles on the play found online articles on Jerusalem

Name, comments

Phaedra: The 15 year old who introduces the play and brings a chill to the end of act 2 before dancing with Johnny in Act 3, a possible indication of a sexual relationship, though the writing in its calmness suggests something less depraved than that, although Johnny’s branding by Troy is certainly suggestive of a punishment for assumed paedophilia and therefore recalls the mob justice meted out in the 1990s to supposed paedophiles – actions which led to paediatricians being hounded from their homes due to the thuggish ignorance of many of the self elected vigilantes. Her name (meaning “bright” in Ancient Greek) is that of a woman of ill omen in Greek tragedy – she married Theseus, King of Athens and fell in love with his son Hippolytus. When this was discovered she accused Hipploytus (who was utterly virtuous and associated solely with Artemis, the goddess of the hunt) of rape and brought about his death possibly at the hands of his father.

Johnny “Rooster” Byron: his surname is that of the Romantic poet who is famed both for his prodigious sexual appetite and his wonderfully Romantic lifestyle – poet, soldier, freedomfighter, rebel… Yet his nickname suggests a more focused idea: A rooster is the alpha male of the cockerel world. He exists solely to impregnate the hens in his coop and he guards it against all comers. He is always polygamous and guards an area rather than a specific nest.

Flintock: The village at the heart of the play is based on the village of Pewsey in North Wiltshire. The name is an interesting choice, harking back to the flintlock guns of the 19th century and to the flint which dominates much of the landscape over the North Wiltshire downs. There is also a suggestion of heard heartedness in the name- flint-hearted. Pewsey is famous for its carnival in the Autumn, which culminates in the celebration of the Feaste at the end of the revels. It straddles the Kennet and Avon canal and has a regular train service to London, possibly marking the end of the convenient commuter belt.
Other towns are given their real names – Swindon, Wootton Bassett, Bedwyn, Marlborough, Devizes. This helps to root the play in a rural “backwater” representative of a lost or a dying Britain.

named for Blake’s poem which has become an unofficial anthem for the English.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land

Even when read as a religious/moral text, based on the myth that talks of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea visiting England and of Joseph being buried in Glastonbury, the poem clearly seems to set up a dichotomy between the heavenly “green and pleasant land” and the ever encroaching “dark Satanic mills. That Blake’s imagery is opaque has meant that the poem has taken on a significance to many varied groups. To many it hearks back to a time of purity and innocence in England, before the industrial revolution. This idea is continued into the last stanza which seems to suggest that the speaker will ever strive to create a new Jerusalem in England, presumably based on this former purity. It is fitting that Rooster’s wood should be set in or around Pewsey. The landscape is still untouched and bares many remains of Neolithic England – Silbury hill and Avebury, between Devizes and Marlborough and Stonehenge near Salisbury. Pewsey lies directly on the route between these monuments, just beond the end of the Ridgeway path, one of the earliest known roads in England. If Rooster is to be seen as somehow a reminder of a lost time, the setting is certainly apt.
However, the title takes on a heavy irony through the reality of Rooster’s existence: Shunned by most of society, seen as a drug dealer and possible paedophile, there is no romance in his existence. If he represents England’s green and pleasant land, is it a land worth saving?

Leave a comment

Filed under OCR A level, OCR English Literature

Year 7 Monsters in Poetry: a short resource booklet

Poetic Monsters

I am about to give a short module based on Monsters in Poetry to year 7. I have made a handout of the poems I want to use and attach it for download here. The poems are Tyger and Pike (Blake and Hughes). I want to begin with work on the power of metaphor and thought that two poems about the natural world and our response to it would be an interesting introduction. The fact that both poems are used in IGCSE anthologies should not preclude their being used at this level. I thought that Jabberwocky would be fun to explore – after all, there is no better way to develop an awareness of the power of vocabulary than by creating and interpreting one’s own. I opted for Classics over Beowulf – I have created a Yr 8 Classics/Literature module in this area before and thought I would borrow… Once again, the images around Polyphemus eye are wonderful in this poem and beg for creative responses. Finally, a Frankenstein poem by Edward Field. Time to explore the idea of monster a little further. This will form the basis for a final written task on the poems.

Leave a comment

Filed under KS3, poetry, writing skills

Themes in King Lear

This will be added to over the coming weeks. I begin with Appearance and reality and Chaos and disintegration. The Powerpoints are to stimulate debate, but also carry useful key quotations for discussion.

Lear 11

Lear 12

lear 13 : Cordelia discussion points

Leave a comment

Filed under AQA LitB 4, OCR English Literature, Shakespeare

Giving back an exam mock…

A short screencast, based on the material below, to return a mock Section A for Edexcel IGCSE. Written for my Year 11s this year and widely applicable to a range of exam boards.

I have taken a passage from an old AQA pre-release and written questions in keeping with the current Edexcel format.

The question paper: beijing nf practice

The powerpoint give back: mock section A beijing

The pre-release: 2010 pre release

Link to the John lyon English You Tube course for the screencast:

Leave a comment

Filed under EDEXCEL IGCSE, exam techniques

Approaching a theme essay at IGCSE

This is  a lesson borne out of a need to give back a mock exam essay to my Year 11 class.

The focus is on trying to avoid students simply listing a series of events or characters who relate to the theme and to develop an awareness of the level of objective analysis required in writing an essay such as this.

I hope it might be helpful.

approaching a theme essay

Leave a comment

Filed under All my sons, exam techniques, OCR English Literature, themes in exam esssays

Mockingbird Monologues

My colleague Sarah Capponi has made an excellent resource for revision and teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. As half term approaches, I have used it to revise Part 1.
The students write a dramatic monologue to explore their character and to shed light on the issues that affect them in Maycombe.

I attach the worksheet and some of the responses from my Year 10 class. Please feel free to listen and send comment on the performances – possibly not too detailed a critique of the Alabama accent – which I can pass on to the student performers. I will add more sound files as the students complete the task!

This has been a very entertaining couple of lessons as well as one that has shown my students at their best – working independently to produce something really worthwhile. Happy listening.

Sound file 1: 150210_001

Text 1 tom Heck Tate

Teaching worksheet TKAM Monologue

sound file 2: 150211_003

sound file 3: 150211_008

Sound file 4:

Sound file 5 Boo articulated:

Text 3,2,4: monologues, written version 2,3,4

Leave a comment

Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, EDEXCEL IGCSE, IGCSE support, KS3/4 drama ideas, teacher training

Whole school literacy… thoughts on a “working party”

“Jonathan, why don’t you think about working party to look at the approach to literacy?”

Words to chill the heart of a new HoD.

I feel that I barely know the names of all my new colleagues and here is the one nobody likes – the Literacy project. Literacy seems to act like the threat of a violent emetic on many colleagues. Everyone who teaches at secondary school will have their own horror stories about Literacy, yet most are adamant that the English Department should carry the weight of any policy or intervention. Why?

There are some who feel that English Language should not be taught as a discreet subject in favour of the whole school taking responsibility for what is, possibly, the most important skill set that will be taught over the five years. I am not one of those. However, I firmly believe that we can not do the job on our own.

I recently attended a course in Salford looking at whole school literacy. Led by David Birch (@birch_david) we looked at a wide range of ideas to help to deliver whole school projects… We also networked and shared ideas like eager year 10s! A great day out.

As I waited for my train, I thought I would put down my next actions… The beginning of the working party….

First off, an audit:


This will be altered slightly, but is a good place to start. I want to learn about my new colleagues and not threaten them. most departments will score in the middle here with a few uppers and a few downers. Nothing too scary there, but a chance to recognise both the potential allies and the obvious areas of weakness. I wonder how many departments really do look at the roots of words or treat spoken tasks as part of their literacy strategy?

Oracy as a vehicle for improving literacy is not a new idea, but we do need to see it being embedded throughout the school. I don’t know if I am brave enough to look at no pen days at this stage, but the idea is fascinating, particularly in Maths and Sciences, where much is explained and written. How would it be to require students to work through their calculations or explanations aloud, without the safety net of pen and paper. In a world where there is a requirement to deliver more written material in exams, and crucially to ensure that detailed written instructions are understood, the idea of encouraging such an approach to work is obvious. Suddenly students need to explain their thinking with clarity and in an ordered fashion. I think that this could be challenging for many, but ultimately rather fun. Hopefully my colleagues will agree. A link to a trail of SALAD days can be found:

Whether this is precisely how I would wish to use the idea will remain to be seen, but I am interested in finding the reaction of my colleagues to such an idea.

A final comment on Oracy might be the interesting idea that teachers never ask open questions. This may be a little hard to swallow, but how many questions are genuinely open and how many actually require the students to second guess what we have in our heads? We may have moved from closed yes/no responses (though these have a place, especially in testing) but even then, most of our “open questions” are given in search of a relatively closed group of potential responses.

There does need to be consistency of appraisal and feedback. I have introduced DIRT and Green Pen proofreading to my department and now want this to be carried beyond the English department into the school as a whole. Students need to recognise the importance of accuracy in all writing. In all subjects. there should not be an area in which accuracy “doesn’t matter”. Even in note taking. Especially in note taking actually. This area is often rushed and we need to model how to do it. Students are prone to wait until a discussion is over before trying to copy notes from the board. Rarely will they multitask and listen and write together, although this is the skill set required at university. Equally, they lay scant regard to accuracy, despite the fact that a year later, when revising, they will have no idea what the correct spelling of those words was. It’s bad enough that in English we have different areas of GCSE exams which seem to tolerate poor SPAG, without seeming to suggest that it matters in some subjects but not in others. A new policy document awaits creation, with input from all areas. However, I want proof reading to be at the heart of our work in this area. I see editing and drafting as a vital skill for life, not just for school.

In the written word, we have more obvious areas to discuss: above and beyond basic SPAG and a whole school approach to literacy marking. Writing across the curriculum needs to develop an awareness of purpose and audience. How can we best develop this idea?
One approach at my school might be to get students to develop the new y7 and y9 handbook for each subject. These might have two versions – one for parents and one for students. There might be a third version for y6 students approaching transition. Students IN ALL FIELDS might be working on broadly the same material, but with a different audience in mind. This should affect the level of detail and the academic tone of the publication. I would also like to see competitions in all departments to boost writing. Reviews, reports etc…. My department might work on a basic Power Point or similar document to develop a school style in these areas.

We already run creative writing classes as an extra-curricular activity in both the upper and Lower Schools. We are not going to be introducing the Creative Writing AS at the moment, so I want to find a way to develop as much of this in all subjects. The new GCSEs and A levels are heavily swayed to written content both in response and also in reading and assimilating the information on the page. We have to address this with our students and raise not only their practical ability, but also their stamina! Free writing classes might be an approach to this and one we will discuss.

Finally, a few links that I will share, starting with Geoff Barton, widely admired and regarded as a giant among men- just “Don’t call it literacy!” for a consideration of an excellent library home page

We also discussed the use of social media, but that’s for another post – I am already hooked! @mrPeel

Leave a comment

Filed under Paedagogy, teacher training

Analysis: The Cockroach by Kevin Halligan


An excellent reading from an excellent blog: Read this and enjoy!  Not sure I agree with the reading of “rode the floor” which seems to me to refer to the dust rather than the cockroach and therefore not to show the cockroach’s youth and eagerness…

In all, this is a great poem – deceptively simple and carrying a harsh message in the sense of humanity being little better than one of the most despised forms of life on the planet.

For me, I like the way the roach is engaged in ever more random and futile actions as it gets older – even having the sense of the unnecessary and confusing climb to the shelf – almost in the same way that humans are forced to try to climb ever higher in their chosen profession.  What’s to show for it all?  Nothing.

Possibly it helps to be older when reading this – we recognise the stages of life – avoiding trouble, happy to work in a steady and repetitive environment, over time finding the treadwheel of work (the circle) repetitive and dull, a mid-life crisis, delayed ambition and… stop!

Originally posted on The IGCSE Blog:


  • There is question whether the Cockroach is a sonnet: it has the correct number of lines. The poem’s structure could indicate a following of a 4,4,3,3 structure (number of lines per stanza). The poem is indeed not clearly separated into stanzas, however, the changing points in the poem would indicate this structure.
  • 10 syllables per line
  • A quite regular structure with few enjambements. The author does not find total clarity and this is reflected by the ‘hidden’ sonnet.
  • Rime scheme ABAB, end change in rime scheme ABCABC => The author has ceased to just observe he is identifying himself.


  • “I watched a giant cockroach”. The word “giant” makes it a specific cockroach, it has its own personal distinction, it is made more noticeable. Furthermore, its great size makes it take up a large part of the vision of the author and is therefore worth attention…

View original 865 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under CIE IGCSE, IGCSE support, KS4

All My Sons: Revision Resource

I found a resource online which addressed All My Sons.  I have long lost the original and will be very happy to give credit where due, if the original writer contacts me.

I have added comments about Tragedy and the American Dream, links to Miller discussing his work and further detailed comment about contexts and symbolism.

I hope it is of use.

All My Sons Revision

Leave a comment

Filed under CIE IGCSE, IGCSE support, KS3/4 drama ideas, KS4