How to stretch & challenge very able pupils at GCSE English Literature through Independent Learning Do you do more work than the students in your classes? Do you do six, seven, eight activities within a lesson? Although pupils are working on various tasks, do you find yourself running around the classroom like an idiot trying to accommodate all the questions that are flying your way? Excessive pace Overloading of activities Inflexible planning Limited time for independent work Concentrating on a narrow range of skills, at the expense of others that should be naturally learned in a lesson. Dependent learners Independent learners • • are self-reliant • can make decisions about the texts, taking into consideration different readings • are confident enough to express themselves, and question their own views • respond to the ideas of others, bouncing off ideas, to develop insightful arguments • understand there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, only opinions and interpretations • undertake extra research to understand the historical & social context of a text • are aware that a single word of a text can have a variety of interpretations rely heavily on the teacher • rely on teacher’s interpretations of texts • doubt their own ideas, believing there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ answer • do not respond to the ideas of others, thus failing to develop their own • think that the teacher is the only one who is ‘right’. • examine texts in a very formalist way, ignoring biographical and social influences • do not see that analysis is open, and can extend to any depth Teacher feels a lack of control The concern that pupils are not properly learning The possibility that pupils are not focused if given a certain amount of freedom The teacher isn’t as aware of progress How do pupils report back to the teacher without excluding the rest of the class? AO1: respond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual detail to illustrate and support interpretations AO2: explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings AO3: make comparisons and explain links between texts, evaluating writers’ different ways of expressing meaning and achieving effects AO4: relate texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts; explain how texts have been influential and significant to self and other readers in different contexts and at different times. It is very important that pupils understand which texts hit which assessment objectives. On whiteboards or bits of paper, get pupils to write each AO in their own words. Choose the best examples and get pupils to write them down on the front of their folder or books Relate those different AOs to the texts being studied. Pupils should make a note of this. Questioning Reflecting Sharing Developing Pose a question e.g. ‘Why does Owen use the phrase “limped bloodshod?” Randomly choose an able pupil to answer Ask the follow up question, ‘Does anyone interpret it differently?’ Field a number of different interpretations. If no pupils come up with an idea that is similar to your own, only then offer it to the class. Use funnel questioning i.e. start with general questions, and then home in on a point in each answer, and ask more and more detail at each level. Use the ‘think, pair & share’ technique Provide questions that focus on social, moral and contextual issues to widen pupils’ horizons. This should enable a conversation to begin between pupils, with very little intervention from the teacher. Always give pupils time to brainstorm their ideas about a piece of text, before answering any questions. This can either be done individually or in pairs or groups, depending on the task. Only then, draw these ideas together and allow pupils to then question these ideas and expand/develop them. It is essential that pupils are given time to share their ideas in English. Sharing time can be given in a variety of ways: Pair work Group work Round robin Exchanging ideas in a class discussion Presentation to the class, with class interaction English is all about the development of ideas. Ideally, this development should come from the pupils themselves, with discussion allowing for disagreements, counter arguments, qualifying, elucidating, summarising, connecting and building. Peer assessment has a valuable place in lessons, particularly when teaching high ability students It creates a dialogue between students It allows pupils to be critical in an intellectual and academic way It raises issues for the whole class It demonstrates the importance of immediate annotation The best way to approach the teaching & learning of able pupils is to consider them as an AS class, to the point of even teaching them some Literary Theory (formalism being the most accessible). Don’t restrict the pupils by using such acronyms as A FOREST, which ultimately limits the thought process of the more able. Don’t limit the number of literary terms that are being used/taught. Allow the pupils to choose what is relevant to their texts. Speak to pupils as if they are young adults, not as children. The tone you use will transfer into their writing. Avoid using PEED. It limits the pupils and doesn’t encourage the following: Imbedded quotations The use of many small words and phrases quoted from the text The consistent analysis of form, structure & language Fluency of writing, with deeply developed ideas The integration of social & historical context Pupils like to see a bit of honesty from teachers when it comes to the delivery of texts. If a teacher is unable to admit to the flaws of the text, then pupils are less likely to respond. Remember that kids love to tear things apart, and be highly critical. Allow them to be, then offer a counter argument. The more able will thrive on this approach. Homework is essential for pushing the brightest pupils, but has to be used carefully: Set homework that is going to challenge the pupil Set homework that is an extension of the lesson and can be used in the next lesson (this enables you to target the able pupils for feedback) Set homework that specifically focuses on A04 (historical & social) There is nothing worse for an examiner than having to mark 30 identical essays. If you want your pupils to achieve A*, then the encouragement of originality and personal response is essential. Bearing this in mind, do not: Give essay plans Give a list of what pupils should include in their essays UNLESS THE LIST HAS COME FROM THE PUPILS THEMSELVES. And think of that drink when you get home.