Peta Lovett workshop independent learning

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
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
are confident enough to express
themselves, and question their own
respond to the ideas of others,
bouncing off ideas, to develop
insightful arguments
understand there is no ‘right’ or
‘wrong’, only opinions and
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
 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
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 &
 Fluency of writing, with deeply developed
 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
 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
 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
And think of that drink when you get home.
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