Why I love…Our Revision Strategy

Over the years this revision strategy has been tried, tested and adapted to meet the needs of the students we have. It seems to work in our context, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for all contexts and I’m aware of that, but as well as the ‘embedding learning over time’ drive that we have in classes and as a department priority and the continual reflection back to previous knowledge, which we hope will have a significant impact over time (it will be a slow burner). Realistically, it will take five years for the whole cohort strategy to bear fruition, but that is one element of the bigger picture to allow students to hopefully retain information in their long term memories. So, with the bigger picture in mind these are some of the shorter term, but ongoing strategies and ways that we encourage revision in English.

Revision Booklets ‘One Stop Guides’

In January we give students printed copies of our department collaborated revision booklets to Y11. We have split them this year (as they were significantly weighty and difficult to staple together) into a Language revision booklet and a Literature revision booklet:

CA 2017 – 18 Revision One Stop An Inspector Calls.1

CA 2017 – 18 Lang Revision Only One

CA 2017 – 18 Literature Revision One Stop Blood Brother

The students have also had the relevant booklet e-mailed to them and they are available to download on our Weebly (more on that later).


We want the students to have available to them resources that they are familiar with, structures that we have taught consistently in class and a format of explanation that they again are familiar with. In this way producing our own bespoke revision booklets seemed sensible, as well as the fact that the speedy start of the GCSE left a gaping hole in the market for subject specific exam books which our students could use that were tailored to the new GCSE. We hope that students with the tangible resources and information in front of them will choose to put in purposeful practice and explore a range of questions that they may be faced with in the exam. We encourage them to hand in these extra practices and will give feedback as and when they do this.

Quote Guide Booklets

Every student in Year 11 have been given key quote booklets which synthesise information for characters in the Literature exams and which they can use to revise from. By having them in one place they become a useful document for reference, using to make flashcards and other revision resources.


So that students have a key list of quotes that they can use as a guide to help. We have synthesised some of the key ideas relating to the literature texts in order to help the students. The quote booklets are here:

Quotation Booklet Year 11AIC Final

Quotation Booklet Year 11 LOTF Final

Quotation Booklet Year 11 Revision An Inspector Calls

The Weebly


We direct the students to the Weebly if they are struggling, if they want to have extra help or if they want to have specific strategies for a particular exam. The Weebly is basically an online website, which we have built to accommodate the different requirements of the @Eduqas_English exam. It is updated and adapted to suit the needs of the students. We have information pages about each component of the exam which guides them through the texts (some of these pages need updating, and this will be a next step – but time here is the enemy) and we have individual revision pages with specific areas to help the students. For example:

  • Knowledge organiser links
  • Useful guides and English Information
  • The One Stop Guides
  • Essay Example Page
  • Quizlet Links
  • Podcasts on a range of the texts and exams (created by the English department specifically for the students)
  • Quotation page with links to our Literature key quotation booklets (again produced by the department)
  • Useful website/YouTube video links


We want the student to know where to access the best information or the most relevant information that they need for their exams. By compiling it all in one website there is no room for variation. Every single student has access to this, whether it is at home, on their phone or by using the computers at home. It means that they cannot or should not say “I don’t know how to revise for English’ as we have clearly guided them to how and to where.

The Twitter Revision Campaign

Follow @ChurchillEng to see the #revisechurchilleng campaign

We tweet every day from the first of January a revision prompt. Some students follow the account, some parents follow the account, some students don’t follow, but tell us that they have a look at the revision prompts. The idea is that we are in @Xris32’s words drip feeding them a bit of revision. A link to Chris’s inspirational blog is here: http://learningfrommymistakesenglish.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/marketing-english-revision.html Every day there is a thinking prompt or question or guide or picture that promotes revising something different and something little every day.


We wanted to harness the power of social media in some way and drip feed revision in 5-minute daily bite-size chunks. The time element for the teachers is minimal, but it also certainly gets me thinking about all the different elements that students need to know and remember, so from a purely selfish point of view it is really useful as a thinking process tool for me, so by extension I think it must help the students who engage with it too.

I’m in the process of thinking about whether we should have a department Instagram account and whether that would be more engaged with, but that is a thought for another day. The prompts are also shown in class as starters by some of the teachers and as talking points in lessons. We want students to engage more with this and this is something to think about more carefully.

Inter-Leaved Homework in KS4

This just means that we set specific homework on a rolling programme – Week 1: current unit, Week 2: previous Literature unit and Week 3: previous Language unit. We do this in year 10 to an extent, but it properly works in Y11 when students have covered a range of the topics and literature texts. The homework can be metacognition, essays, target/reflections on previous learning, essays, revision posters etc. There is no set expectation of what the homework entails, just that it follows a structure over time to reflect on current and previous learning.


We want to ensure that the homework is purposeful and relevant and significant. Teachers still have autonomy over what they set for their classes, meaning they can set homework that is particular to the needs they have identified, but it also means that over time all units of previous learning are covered.

The Lunchtime Sessions

This is a truly collaborative process and the time and effort of the department are very much appreciated here. Every Wednesday one member of staff will do a 30 – 40 minute revision session on a GCSE linked component of their choice. These are advertised in school and the students know these are available and open to all. They are sessions which are still structured, but which offer the students tips, hints and ways of purposefully revising for their exams. Last year I did a Power of Three session: See here https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/susansenglish.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/why-i-love-the-power-of-three-for-revising/amp/ during these sessions and I think it was really useful and gave students another way of memorising what they needed for the exams. We try to ensure that we vary content and cover all aspects of the course, because in lessons we continue teaching content, these extra sessions can be a good way of students going back to previously learnt content.


We want one day a week to be a go to session if students have questions outstanding that they have not yet asked their teacher. Hopefully, students know that they can turn up and go over an aspect of the course that they want more information on or to look back at. As they are completely voluntary and open to all, there is no pressure that students must attend, which gives them a more relaxed feel and the students do appreciate the time that is given up. Questions I am sure will be thrown up about these sessions, but we wouldn’t ask anyone to do it, if they weren’t willing to. On average each teacher will perhaps run two sessions from January till the exams and as I said earlier we do very much appreciate the teachers giving up their time to run these sessions.

The English Lectures

These are new for 2018 and we have yet to discover how these will be received or whether they will have an impact. Influenced by Twitter and discussed by myself and @daveg5478. We will put on a once monthly aiming high English Literature subject knowledge lecture. Students will sign up and it is open to all students, but aimed at achieving the highest grades. They will be 45 minute lectures with 15 minutes for questions at the end. This is very new so watch this space.


To challenge and engage and offer something different to what we have time to cover in the class. We will record these lectures as podcasts to upload to our Weebly, so again if someone doesn’t have the opportunity to attend they will be able to listen at their own convenience. We hope that these will be well received and useful.

Hopefully, this is interesting and gives a little insight into some of the ways we encourage our students to revise, to engage with resources that they have and to encourage them to continually work hard and independently. As I said at the top this is what seems to work in our context and some of the ideas may transfer or already be embedded.



Why I Love…Adapting Explode the Extract Structure

This year I was lucky enough to gain experience as a Literature examiner (as well as my wonderful colleague @MsBirkett237) and while it was incredibly time consuming and difficult from the perspective of having to mark on top of my usual full-time job and family, the experience was highly valuable. I marked component 2 Literature Section A, B & C. That included: A – Blood Brothers and An Inspector Calls (mainly); B – A Christmas Carol and Jekyll and Hyde; C – Unseen Poetry, the single poem essay and the comparison essay. From doing this I gained an insight into the approaches other centres and teachers were using to approach the essay which I’d been calling exploding the extract. As everyone knows this has possibly been the trickiest to come up with an approach to, as it is a completely new style question on the new specification and due to the nature of juggling the extract and the whole play. The extract needs to be included (but not overused I have since discovered) and the whole play knowledge needs to be excellent and embedded in the essay (perhaps more pertinent than including the extract).

Previously, we were encouraging students to start with the extract and explode out from that in each of their paragraphs, which upon reflection proved very difficult for some students and in the marking process was an approach that few students did. I wrote about that approach here and I now think that we need to move away from this to a different essay structure: Link to exploding the extract blog. That I think is the nature of a new specification, you try something and tweak it, then if it isn’t fit for purpose or you learn new information along the way to give a new perspective you adapt and change it. Essentially, that is what we have done with the explode the extract style we have learnt from the exam and our own experience of teaching the extract and we have changed what we do.

Our New Approach

This approach came about as a result of discussions in the department and a department meeting where we discussed the best way forward with this, so I’m not claiming that this is MY approach, rather that it is an approach that has drawn on the experiences of all the teachers in the department and has been arrived at collaboratively.

We are now encouraging the following:

• Place the extract in your essay chronologically where it fits in the essay with where it appears in the text. So, think start of the play/novel – start with the extract, middle of the play/novel – place your extract analysis in the middle of the essay and end of the play/novel – place your extract analysis at the end of the novel.
• For guidance we are saying 1/3rd extract and 2/3rd novel to give the students an idea of how to split the amount they write between the extract and whole play.
• As the essay is 45 mins, the timing is 5 mins reading & planning, writing 40 minutes, spending about 13 minutes on the extract and the rest of the time writing about the whole play and then checking and editing their work
• Obviously, for Component A we ask them to go back and carefully check their SPAG
• For Component B we ask that they have made sure they have checked their SPAG and included context

The following document is a student guide that I have shared with my classes, which has been useful for them as a checklist. Approach for ACC essays 2018


Students always want to know a number of quotes they should include and while I flippantly say “as many as you can cover in the time” I do also guide them to cover 4 – 6 in the extract and to ensure they have covered across the extract and with the whole play as many as they can remember that are relevant to the question.

We have been teaching A Christmas Carol and are getting ready to complete an assessment on this, so for the last couple of lessons I have been exploring with the class how to approach the extract and whole text with embedded context essay and we have broken down and written an essay on the Ghosts and their importance. First, I questioned the class on how to build an essay and we looked at how to approach extract/whole text. Then, we exploded the question and worked out what was being asked. Next, I modelled an introduction (on a different question) as a reminder of what a higher-level introduction might look like. Then, the class wrote their own introductions. Then to write the essay I have chunked it into question and answer regarding quotes and context and the class have written each section. Finally, they peer assess and I will mark, and we will look at the live model I completed at the same time as them. With this class (and all my classes) I am trying to embed the importance of having a high-level vocabulary and using the KO sheets to help learn advanced vocabulary, so part of the rationale of sharing the live model is to hopefully show them some of the terms they could be including in their essay. I did this in the same time as the class, while they were throwing questions at me and I am aware that it isn’t perfect, but that is what they will unpick as you can see from the exercise at the end of it. See attached: Building an example & plan with Y11 2018

The Live Model Example: 

Dickens presents four ghosts in his allegorical novel. Marley represents what may happen to Scrooge, The Ghost of the Past illuminates how Scrooge was, The Ghost of the Present shows humanities suffering, while the Ghost Yet to Come highlights the death that awaits Scrooge is he does not change. This supernatural theme influences characters and readers as it piques their interests and plays on superstitions people in Victorian

First, in A Christmas Carol the impetus for Scrooge to change and be a better man is highlighted through the first of four Ghosts. Marley is introduced to us in the first line of the novel with the short sentence “Marley was dead, to begin with.” which sets up the supernatural themes of the novel and implies that he is no longer dead, a fact that seems confusing, but which would have been realistic to a Victorian audience due to the oral tradition of passing ghost stories down through the generations. At the time readers would have been captivated by the eerie comings and goings of the ghosts and would have understood that allegorically Dickens was presenting Marley as a warning. The first sign of this warning is evident in the doorknocker, a gothic convention used to explore how Marley later comes to life. When Marley appears to Scrooge his appearance is again gothic in nature and he states that he is “wear(ing) the chains I forged in life” implying to Scrooge that if he does not change his miserly and uncharitable ways, he too will end up in purgatory. As a Christian ideal this shows that the idea of Heaven and hell and a waiting place in between was relevant to the Christian audience of the time and they would have understood that this was a warning to Scrooge to change. The ghost of Marley therefore is a catalyst for Scrooge to change and shows that this first ghost is important in starting a chain of events. The next ghost which Scrooge encounters is the Ghost of the Past and he is represented with a “cap” and as a “candle”, “flickering” and indistinct at some points and clear and bright at other points. This representation of the Ghost of the Past could suggest that there are areas of Scrooge’s past that have been forgotten and that are now in shadow and symbolically this ghost could represent the guiding light that will show Scrooge what he was and what he could have been had he taken on board the messages from people in his past. Throughout Stave 2 Scrooge is shown his schooldays, his fiancé Belle and his old employer Fezziwig and each represents a different ailment in Scrooge’s humanity. Belle shows that money and wealth is more important to Scrooge than anything else “ a golden idol has replaced me” with the “golden idol” being a metaphor for wealth. Again the Ghost is illuminating Scrooges understanding of his own shortcomings and failures as a member of the human race and influences Scrooge to begin to feel some emotion. This suggests that this Ghost is important in helping Scrooge to see that he was once a better man than he is now and that he is possibly able to change if he allows himself to take on board the guidance of the ghost. Contextually, wealth and poverty and the contrast in the way wealthy factory owners and employers acted is reinforced here with the way Fezziwig acts.

In the extract we see that the Ghost of the Present is highlighting some of the abundance of food and other examples of the festivities associated with Christmas. This is done through the listing “were turkeys, geese, game” which could suggest that the Ghost thinks there is enough food to go around and that maybe using this abundance highlights how greedy the wealthy were, as they did not share their food, even at Christmas time and poor families did not have the luxurious items discussed in the extract. Furthermore, the appearance of the Ghost is of a benevolent Father Christmas figure “jolly Giant” and “one simple green robe” and while we are accustomed to Father Christmas in a red costume, historically Father Christmas was presented in green, which is a fact that a Victorian audience would have been aware of. The way he is presented as “jolly” has connotations of good-will, cheer and joy and this is something that could affect Scrooge significantly, as he is miserable and we have understood that he is the antithesis of the giving and kind Ghost presented in Stave 3. The Ghost is commanding in his presence, not only in the appearance, but in the imperative “Look upon me.” that he says to Scrooge and this could be to highlight the way in which the Ghost can manipulate people into being more cheerful and stopping their fights. Scrooge and the readers are affected by his kind demeanour and the way that he uses his “Plenty’s horn” later in Stave 3 to sprinkle incense on the poorest families and allow them to go about their Christmas business in a slightly happier and more joyful manner. Choosing the poorest in society is deliberate, as it highlights the vast gap between the wealthy and the poor and reinforces the idea that Dickens was writing to highlight the plight of this group of people. At the time the Poor Law, which was supposed to help them, was actually responsible for sending people to the Workhouses, which was shameful and for many a fate worse than death, as once in these institutions it was very difficult to break free from the cycle of poverty and we see the Ghost showing Scrooge the effects of Poverty in Stave 3 in the visit to the bowels of the earth, the Cratchit family and at the end when the two children are described as wolfish and we see “Want and Ignorance” as a symbol of all that is wrong with society.

After the benevolence and jolly figure of the Ghost of the Present we are introduced to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who is a “hooded figure” that appears to be reflective of the grim reaper and death. This idea is reinforced by the events that Scrooge is shown, which arguably change him significantly. He is shown a grave, a bed with a dead person laid out and the whole time the ghost is a “silent figure” which reinforces the gothic nature of the novella. Of particular poignancy, is the way Tiny Tim’s death is shown as Bob Cratchit is seen to be diminished as a man and Scrooge shows emotion when he exclaims “Tell me, will he live?” showing that he has found within him some humanity and that he is beginning to repent of his previous uncharitable and miserly ways. Here, Scrooge recognises his own part in the debilitating illness that struck at the heart of the Cratchit family. Tim’s final words in the novel “God bless us everyone” to show that Scrooge has learnt the lessons of the Ghost and that he will “Live in the Past the present and the Future” as stated and repeated by Scrooge in Stave 4 and Stave 5 shows that the lessons the Ghosts came to enlighten him with, have been learnt. He will no longer be a miserable, loner and that his previous demeanour showed him as and he has now changed from being “solitary as an oyster” with the simile highlighting his loneliness and his pushing away of family to his being “like a second father” to Tiny Tim, showing everyone has the opportunity to change and grow.

Clearly, the ghosts are pivotal in manipulating Scrooge into his final epiphany, without all four ghosts the reader and Scrooge would not be influenced to transform and become a better man.

Why I love… The Anthology: Blog Series 21 – Resources & Essays @Eduqas_English

Previously, I’ve written about how I approach the different elements of the Anthology and how we, as a department, have chosen to split the poems. This blog is purely a collation of resources for the Anthology to make it easier for people to find. The links are all below and I hope that these are of use.

Word Document Essays: 





Here is a link to the poem blogs on the Eduqas Anthology, which covers how I’ve approached these poems and has essays on the process:

  • Blog Series 1 Link: Overview of Poetry Approach by the Department
  • Blog Series 2 Link: The Manhunt by Armitage
  • Blog Series 3 – Link: Sonnet 43 by Barrett Browning
  • Blog Series 4 – Link: London by Blake
  • Blog Series 5 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-r6 The Soldier by Brooke
  • Blog Series 6 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-rpShe Walks in Beauty by Byron
  • Blog Series 7 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-t2  – Living Space by Dharker
  • Blog Series 8 – Link: As Imperceptibly as Grief by Dickenson
  • Blog Series 9 – Link:  Cozy Apologia by Dove
  • Blog Series 10 – Link Valentine by Duffy
  • Blog Series 11 – Link A Wife in London by Hardy
  • Blog Series 12 – Link Death of a Naturalist by Heaney
  • Blog Series 13 – Link Hawk Roosting by Hughes
  • Blog Series 14 – Link To Autumn by Larkin
  • Blog Series 15 – Link Afternoons by Larkin
  • Blog Series 16 – Link Dulce et Decorum Est by Owen
  • Blog Series 17 – Link Ozymandias by Sheers
  • Blog Series Context – Link to the Context on War Poetry Blog
  • Blog Series 18 – Link to Mametz Wood by Sheers
  • Blog Series 19 –Link to Excerpt from The Prelude by Wordsworth

Why I love…Blog Series 20: Comparative Essay Approach for Poetry

In my previous blogs on the subject of approaching poems I have focused purely on the teaching of the poem and how I go about ensuring the students understand the poem as a single unit and then how to apply this understanding in a single poem essay. The other important component that I haven’t mentioned is the way that I look at comparing poems. I don’t (as may be suggested by the previous blogs) teach all the poems in isolation. Instead as I am teaching a ‘cluster’ of poems I might teach two or three poems in isolation and then pause the single poem lessons and focus for a couple of lessons on how to compare, in order to ensure that both skills are given equal weight. Obviously, comparing can only be done once the students have sufficient knowledge of at least two poems!

As we teach the poems in the following ‘clusters’:

  • War – Dulce et Decorum Est, The Manhunt, The Soldier, A Wife In London and Mametz Wood
  • Place – London, Living Space, Ozymandias, As Imperceptibly as Grief, Afternoons
  • Love – Valentine, Cozy Apologia, Sonnet 43, She Walks in Beauty,
  • Nature – To Autumn, Excerpt from the Prelude, Death of a Naturalist, Hawk Roosting

These ‘clusters’ were not easy to categorise and are by no means perfect. We, as a department, are torn with several of the placements every time we teach them, but they are in a ‘best fit’ arrangement and so far teaching them in these small clusters has worked for our students. When we do the comparative element as a whole Anthology once all are taught and when we go back to revise the poems, we try to ensure that students have a wider understanding of how all the poems cross over and how they can compare poems across the whole Anthology and not just sticking rigidly to the clusters we have used for teaching purposes.

How do I approach comparisons?

First, I will ask the students to think of similarities and differences between the two poems. I’ll get them to create two columns in their books and come up with as many as they can. Then, I’ll gather feedback and ask them to add to their own notes – I’ll write this up on the board as I take the feedback to allow students to listen and copy. As I go along getting feedback or after the feedback, I’ll question them about the activity and see how they managed to come up with the similarities and differences and try to get them to start thinking about how the ideas in the poem compare.

  • How did you select that point/idea/come up with that?
  • What made you think of that?
  • What was it about the poem that helped you make that contrast/connection?
  • Were there any quotes that made you see that similarity/difference?
  • How could you expand on that idea?

By doing this during or after the feedback I am hopefully encouraging the students to think about the process of comparing, before I have even introduced the idea of comparing. Then, I’ll ask them how they can compare the poems? Hopefully, at this point they can see that the process is already started.

Next, I will ask them how many comparative points they think they need to make and get them to think about the analysis skills that they need to use. I’ll remind them (or, rather get them to remind me) of the prompts we use and I’ll ask them what else they will need for comparing in their ‘toolkit’.

The analysis prompts will then look like this:

  • Link to the question
  • Link to the terminology (Lang/Structure – evaluating choice)
  • Short Quote(s)
  • Explain meaning and effect – both obvious and hidden (explicit and implicit)
  • Zoom in on words/explore connotations and effect
  • Suggest what other readers might think/feel (offering an alternative opinion)
  • Link to the writer’s intentions (step out from the close analysis to give an overview of meaning)
  • Link to context
  • Explore a linking quote/supporting idea
  • Use a connective of comparison or contrast to move on

Here, depending on the group I will ask them to have a go at writing a comparison paragraph and might give them some sentence starters or prompts to get going like this example below:

Some useful sentence starters (anything in brackets is where you have to put your own thoughts)

  • In (enter poem name) war is presented by/as…
  • The poet (name of poet) uses (language technique) to show us _______________… in the(quote here)
  • This suggests/implies/infers that…
  • When you look closely at (choose a word from the quote) it shows…
  • However, this is the same/different to (enter poem name) when war is presented by…
  • The (quote) that shows this is…
  • It suggests…
  • Perhaps, they are trying to show/suggest/imply…

Or, if the class needs more scaffolding I might model live with the class how to go about comparing the two poems. In this instance I will either use metacognition to unpick the process with the class, or ask for the class to participate in the building of the model. The class building the model will involve me asking them what would work next and exploring a range of options including some and rejecting others, while I explain why I am choosing and losing some ideas. As we are doing this I might use the visualiser to model, model on the board or type straight onto a document to print as an example. If I have written on the board I will ask the student to copy the example down and then ask them to spend a few minutes annotating the stages of the model development (linked to the analysis steps). Then, I will ask them to explain in their own words what you do to compare.

Also, I will use pre-prepared examples as well to get the students to unpick independently what the model is showing without the extra level of support provided through the modelling process.

An example of a pre-prepared model and task related to this is here:

Comparison Example:

Task – Can you find these examples in the comparison paragraph below? (Underline & annotate the examples with the number as you find them)

  1. A link or contrast being made between both poems
  2. 2 poems being mentioned in the example
  3. Quotes from both poems
  4. Information about the way war/conflict is presented?
  5. Analysis of the quote – explanation of the meaning
  6. Zooming in on words and exploring these
  7. Mention of the language technique or what type of word it is (terminology used)
  8. Comparison connectives
  9. High level skill – being tentative

Both poems Dulce et Decorum Est and The Manhunt show conflict leads to suffering. In Dulce, Owen presents war and conflict as being painful and horrific. He uses a simile for example “like old beggars under sacks.” This is effective because it makes me think that the men are feeling old, tired and it has gone on too long. The key adjective here is “beggars” because it makes the men sound homeless and as if their clothes are in shreds. The reader may feel sympathy for them as they have clearly suffered. This is different to The Manhunt and Armitage, which presents conflict as being painful after the war. He uses metaphors for example “porcelain collar-bone” This is effective because it makes you understand how delicate his bones are and how easily they broke when he was shot. Similarly, to Dulce… the reader is made to feel sympathy again for the man because he also suffered horrific injuries when war was supposed to have finished. Both poems present ideas of pain and suffering caused by conflict effectively with the use of imagery.

Task – Explain what is good about this example:

Explain what could be improved about this example and why:

Once students have had the opportunity to work through and plan a comparison paragraph thinking about what quotes/ideas they might use from the poem (which are different to the examples provided) I will ask them to have a go at their own comparison paragraph. At this point they will have a worksheet or information in front of them in their books or on the board that guides them through the process. As they are writing their example I will circulate the class, prompting, encouraging and reading so that I can offer live feedback and help the students who may be struggling to write what they think down.

At the end of the writing process I will get students to swap and peer assess and explore which of the steps they have included by annotating in green pen (so that the student can see what has been said easily). Then, I will get them to explain the good points of their partner’s example and what could be better next time? Here, I will encourage sharing of examples and ask partners to read out any examples they have read that they thought were good, have promise and are getting there and share these for the class to hear a range of ideas.

This is where I will probably mark the paragraphs, or read and complete a whole class feedback sheet, before going onto looking at the structure of a whole essay. When, I give them back this will involve self-assessment of how they did and some DIRT task to improve the work or identify and apply next steps.

The final step in the comparative process is looking at how a whole comparative essay might be structured. To do this I will ask the class for their input and feedback on what they think a whole essay will look like and then process this live with the class. Mostly, they have a good idea and I will remind them of previous essays they have done to try to get them to think about their prior knowledge of essay writing.  Collaboratively, as a class we will come up with a structure for the essay which will look like this:

  • Intro – Introduce both poems, use the surnames of the poets, give a brief overview of both poems meaning and link the poems by stating if, or, how they are similar or different.
  • Main section – Analyse the second poem and link back to poem 1 (remember analysis means – explain what you think linked to the question, techniques, quotes, connectives of comparison, meaning, effect, context & zoom in) connective to move onto next poem.
  • Comparing – Use connectives of comparison as you move between poems
  • High level skills – linking forward (creating a summative point about both poems to start your analysis points) and linking back (creating a final idea with a summative point about both poems to end your analysis point.) Being tentative (using modal verbs to show you are aware that there are degrees of certainty in your analysis)
  • Tip for comparing – When you link between the poems (compare/contrast) ensure you are comparing ideas/language/structure and stay focused on the question.
  • Conclude – main points you have made. Brief summary of your ideas

At this point I will share some advice on what the best essays include and remind the students of stamina and resilience and cover some of the common questions that come up.

  • How many quotes? Cover a minimum of 6 quotes for each poem, so that you have covered a range of ideas across the poem and never ignore the start and end of the poem
  • What if I get stuck? Re-read the poem – highlight quotes
  • What if I can’t get started? Remind yourself of the analysis points (write the codes in the margin as a reminder)
  • Quote advice – always choose short and snappy quotes – they are generally much better for rich analysis as you can get to the heart of the meaning. Split longer quotes into small bite size chunks and develop your analysis using inter-linked quotes. Choose quotes that you understand. Choose quotes that are rich in imagery. Choose quotes that create an effect. Choose quotes that allow some zooming in on specific words. Inter-link quotes from across the poem (if an idea can be supported from a quote later on in the poem use it, as this is a higher level skill)

The quote selection advice will have been heard before, but a reiteration of how to do this is useful I think before approaching a larger essay.

Before getting started on a whole essay I have a planning sheet for comparative essays that I will share with classes, dependent on whether they need this or not. The idea behind the comparative sheet is to get the students to think about different elements of the poem that they can write about in the introduction, main section and conclusion of the essay. Once students have independently worked on this: Comparison Essay Planning Chartsee attached I will model an introduction on the board using a different pairing of poems and get students started.

As the students get more used to comparing I will begin to remove this scaffolding and use aspects of it dependent on the class and the individual students in the class. The approach that I have outlined in this blog is a consistent approach that I try to use throughout any comparison work in order to embed routine and so that students know all the elements of good comparisons every time they approach an anthology comparison poem or an unseen poem comparison. I will add and take away the layers of scaffolding as appropriate and try to ensure that by the time the students are in Y11 and ready to do their exams that these elements of approaching a comparative essay are so well embedded in their long term memories that I don’t have to remind them. At this point they should be able to look at the question, which we will have unpicked and highlighted each time a new question for comparison is introduced to them and be able to get down to the essay with no prompts.

Resources that go with this blog (although a lot of this work mentioned above is done with the help of a whiteboard and a pen):

Comparing poems – with example

Comparison Example

Although, this is specific to the comparative element of the Eduqas Anthology I think this is a transferable method of approaching comparisons for any exam board and any element of comparison in the study of English.

I hope that this is interesting. I haven’t written a comparison essay example for this blog, unlike previous blogs, but in the final blog in this series I will endeavour to bring together all the resources that I have mentioned throughout the series in one blog post. I will also include all examples of comparison essays for the Eduqas Anthology that I have in the next and final blog of this series.

Here is a link to the other poem blogs on the Eduqas Anthology:

  • Blog Series 1 Link: Overview of Poetry Approach by the Department
  • Blog Series 2 Link: The Manhunt by Armitage
  • Blog Series 3 – Link: Sonnet 43 by Barrett Browning
  • Blog Series 4 – Link: London by Blake
  • Blog Series 5 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-r6 The Soldier by Brooke
  • Blog Series 6 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-rpShe Walks in Beauty by Byron
  • Blog Series 7 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-t2  – Living Space by Dharker
  • Blog Series 8 – Link: As Imperceptibly as Grief by Dickenson
  • Blog Series 9 – Link:  Cozy Apologia by Dove
  • Blog Series 10 – Link Valentine by Duffy
  • Blog Series 11 – Link A Wife in London by Hardy
  • Blog Series 12 – Link Death of a Naturalist by Heaney
  • Blog Series 13 – Link Hawk Roosting by Hughes
  • Blog Series 14 – Link To Autumn by Larkin
  • Blog Series 15 – Link Afternoons by Larkin
  • Blog Series 16 – Link Dulce et Decorum Est by Owen
  • Blog Series 17 – Link Ozymandias by Sheers
  • Blog Series Context – Link to the Context on War Poetry Blog
  • Blog Series 18 – Link to Mametz Wood by Sheers
  • Blog Series 19 –Link to Excerpt from The Prelude by Wordsworth

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Why I love…Re-evaluating for #Wellbeing

This year has been an interesting shift for me. My work life balance was called into question (rightfully) and I had to take a long hard look at how I prioritise and what impact the way I have been working in the past has had on the people I love.

Foe context purposes: I have a partner of 18 years, a 16 year old and a 14 year old at home and they have made me consider how I work and whether my own work ethic and desire for perfection is selfish or not (Spoiler – it is selfish and has been). Truthfully, in the past I have been guilty of putting work first and doing too much, not because I have to, rather because I want to. It isn’t the fault of my school or my department or my colleagues and I’m able to recognise that it is down to me. If i’m honest with myself I’ve always tended to over-work and have ridiculously high expectations of what I can fit into my time. I’m not telling you this for sympathy, but I’m sure there will be many teachers who have had similar conversations with loved ones and recognise the workaholic in themselves!

What have I done to change my balance?

Nothing spectacular I’m afraid. I’ve tried, however to exercise more common sense about what I do and when I do it and a lot of the changes I’ve made are about addressing my own time management. I’m not doing more or doing less, just doing it differently!

I’m an early bird and always have been, so I’ve made sure that I always get into school at 7.30 and make use of the morning to ensure that my lessons are planned, resourced and sorted and to faff about with any admin tasks that are pressing. I sort my week out in advance on a Sunday and tweak as I go along using the time in the morning for this, rather than doing it in the evening at home. In terms of doing things differently this has just meant getting a coffee on the way into work, rather than making one in the work room. I still say hello to everyone and have a morning chat with people, but I am more focused with this time and it has had a pleasant knock on effect.

Making the most of my time in work, this may sound silly, but has been a key to my next point and fits with my first point as well. I always take a lunch break (can’t cope without my lunch), but I make sure that I use the time I have more wisely at break and lunch time and when I have a free. I will catch up on e-mails, work on my to-do list and try to generally be more efficient in the school day.

Marking is and always will have a huge time impact. I have tried to use some of the time after school (in school) to work on a set of books or to mark a set of essays. One of the biggest changes though is being more judicious about what I mark and how I mark. Throughout the year I have used whole class marking more effectively to reduce the time I physically spend marking books. Using the whole class marking feedback template by @MrThortonTeach has been a massive time saver for me. I can read, prepare a feedback sheet and have a very good idea of what I need to focus on to re-teach or go over or focus my DIRT tasks on and it only takes an hour, whereas fine marking a set of assessments or books takes me between three and four hours. This has been so useful and I have tweaked the way I do it depending on the class and what I want them to then go on and do. (A link to my blog on this process is here: https://susansenglish.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/why-i-lovewhole-class-feedback-other-time-saving-feedback-strategies)

Feedback is another area where I’ve been more focused and I have adapted an idea from @amforrester1 on having generic, but specific DIRT tasks for units. This is in process, but I’ve found this really useful, as it means I have tasks ready for students based on common unit problems and I don’t have to continually reinvent the wheel.

Sharing resources in the department and using Twitter blogs and resources to help me has been another major time saver. As a department this isn’t new, we’ve always shared our resources and had a very well stocked and organised VLE, but in the past I haven’t always made the most effective use of this. Now, before I begin planning or working on an idea I will have a quick search to see if there is something similar that I can tweak. I don’t have to resource from scratch all the time and I learn from others, which has got to be a winner. The same is true of Twitter. The sharing is phenomenal and I will download resources (thank the person sharing) and then adapt to suit what I want to do or need to do. @Team_English1 ran by @Shadylady222 and @NooPuddles deserve the biggest ever shout out for all they do to help with this.

I have increased the amount of live modelling and live marking I do. Using a visualiser in the classroom has had a knock on impact for me. I’m much more confident and happy to live model or live mark and see instant impact with this and this frees up my time elsewhere, so is really useful. (A link to my blog on this process is here: https://susansenglish.wordpress.com/2017/10/15/why-i-love-live-modelling-for-across-the-curriculum) Live marking is an area that I’m really interested in becoming more confident with and I’ll be exploring this with my classes over the next few months, but live modelling has certainly been a game changer for me.

Using a one slide PowerPoint is another handy time saving tip. Instead of creating lengthy (and often overly complicated) slide shows I either don’t use them at all and have a short sequence in my planner of the lesson with resources printed or I keep them simple. Using a one slide PowerPoint means that I can plan and be prepped within 10 minutes.

What have I gained?

More time and less guilt would be the main things. I’m spending more time with my family and that can only ever be a good thing.

From a schedule point of view I have been pretty rigid with my time. I will work alternative evenings in the week. So, if I work Monday night (and often I will join the @Engchatuk which I count as work related), then Tuesday night is a night of keeping my computer tucked away and my books firmly snuggled up at school. Then, I will use a couple of hours on a Sunday to prepare for the week ahead, as this works for me. However, if my partner (who works shifts) is off Sunday and working Saturday I will switch so that Friday night and one weekend day is completely free of work.

I’ve also gained a better perspective. I’ve realised that I can be as effective and productive by doing things differently. I’ve taken more time off over the holidays as well to recharge and reinvigorate.

What next for my own wellbeing?

I’m quickly approaching 40! How did that happen? Only one more year to go and I’d like to be 40 and fit, not 40 and fat! In a previous life I was a bit of an exercise freak and I’d like to think that this year I will reclaim my love of exercise. I have more time so this should be do-able.

I also love cooking and am determined to eat fresh and healthy, so that’ll mean no more cake baking for a while.

Spending more quality time with people I love. My sister had a baby on Christmas Day (that was a bit of a panic inducing moment), so I’d like to think that I will be able to spend time with her and the rest of my family too.

I’m not trying to be evangelical about the changes I’ve made, but hope by sharing this it can give a flavour of some of the things that can be done to readdress work life balances that have gone a bit skew-whiff!

Have I got it right? Probably not yet, but at least it is on my radar and will continue to be and I’d like to think that my life has a bit more balance now.

Image result for work life balance

Why I Love…Christmas in A Christmas Carol

The lovely @MrsSpalding asked for people to get involved in mini-lectures for English and I volunteered (not sure why, as I have never had any desire to record myself speaking or my face previously and I’m not sure whether I do now!). It has taken considerable time for me to get the nerve up to actually do this and I have now uploaded the video to the GCSE channel. Here is what I prepared in order to try and do this weighty topic justice. I hope that I haven’t repeated myself too much, or indeed left out some of the more significant elements of Christmas that Dickens uses in the novel. I really do love the book and I love teaching it, so I hope that this is interesting.


First up – the name. It has religious significance ‘A Christmas Carol’ this is a song sung in church to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Therefore the name takes on symbolic significance straight away. Everyone at the time would have understood that Christmas was a time for charity, giving and support for the poorest in society, therefore understanding that symbolically Scrooge is the antithesis of this.

A Christmas Carol’s name symbolically can also represent; festivity, joy and celebration as not only a family, but as a family in the blessing of God and further as a part of the whole of humanity. In the eyes of God we are all the same and allegorically this could be part of Dickens message and the reason he uses wealth and poverty as key underpinning themes in the novel to reinforce this Christian message and the fact that God had sent Jesus to save us and even this unselfish act had little to no impact.

Christmas as a traditional day of celebration is the day when Jesus was born and Christians around the world celebrate this on the 25th of December. However, the story is set on Christmas Eve; the night before who was sent by God to save mankind was born, implying that Christmas Eve also holds symbolic significance. As we know Mary and Joseph travelled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to pay their taxes. They had nowhere to stay and the inn keeper took pity on them, allowing them to pass the night in his barn with the animals and so it came to pass that the baby Jesus was born surrounded by animals and in an extremely humble dwelling, suggesting that all men are equal in the eyes of God. Parallels here with Scrooge are significant, as he too takes a journey on Christmas Eve, in fact he takes 3 journeys; into The Past, a look at The Present and a journey into the bleak and unforgiving Future and perhaps this is why it is so significant that his epiphany and great change happens on Christmas morning a time when traditionally we celebrate equally with all men and forget our differences.

In the novel we are introduced to Scrooge’s character and the significance of the season of goodwill through the pathetic fallacy used to explore Scrooge’s character traits “He carried his own low temperature always about him; …and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas, showing us that Scrooge is miserly, unpleasant and difficult throughout the entire year and chooses not to alter his persona in relation to societal expectations. The pathetic fallacy may also reinforce the harsh bitterness of the winter that people faced in these times and show us that men like Scrooge, who were fortunate enough to have wealth could if they choose alleviate some of the pain and suffering in society. In this way Scrooge is showing the neglectful and wilfully degenerative nature of man that God was trying, with his son Jesus, as a messenger to change. Scrooge juxtaposes everything that Christmas and Christianity is about. His God is shown very clearly in the next reference to Christmas “Of all the good days of the year, on Christmas Eve – Old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house” showing that his ‘idol’ or God is a ‘golden’ one; wealth, even at this time of year where all others are looking forward to family time and not working he continues to scrabble away in his offices poring over the accounts and his business, alone, except for his long-suffering clerk Bob, who could be said to represent humanity and the positive, Christian and charitable side of Christmas.

Even the normal cheerful “Merry Christmas” doesn’t escape Scrooge’s tirade of merciless unhappiness and pessimism. He states “I’ll retire to Bedlam” the well know asylum commonly used for the lowest and most unfortunate in society, to show how desperately against Christmas he is while exclaiming about having to pay a wage for his clerk to have a day off – that day being Christmas Day, when all will be celebrating with their families. Furthermore, when the symbolically charitable “two Portly Gentlemen” call on Scrooge he exclaims “Are there no prisons?”, Are there no workhouses?” knowing fully that there are and that the conditions in those are the worst possible and that no man, woman or child would voluntarily go there to seek shelter, unless they had absolutely no other choice. In this way Dickens reminds us that poverty is rife in London and that some wealthy people were trying to amend the fortunes of the poor; however it was not having the impact it should due to the slow changing attitudes of society and the self-serving nature of some of the people who could promote change. The division of wealth and poverty is further reinforced due to the nature of the season. It is supposed to be about charity and giving, instead we see that for Scrooge it feels like an excuse to try to rob him of some of his wealth, a thought process that goes against the charitable nature of the Christmas season. It would be impossible to look at the importance of Christmas without thinking about the significance of religion in the novel and in the first stave we see the scripture brought to life in the tiles of Scrooge’s fireplace “Cain and Abel” the biblical story linked to ‘Am I my brother’s keeper’ which came about as a result of the murder of Abel by Cain, who was left to regret this his entire lifetime, perhaps being a symbol for the wealthy (including Scrooge’s) treatment of their brothers (as in the brotherhood of mankind).

One critic Writer and renowned Dickens expert GK Chesterton perhaps best summed up how the great author’s romantic view of Christmas has permeated throughout the world, which shows that Dickens portrayal of a white Christmas in ACC has had a long lasting impression through the generations. Furthermore, in one of the dialogues between Marley and Scrooge we see Marley acknowledge his blindness to the meaning of Christmas “and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?” showing the significance of the birth of Jesus Christ considered the Lord and the Saviour. However, this presentation of Marley as a repentant man of business goes against the idea that Dickens is presenting a romantic view of Christmas. Interestingly, the critic is talking more about the idea of a White Christmas which is an idealised version of Christmas, but which did happen for 8 years in a row in Dickens lifetime, so was in fact inspired by his own real life experiences. Marley is thought to be walking in purgatory and has done for seven years which is a belief held by some Christians and acts as a place where ones sins and wrongdoings can be cleansed ready to be accepted into heaven. However, it is interesting that it is the eve of Christmas that we are introduced to the idea of heaven, hell and purgatory by Dickens and could reinforce the superstitions of people of the time, who were much more heavily influenced by Christian teachings than we are today. To introduce the idea of Marley as a sinner and someone not deserving of a place in heaven particularly at Christmas times seems cruel and heartless, however we know that Marley is representative of the fate of Scrooge. Therefore, we have the idea that Christmas is a time for change and a time to repent and turn over a new leaf in order to be welcomed back into the mainstream of society and perhaps into the fold of the church. Dickens may be using Christmas as a vehicle to show that everyone, including religion have a part to play in the mending of society and that no matter what material goods you have or do not have, no matter what religion you are or are not we are all a part of humanity and should treat others with respect and kindness.

Kindness is shown by the Ghost of the Past. He is represented to be a candle flickering and at times too bright to show Scrooge the errors of his ways and to show Scrooge how he was in the past. How this may link to Christmas if that in church we “light a candle for someone” to indicates our intention to say a prayer for another person, and the candle symbolizes that prayer. Here in ACC the symbolic reference to a candle can be seen to have connotations of the ghost being the bringer of light to Scrooge’s life. It is almost as if someone has said a prayer for Scrooge’s repentance and the first ghost is representative of this.

In Stave 2 we see the season used as a way of showing how Scrooge has some connections with his own feelings showing that Christmas itself can bring out the best in even the most miserable of people “Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other a Merry Christmas” showing perhaps that Scrooge is capable of simple human emotions, which was not obvious in stave 1. We also see this idea of Scrooge becoming more in tune with the seasons intentions when he wants to give the carol singer “something”. Christmas cheer and the role of the employer in ensuring equitable and fair conditions for their employees is also shown in Stave 2 with the party that Fezziwig holds for the staff. Here, Christmas is used as an opportunity to celebrate with everyone and to allow the workers to have a great time, meaning that they may be more productive and loyal. It is interesting that Scrooge has forgotten these events and shows that he once enjoyed the season himself.

In Dickens third stave we see the ghost of the present as a “jolly Giant” which conjures imagery of a benevolent Father Christmas, which is reinforced by the sprinkling of Christmas cheer that he bestows on the most unfortunate. Christmas here is an opportunity for sharing and caring and he reinforces this throughout the stanza when he shows the most unfortunate in society enjoying their meagre surroundings, food and gifts, because they are with others who they care about. This makes a mockery of Stave 1 where Scrooge rejected his own family (Fred) by refusing his kind invite to share Christmas Day with them. In this Stave we see the true meaning of Christmas reflected in the way Tiny Tim reacts, despite the hardships, poverty and illness he suffers from while on the way home from church he reflects that “might be pleasant for them to remember on Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see” which is a wisdom that belies his youth and shows that the stories from the bible have permeated into society and should act as a reminder of how to behave humanely and towards each other. Many other references are made to Christmas, the importance of family and the way in which the season should be reflected in humanities actions in this stave.

As the book progresses and we see the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who symbolically represents an impression of the grim reaper and doesn’t talk we see Scrooge change and recognise that he has to learn and he has to change or he will die and the purgatory that Marley suffers from will be his fate too! We see the death of Tiny Tim, which seems to take the heart out of the Cratchit family and at the end of the Stave Scrooge decrees “ I will keep Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year” which shows that he has realised the error of his ways. The repetition of this at the start of Stave 5 and his redemption throughout the final stave of the book also reinforces the idea that Christmas can be a new start, Jesus was sent from heaven by God as his only son to redeem humanity and this redemption is shown in the change and epiphany that Scrooge has. His transformation in Stave 5 and his promise to ‘”live in the Past, the Present and the Future” shows that Dickens believes anyone is able to change and that remembering the meaning of Christmas is pivotal in this change process. Scrooge’s actions throughout the final stave show that Christmas has a humbling effect and promotes the idea that we are all equal in the eyes of god. Interestingly the final lines of the novel are given to Tiny Tim, who does not die, which was his fate had Scrooge not changed “God bless Us, every One!” showing the important allegorical meaning of the novel to live a good life, with god in your heart and keeping Christmas spirit in your heart all year round, because in this way you are showing care for others.

One critic Stephanie Williams states: “Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Told Uncomfortable Truths About Victorian Society,” which I believe summarises the way Dickens reflects on what has happened in society and in our modern less Christian and less religious society it still rings true today and the message Dickens was promoting about Christmas still has real significance.

Finally, I hope that while I may have not covered everything in this blog, that I have done the subject some justice and that the mini-lecture is of some interest as well.

Thanks for reading and thanks to Caroline for giving me the push to create my one and only English based video – it is actually harder than I thought it would be. I’m not a natural in front of the camera!


Why I love…Blog Series 19: Excerpt from The Prelude by Wordsworth

This poem is one that I find tricky to get students engaged with. The fact that it is only a short snippet from a larger poem doesn’t help (I think) as we are only getting one little part of the larger autobiographical picture that is presented in the whole poem. However, I love the sense of freedom and space and the feeling of being at one with nature that is presented in the poem. Having visited the Lake District I can understand the sense that Wordsworth gives of being fully engaged with nature as the landscape is just beautiful and makes you feel as though you are lost in time.

How do I approach the poem?

First, I will project a range of pictures onto the board and ask the students to decide how they feel based on each of the pictures with a reason why. I’ll project an ice skater, a church bell tower, an idyllic cottage with the fire blazing in the window and mountains in the Lake District. See slide one of the PowerPoint. Then, I will take feedback and explain that Wordsworth was greatly influenced by the natural world around him as a basic starting point and a context pointer and ask the students if any of them have been to The Lake District and whether they can explain the landscape and why this might have influenced Wordsworth. If no-one has been to The Lake District in the class I will explain what it is like and give a little anecdote of my own holidays there and the beauty and feeling of being in another world that prevails when you are ensconced in that part of the world.

Then, I’ll explain that the Excerpt from The Prelude is a short snippet from the larger autobiographical poem and ask students to work out how old they think the poet is during this section of the poem. This is when we will read the poem. I will get feedback on the age of the poet and then ask students to focus on working out what the story is. To do this, I will ask them to decide how the pictures they saw earlier match with the poem and to work on lines 1 – 5, 6 – 10, 11 – 15 and 16 to the end of the poem to decide what happens in each section of the poem. This is where I will take feedback from a range of students. Hopefully, they will identify that the poet is fairly young and carefree at the start of the poem, with no worries or problems, that he is ice-skating with friends and doesn’t want the fun to end, that there is a metaphor for hunting in the poem and that the surrounding views are overwhelming for the young poet so that they become the focus for the poet at the end of the poem.

At this point, I will ask students to decide what the theme(s) in the poem is and why they think this. We will feedback and begin to look at the way the poem is structured and the language more closely. I will ask students to annotate using prompt questions to help them understand the language and the meaning in the poem. Here I will remind them that the poem is a short snippet, not the whole thing and ask them what this might suggest about the events in the poem.

Prompt Questions for exploring the Excerpt from The Prelude:

  • What is the weather like?
  • What tone is implied through the weather?
  • How is a sense of space created in L2 of the poem?
  • How do we know he doesn’t want to go home? What does this suggest about his state of mind?
  • What is “rapture”?
  • What does it suggest about his mind set at this point in the poem?
  • How is a sense of movement created in the poem?
  • Where is there a sense of danger/darkness?
  • How is sound used in throughout the poem? (choose a range of examples to explore and explain the effect of)
  • What are the ‘precipices’?
  • Why did they “rang aloud”?
  • What time of year does it appear to be?
  • How is nature presented in the poem?
  • Where are verbs used to create a sense of urgency?
  • How are the hills made to seem strange or unusual and what effect does this have?
  • What tone or mood are you left with at the end of the poem?
  • Select 5 words or phrases to explore the connotations.
  • Are there any words or phrases that seem unfamiliar – can you use the context of the poem to work out what they mean?

Then, when the students have spent time discussing, annotating and focusing on the poem, I will take feedback from them. However, as they are working on the poem using the prompt questions I will circulate around the room and ask students to explain their responses and what they think Wordsworth was trying to say in the poem. As well as doing this, if I hear something excellent or have a point to make of clarification, or get the same question several times, I will stop the class and give them a tip, pointer or direct their understanding. In this way I hope that the students will be on the right tracks and exploring independently, but still with the knowledge that they are being directed in to analyse well and without going off track.

At this point (after the feedback) I will ask students: what do you think Wordsworth’s key considerations in life were? This question is designed to lead into the contextual information and I will guide and prompt the students in my questioning to think about nature and innocence.

The Context Information

I will share the following information with the students and ask them to relate it to the poem.

  • William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) born in the Lake District which hugely influences his writing. He explores nature and the great outdoors
  • The Lake District is a place of stunning natural beauty, filled with lakes, forests and a hilly landscape
  • He was an influential Romantic poet
  • His poems along with his sister Dorothy and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s collection The Lyrical Ballads marked the start of the Romantic Movement
  • Romantics changed the way people thought about art and writing
  • Romantic Poets thought of nature as awe-inspiring and worshipped the beauty of nature due to the size and power nature held
  • This poem is semi – autobiographical
  • This part of the poem is from Book 1 of this epic poem – relaying his experiences as a boy between the ages of 5 to 10 years old
  • His mother died when he was aged 8 years old
  • His father died when he was 13
  • The poem was published after he died (posthumously)

Once we have discussed the context and how this might relate to the poem, I will live model a paragraph on the board which uses context embedded in the analysis and ask the students to explore which of the steps have been included. At this stage I won’t give the students the analysis steps as I will ask them to show that they understand this by annotating for the important analysis considerations without the prompts from me.

The Live Model Example

Wordsworth shows that as a romantic poet he was preoccupied with the world around him and the idea that nature was bigger than human nature by itself. He does this by exploring the sensory images relating to sound in “distant hills…sent an alien sound” which implies that nature seems at once familiar and unfamiliar. The noises created are “alien” connoting otherworldliness, a strange sound or sensation for the poet and a defamiliarisation of the well-known Lake District area that he grew up in.

When I get feedback from the students I’ll ask them to tell me what they have identified (this will be in relation to key analysis prompts that they know: Link to Question, Terminology, Quote, Analysis of Meaning – Implicit and Explicit and Zooming In, as well as Embedded Context) Then, I will prompt them to explain in relation to the context:

  • Where the context is embedded?
  • How is it embedded?
  • Why is it embedded like this?
  • What does it show you about using context?
  • What does it teach you to avoid when linking to context?
  • How can you use this model for your own context embedding?

Hopefully, this will be a good reminder that context should be embedded with the analysis and should never be a superficial add on effort and that for a sophisticated response it should be related to what is being analysed.

Then, I will get them to complete their own analysis of the poem, using the model as a guide and with prompts of what to include to ensure that they write about context. Then, I will ask them to swap and peer assess looking for the prompts that they have been working towards and saying what is good/what could be better or improved.

The Essay – How does Wordsworth create emotion in the poem Excerpt from The Prelude?

Wordsworth’s excerpt from The Prelude could be considered a snapshot into the thoughts and feelings the poet himself had during a moment of freedom skating on the outdoor lakes in the Lake District. Due to the semi-autobiographical element of this epic poem the reader can infer that these are thoughts and feelings he remembered having as he skated in the vast and sometimes overwhelming landscape.

This sense of Wordsworth finding the landscape overwhelming doesn’t begin till half way through the excerpt; however a sense of wonder at nature is evident from the start and these emotions are indicated throughout the poem in a range of ways. Pathetic Fallacy is used to perhaps create a melancholic mood in the introductory line “frosty season” implying it is cold, winter time and gives a sense of time being drawn out, as this is not just a day, but a whole ‘season’ being dedicated to the winter. Furthermore the enjambment in “sun/Was set” reinforces the time being stretched element, as well as indicating that daylight has gone and it is not dark yet, but that the young persona feels safe and content. Safety and belonging is suggested in the depiction of cosy cottages with “through the twilight blaz’d” giving an aura of calm as if the persona is looking at these and seeing home. However, the first person “I heeded not the summons” creates a small element of a rebellious natures, as if the persona does not want the fun to end and is happy and content to ignore the calls to come home, instead continuing to whizz around on the ice with friends. Perhaps, this reflection is in part recognition of the safety and security that Wordsworth had in his younger years, when his mother was alive to care for him; she died when he was eight years old and this may be shown in the way the poem is structured with the memory of being called to come in early on in the poem possibly to show that this was a time before his mother had died. The use of caesura in “- happy time” again suggests that the persona is untroubled and free to enjoy himself at this point in his life Emotions in these lines of the poem are linked to security, safety and a sense of belonging in the world.

As the poem progresses the poem is anchored using time “village clock toll’d six; which creates a slight sense of foreboding for the persona, as if this demarcation of time brings in a sense of reality. Interestingly, though this reality is still carefree and exciting as seen in the simile “Proud and exulting, like an untir’d horse” comparing his smooth journey across the ice to a regal and triumphant horse. This metaphor is continued with the “shod with steel” implying that the steel blades of the skates give them power and speed like that of a horse. A collective sense of fun and enjoyment of the skating is shown in the use of pronouns “We hiss’d along the polished ice” while the sibilance reinforces the swishing sound of the skates cutting through the ice as the friends skate quickly across the lake. The increased pace in the poem helps to begin to create a more sinister tone with the metaphorical hunt being implied as the friends glide along in “games/Confederate, imitative of the chace” which create a sense of them being hunted, as if they are prey or as if they are soldiers at war. Also, the hunting metaphor is extended to include the sounds “bellowing” implying a loud and frightening noise made by the pursuers, while the emotions of the “hunted hare” are implied as they run away in fear and terror of being caught. Throughout this metaphorical depiction of the skating a sense of being chased is created and the active verb “flew” implies that they were unable to be caught, as well as the commotion and noise in “not a voice was idle” implying that although this is an exciting and pleasurable experience for the friends there is an undercurrent of tension, due to the depiction of this as a hunt. Connotations of hunting are death, cruelty and loss of freedom therefore this may be symbolic for Wordsworth as a time when he was free, before he lost his freedom and security, and again this relates to the earlier emotions in the poem, but now with a sense of impending darkness.

This impending sense of darkness is enforced through the depiction of nature as the excerpt draws to a close. A real sense of awe of nature and slight fear at the size and power is shown towards the end of the poem and this could be a reflection of Wordsworth’s romantic views. As a romantic poet he believed that nature could transcend other preoccupations and this view seems to be shown in the poem. The hills are described using personification “the precipices rang aloud” with the plurality of the peaks creating a feeling that the sound and power of nature is overwhelming and almost too large. This preoccupation with the sound nature makes is reinforced in the exploration of sensory images relating to sound in “distant hills…sent an alien sound” which implies that nature seems at once familiar and unfamiliar. The noises created are “alien” connoting otherworldliness, a strange sound or sensation for the poet and a defamiliarisation of the well-known Lake District area that he grew up in. Wordsworth who would have been very young at this point in the poem shows an awareness of the power of nature and ends with a melancholic “orange sky of evening died away” to show that the sun has now set, but also to maybe show a feeling of isolation and loneliness at the end of this short excerpt from the poem.

The beauty and power of nature has been clearly reflected upon throughout the poem by Wordsworth and emotions seem to begin positive and happy at the start of the excerpt and become more thoughtful, more reflective and more pensive as the poem draws to a conclusion. Perhaps, the poet wanted to show that with age and experience the emotions we feel become deeper, change from freedom and innocence and take on a more sinister edge.

As always with these blogs I hope that they are useful and provide an insight into some of the ways the poems can be taught. This is the last ‘single’ poem blog on how I approach these poems for the Eduqas Anthology. I will also explore how I approach the comparative element and give some example comparisons and resources that I use to make the comparative element of these easier for the students, but I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging on the individual poems and feel that the reflection process is worthwhile for me as a teacher, regardless of whether these are useful to anyone else. I may also look at a couple of other approaches I take to help embed context with these poems as well, as I did look at starting with generalised war context and think that this is useful for the War Poem collection, but I also do an introduction to the Romantics as well which I think is useful for this collection.

Here is a link to the other poem blogs on the Eduqas Anthology:

  • Blog Series 1 Link: Overview of Poetry Approach by the Department
  • Blog Series 2 Link: The Manhunt by Armitage
  • Blog Series 3 – Link: Sonnet 43 by Barrett Browning
  • Blog Series 4 – Link: London by Blake
  • Blog Series 5 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-r6 The Soldier by Brooke
  • Blog Series 6 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-rpShe Walks in Beauty by Byron
  • Blog Series 7 – Link: http://wp.me/p7IWsi-t2  – Living Space by Dharker
  • Blog Series 8 – Link: As Imperceptibly as Grief by Dickenson
  • Blog Series 9 – Link:  Cozy Apologia by Dove
  • Blog Series 10 – Link Valentine by Duffy
  • Blog Series 11 – Link A Wife in London by Hardy
  • Blog Series 12 – Link Death of a Naturalist by Heaney
  • Blog Series 13 – Link Hawk Roosting by Hughes
  • Blog Series 14 – Link To Autumn by Larkin
  • Blog Series 15 – Link Afternoons by Larkin
  • Blog Series 16 – Link Dulce et Decorum Est by Owen
  • Blog Series 17 – Link Ozymandias by Sheers
  • Blog Series Context – Link to the Context on War Poetry Blog
  • Blog Series 18 – Link to Mametz Wood by Sheers
  • Blog Series 19 –Link to Excerpt from The Prelude by Wordsworth

Image result for the prelude by wordsworth ice skating