Why I Love… Live Modelling for across the curriculum

Earlier today I responded to this tweet:

I’m going to do this from the point of view of reading analysis, as this is something I use consistently and really is the bread and butter of teaching English both Language and Literature. When I am looking at analysis I will explore how to use the concise analysis model that we are using consistently across the department with students. I will explain how it works and may start giving students sentence starters to help them get started. Often I will also ask them if they want me to do an example with them. Generally, they will say yes and I will write on the board a model as I go through the model I will try to explicitly explain to them my thinking process. So, for example

  • Link to the question
  • Terminology
  • Quote
  • Meaning – hidden and obvious and effect
  • Zoom in
  • Writers’ intentions/effect on the reader

If we are looking at: How is Romeo presented in Romeo and Juliet?

The link to the question model will start with:

  • Shakespeare presents Romeo in a range of ways across the play; from lovesick, over the top and miserable in the initial scenes to decisive, loving and as a man of action later in the play.

 

I will explain as I write the first part of the model that I have linked to the question and explained how I think Romeo is presented. Then, I will build on this by using terminology and a quote to support the first part of the link to the question and then begin in the same sentence to explore meaning.

  • In the initial stages of the play Lord Montague speaks to Benvolio in a worried tone about Romeo’s propensity for weeping “with tears augmenting the morning dew.” showing us, perhaps, that Romeo is lovesick and pining for a woman he loves.

 

As I do this example I will explain that I am leading into the terminology and quote with an overview of what is happening in the scene and that the terminology “worried tone” is being used to support how the characters are feeling in the extract. I will explain the quote I am using is short and snappy and to the point, so that meaning can be teased out of the specificity of the quote. Then I will go onto explore how I am explaining meaning using academic language and a tentative style “showing us, perhaps” to begin to develop my exploration of what is being said in the quote. At this point I will also explain that this is an obvious meaning being explored. Next, I will begin to add to the hidden meaning in the example. Plus, I may start to zoom in on a word or phrase to explore the connotations implied in the word.

  • At this point we are unaware that this is Rosaline, a Capulet, who he should not be considering as a worthy love match; however the love is unrequited as she is rejecting him, causing his misery and tears of frustration and sadness. The verb “augmenting” suggests his tears are heavy, woeful and imply Romeo is full of self-pity.

 

As I go through the example I will explain why I am making conscious choices, such as telling the reader that I know his love is unrequited and that Rosaline is not a suitable choice of girlfriend, due to her affiliation with the Capulet family. Also, I will explain why it is “augmenting” that I choose to zoom in on, as it is the verb that suggests his intense pain and suffering and shows that he is crying a lot. Finally, I will begin to think about Shakespeare’s intentions and may explore these if this is worthwhile. As I do this, I will remind the class that they can leave out bits and that I have tried to avoid repeating the quote or the same phrase or idea and that I have tried to be concise in the way I have explored the quotes and ideas, so that I am analysing the way Romeo is presented at the start of the play, how this is done and why this is done.

  • Shakespeare could be indicating to men that it is okay to have emotional outbursts and that feelings of sadness, gloom and dismay are normal for young men. Emotionally, this type of outburst may have been seen as emasculatory at the time; however it could also be foreshadowing his later love at first sight with Juliet. By presenting Romeo in an overtly emotional way Shakespeare is enforcing the idea that Romeo is emotionally unstable and therefore perhaps slightly impetuous in his decisions.

 

As I have been modelling this to the class I will explain to them that I am trying to cover all the bases and ensure that they have (hopefully) seen the process of a really strong answer being modelled and that I don’t expect every part of the process to be used. I will also go over why I make particular vocabulary choices and what they mean as I am exploring the example. I’ll talk to them about why I want to use Shakespeare’s name to start sentences and how I am signposting to the reader my knowledge of the play. The whole live modelling process is for me to write an example with the class, while also exploring how I make my decisions. It does take practice to do it and I do cross bits out and rub bits off the board as I am doing it, as it is important that the students understand the writing process isn’t always perfect and that it can be changed and adapted as we progress.

I may type and print the live model for another lesson where we will look at it again and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the model, as this is a useful next step with live models. However, sometimes the students will write them in their book, other times, they will just use some of the sentences openers to help them get started themselves. Whatever, I do with the live model the importance of exploring the process is paramount.

Another way in which I live model is to ‘crowd source’ from the class. This means that I ask a series of questions and build an example with the whole class. This is trickier to manage, but is definitely another worthwhile way of live modelling. Often I will start with questions like: Can anyone tell me how Romeo is presented at the start of the play and is this the same of different to anywhere else? Is there a quote that you can remember from the start that shows this behaviour? Okay, how would we write that as a sentence to start the example? Then, as I’m writing the example and taking feedback from the class I will ask them to evaluate the choices of language and sentence structures by writing the first answer and then saying is there anything we could change or adapt to make this more concise or is there a word choice that we could adapt to make the answer more effective. In this way I’m not criticising the initial choice, but encouraging the students to think hard about whether they should always just go with the first answer they come up with or whether they should evaluate the choices they have made and adapt the words, sentences or ideas to create a better, more concise and more coherent answer.

Although I have explored how I use live modelling from the perspective of analysis in the classroom for English this technique is useful across the whole curriculum, I think. I also have a HUE visualiser that I use and will write at the same time as the class and then compare. Students tend to enjoy seeing how much I can do at the same time as them and then trying to ‘do more’ so I find live modelling really does spur on classes to try really hard.

I believe that this process could work in any lesson where students need to be able to write in a specific way. As an example: answers for Science have to be evaluative and often students would benefit from seeing an ‘expert’ modelling how they would go about the process of evaluating a scientific experiment. Writing in a specific way is also key to success across the curriculum in many subjects and just having the benefit of an expert unpicking the way to go about this can be the difference between students floundering with a style of writing that they are unfamiliar with or succeeding, because they have had the whole process modelled, unpicked and taught to them explicitly. I believe that Live Modelling well has an element of metacognition inherent in it, as when you are going through the process as the teacher, by typing it up on the front as a PowerPoint or word document, or writing using the visualiser or just using a good old fashioned white board and pen, you are explicitly explaining your thought process as you go through creating the model.

The full modelled example that I have given above is here and hopefully this is a useful example of how to apply live modelling to your own lessons. It doesn’t always work, but with practice it becomes easier, really can enrich the teaching and learning in the classroom for the students and I think helps the students to understand the thought process that goes into creating an excellent piece of writing or analysis (or dare I say it – any type of writing!).

Shakespeare presents Romeo in a range of ways across the play; from lovesick, over the top and miserable in the initial scenes to decisive, loving and as a man of action later in the play. In the initial stages of the play Lord Montague speaks to Benvolio in a worried tone about Romeo’s propensity for weeping “with tears augmenting the morning dew.” showing us, perhaps, that Romeo is lovesick and pining for a woman he loves. At this point we are unaware that this is Rosaline, a Capulet, who he should not be considering as a worthy love match; however the love is unrequited as she is rejecting him, causing his misery and tears of frustration and sadness. The verb “augmenting” suggests his tears are heavy, woeful and imply Romeo is full of self-pity. Shakespeare could be indicating to men that it is okay to have emotional outbursts and that feelings of sadness, gloom and dismay are normal for young men. Emotionally, this type of outburst may have been seen as emasculatory at the time; however it could also be foreshadowing his later love at first sight with Juliet. By presenting Romeo in an overtly emotional way Shakespeare is enforcing the idea that Romeo is emotionally unstable and therefore perhaps slightly impetuous in his decisions, which is an interesting and important point later in the play.

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6 thoughts on “Why I Love… Live Modelling for across the curriculum

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