Let’s all #cutthegimmicks

Listening to the goodbye speeches at the end of summer term, I was particularly amused by the thoughts of a retiring colleague – a veteran of 29 years service (with a decade of teaching before that, at another school). His philosophy of teaching, and his mantra as the pupils lined up for his first lesson with him, was ‘Come in. Sit down. Shut up. Listen to me.’ He was half joking of course. He didn’t generally tell them to ‘shut up’, but you get the point. His lessons were devoid of gimmicks. He never used a single powerpoint slide in all his years of teaching. He was not to be messed with. Naturally, the kids all adored him. His results were consistently good. That’s not to say that he wanted us all to teach like that. This was his way and it worked for him. His message, more than anything else, was find your own style and don’t lower your standards.

But I love the idea of cutting out the gimmicks. Over my decade of teaching I’ve become increasingly tired of gimmickry and fancy ideas. I still knock out lessons that are designed purely to inspire and provoke thought but these are very much the exception. Pupils don’t complain that my lessons are dull. They seem to enjoy the challenge and clarity of purpose.

So I was much taken with @LHanson1711’s recent post about a single deceptively simple lesson that went well, with a quick breakdown of how it worked. I suggest English teachers could all benefit from the philosophy of  moving away from convoluted planning. I humbly propose the #cutthegimmicks hashtag as a clarion call for straightforward stuff that instills knowledge and skills.

Here’s my offering: a Year 10 Jekyll & Hyde lesson on Chapter 4 – The Carew Murder Case.

context-pyramid-structure-jh

context-pyramid-structure-jh

My lesson:

  1. Read Chapter 4
  2. Divide class into six groups and allocate each group a context element (you can differentiate by giving the easier section (etiquette) to certain groups and harder sections (Darwinism) to others (we’d already gone through an etiquette context sheet and the Gothic conventions in some detail in previous lessons)
  3. Get pupils to link quotes from the extract to context sources
  4. Get pupils to analyse these quotes in their section of the grid
  5. Pupils feedback their ideas to the group. Teacher clarifies, challenges, questions, deveops, deals with misconceptions. Listening pupils fill in the blank section, using impressive ideas/analysis from other groups
  6. At the end of the feedback all pupils have a very detailed guide to context with key quotes and bits of analysis from this key scene
  7. End of lesson

It worked. Others in my department have tried it and found it worked for them. It’s not groundbreaking. You couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do this for every lesson. But the pupils had revised old context and learnt new context and nailed a key passage in an hour.

If you use it or adapt it let me know how you get on. And please share your fad free stuff as well.

Thanks for reading,

Mark

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