Making English More Like Maths?

I will open with an admission; I am a little bit airy fairy when it comes to teaching English. Rather than drilling with facts, I will spout on about the importance of personal interaction with a text, sing-songing my insistence to students that they need to consider how THEY feel, how THEY react to the words upon the page. I’ve skipped about during active Shakespeare lessons, encouraging students to shout ‘disobedient wretch’ in one another’s faces to really get a first-hand appreciation for how that poor lass Juliet felt.

I appreciate, this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, is that not the point of teaching: that you will not please/teach/get through to/appeal /succeed to all of the people all of the time?

The new specification asks exactly that. No scaffold, no optional levels of difficulty, no breadth of literature outside of our little island. And so off in our metaphorical rafts we go, trying to calculate exactly how to teach knowledge without flouncing about outside to students that seem to become increasingly concerned that Lord Capulet mistook his daughter for a suitcase.

The students I have in mind are typically boys, typically not getting through a great deal of Shakespeare of a weekend, typically mathematical and linear in their approach to analysis (tentative words like ‘perhaps’ or ‘could be’ have no place here). This is where the facts come in; this is where after two years, you see a little of a silver lining in that linear spec you’ve been wrestling with.

FACTS! Full of them. Facts about poets, facts about Dickens, facts about Victorian London, facts about Priestley time travelling using only his imaginary flux capacitor and a theatre audience, terms to learn (Oooh, we do this in science, Miss), quotations to recite, vocabulary to memorise and recall which act as the hooks of security and success. Knowledge Organisers have made a fantastic start to this process, with others sharing Quizlet tests and memory banks for quotations. This is the time that we use our fellow subject heads for ensuring students have the tools to tackle the ‘why’ element of English rather than spending a considerable amount of time learning the ‘what.’ For more, please have a gander at these and mull it over for yourself:




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