This lesson was inspired by an idea in The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook called: ‘Just a minute.’ I finished reading this book from cover to cover over two weeks ago; however, I still find myself flicking it open! Every time I do, no matter which page falls open, I am inspired! This was the case when page 68 fell open while planning this Year 11 lesson.
Why Did We Need This Lesson?
The class are working towards their Literature GCSE; last lesson they completed a mock exam comparing poems from the anthology. While reading their essays, a common issue arose. Although pupils’ analysis of the poems was great, their essays did not sound confident. This was as a result of hedging (language which lessens the impact of what is being said – eg “I think”). This over use of hedging was not confined to their written work but was also noticeable when they responded verbally in class.
What Was Involved?
The following lesson was set up firstly, to respond to this hedging issue and to show them how removing hedging can assist in sounding more confident and articulate. In addition to this, they were also gathering their multistructural knowledge of the poem To His Coy Mistress using a range of sources (paper based – Google – dictionaries – questions – me) to support their knowledge acquisition.
In their Literature exam, pupils need to be able to dissect poetry that they have never seen before; therefore, me dictating about rhyme schemes and similes is nowhere near as purposeful as them doing it for themselves (lazy teacher style). Pupils needed to work out what the poem was about, what language was used to what effect and the same for structure…plenty to be getting on with!
To get the cogs spinning, pupils arrived to cut out quotations from the poem on their grouped desks. They were told to predict what the poem could be about using the quotations as examples. As each group fed back their ideas, the other groups were tasked with noting down any features of spoken language (a unit covered earlier in the course) that they observed in the speakers.
As expected, pupils’ initial spoken responses included hedging, fillers, and stuttering among other things. Other interesting points included personal idiosyncrasies and that are common features in spoken language of the North East such as tagging on “like” at the end of each sentence. Pupils were able to spot these non fluency features but had not been aware of how often they were using them. There’s nothing more satisfying than holding up a mirror to support pupils in making purposeful improvements.
Pupils were told that today, they would prove their learning about a poem by articulating what they had found out at the end of the session. I would time how long they were able to speak (thank you Mr Smith for this idea) deducting seconds for non fluency features and hedging.
Search For Meaning
Pupils are well versed in independent investigation but I never just send them off without direction. Support was built into the lesson in the form of multi structural questions that would keep them on the right lines should they need direction in their investigation; I had four computers open on Google (Google is there to use – I want them to learn how to use it effectively). There was also printed information around the room about the context of the poem.
To further challenge pupils, relational questions were available to relate what they knew about the poem to alternative ideas. Also to challenge pupils, question stems were placed in the extended abstract box to support pupils in their own questioning.
As pupils listened to other’s findings, the class continued to learn from each other and made notes on their poems and using each other as teachers (I have not had to dictate a single thing today…lazy). The difference between the spontaneous responses at the beginning of the lesson in comparison to the end was wonderful to see and hear.
As well as learning lots of new information about another anthology poem, in contrast to the start of the lesson, pupils had also slowed down the pace of their speech. They were noticeably more fluent and articulate than they had been previously. Non Standard English was being avoided and their language choices were excellent (not a “like” to be heard). Although non fluency features were not altogether eradicated, pupils were far more mindful of their speech. One pupil was discussing a different matter with me after the lesson and said “I can’t help but notice every time I use a hedge or filler now.”
Although I am very proud of their newly acquired, almost perfect articulation, I cannot wait to see how this translates into their written work.