Original blog post
The content of the IGCSE Language and Literature course is fairly substantial. Our year 10 course is focused on completing the coursework but this does not mean that I don’t want pupils to have at least read all the poems from the poetry anthology and all the non-fiction works as well before they go into year 11.
To offer an introduction to these texts that will hopefully form a solid foundation for year 11, I have decided to try a slightly different approach.
Each week pupils are either introduced to one of the poems or one of the non-fiction texts as their core homework task. They receive two copies of the text. Having attended a number of webinars run by Barbara Bleiman who advocates for pupil personal response, the first text is used by pupils to complete an initial reading. As they are reading, they jot down their responses, their thoughts, ideas, feelings and any words or structural items they think strike them as particularly interesting.
On the second copy of the text, a more detailed analysis is completed. This is done by watching a video lecture I assign to pupils via Loom. Pupils watch my video lecture and annotate their second copy of the text. Each video lecture focuses in on our core conceptual question for the term (although slightly nuanced depending on the text). For term 1, this question is ‘How do texts incite and inspire change?’
It is an expectation that they will turn up to our Thursday lesson with the above work completed, ready to discuss the poem and non-fiction text assigned.
At the start of the lesson, I create a harkness group. Having completed this task for the first time last week, I will admit that I used pupils I believed would be strong oral contributors initially. The pupils are organised around a table (I had six pupils instead of the identified four). (Across the term, all pupils will have been placed in the harkness table at some point). I then shared our harkness discussion questions. These questions are slightly more thematic / conceptual as having completed the homework, pupils should arrive with an understanding of the text and a word / sentence level analysis complete.
Each question is discussed in turn by the harkness group in the centre. As they are talking, I am using the standard harkness structure to monitor their talk. I control the time spent answering a question and can adjust in a responsive way according to the success of the discussion.
Whilst the group in the middle discuss their responses to the questions, the pupils on the outside are completing a reflection sheet – noting any interesting ideas, any interesting examples of language or structure and a response to the term’s key conceptual question.
The first run through of this with War Photographer was brilliant. Pupils arrived at the lesson equipped with their knowledge of their poem, which meant time could be given over to developing interpretations and discussing / debating these. Pupils, in fact, offered interpretations I hadn’t considered before and confidently agreed / disagreed / built upon ideas from their peers. Pupils on the outside made notes and deepened their own understanding of the poem.
It was a real joy to observe. At the end, we reflected on our reflections and we reflected, using my diagram, on the contributions of the different members of the harkness group.
Having completed the first run-through, I am going to make two tweaks. Initially, the reflection sheet was focused on the Assessment Objectives from the specification. I am going to change these simply to the harkness discussion questions. Secondly, with our focus being on oracy, I am going to also ask pupils on the outside to track one student and evaluate how well they perform in the group discussion. I will use the harkness codes as the basis of this reflection.
What I am hoping is that through these harkness discussion lessons, pupils will come away with a solid grip of the text without spending hours analyzing and evaluating. At the end of this term, I will provide pupils with a task to cement their learning. They will be given the conceptual question again. This term the conceptual question is ‘How do texts incite and inspire change’? and they will have to write a personal response drawing on a minimum of three texts studied across the term. Thus developing skills in comparison and personal reflection and response (and tying parts of the course together).
UPDATE JAN 2022
Working with our Oracy Lead
So having completed one term of this where are we now? Shortly after blogging I asked my amazing colleague, Helen Wilford, who is leading on oracy this year to come and observe me and provide feedback on how what I was doing could be improved. I was looking for her to work with me in an Instructional Coaching way.
And she absolutely has. After observing me, she made a series of recommendations and I ran with two initially. The first is that I removed myself as chair and have started to pop my more academically able pupils in as chair (as time goes on and this becomes more polished, all pupils will be placed into the chair role). This has been really good for the pupils in the sense of them a. still being a part of the discussion but also b. take more of a leading role and learning how to manage group discussions and effectively involve all participants. Some have shone and some have struggled, which means there is mileage in this approach.
In addition, I also amended the practice for the group on the outside. Whilst they still had a question sheet, and this question sheet had been amended from AO focused questions to the questions being discussed around the Harkness table, I now asked the chair to call upon people on the outside to summarise what the group had discussed in response to each question. This meant that any pupil, at any point could be called upon to offer their feedback summary, which, once again, helped to increase pupil engagement (not that it has really been an issue but I want to ensure what we do is purposeful for all).
I also introduced a thunk style Do it now based upon her recommendation. A question tagged to the poems but where pupils were challenged to discuss their opinions and then reach a consensus in response, which they would then feedback to the rest of the class. A great warm up activity!
The Poster Summary Project
All the texts we have utilised in the flipped learning / harkness programme were underpinned by a key conceptual question – a filtered down approach from the IB. This term is was ‘How do writers use their text (or words) to incite and inspire change. Having explored a range of poems and non-fictions with this focus in mind – and our key literary text and the texts from our transactional writing unit, I then wanted pupils to summarise what they had learnt.
They were tasked with creating a poster summary board. They were told that they had to respond to the question and draw upon a minimum of three texts that they had studied to help them answer this question. They were told that they would then present their poster summary to the rest of the class, with a focus on what they had learnt in relation to the question but also which of the texts had most impacted them. In addition, they were set a challenge task of incorporating a text that they had read in their own time that they also felt incited and inspired change.
The results were literally awesome. The posters were really well put together across the ability range. Working in pairs, they were able to assimilate their learning, reflect upon the texts meaning they were revising core content and presenting their chosen texts meant that they had to be quite evaluative in nature. Here are some examples of those posters…
My own reflections.
- I still want to do more on reflecting upon the oral contributions in the group discussion scenario.
- We could explore more, this term, what constitutes an effective presentation when they do their next poster summaries.
- I am going to ask the other Oracy lead in our senior school to come in and see what she thinks about the lesson format as well.
As always, at the end of a long term, I take feedback from the pupils. Here is what they had to say about the flipped learning / harkness / poster presentation approach:
Flipped Learning – Pupil reflections
I find it quite interesting looking at various texts, allowing us to first analyze and then watch videos adding much more and opening us to ideas and thoughts that we wouldn’t think about.
I think it is a good approach to try and learn a text as good ideas are added by people in middle while the people on the outside write down these ideas for later use
I think flipped learning was a very engaging way to study the texts, and it made sure we got a range of interpretations.
I quite like the flipped learning, it was nice to have consistency as repeated practice really helps improve our skills. I like how the approach includes many different types of analysis; firstly we write our own thoughts about the text, then we study the teacher’s experienced interpretation, and finally we discuss our ideas through speech and are able to listen to other’s perspectives as well. Overall, it is a very nice way of studying texts.
Reading it by yourself meant everyone came to lesson with unique ideas which was very interesting and entertaining.
I think that the flipped learning could be improved by making the notes in the videos slighty shorter
I liked how we watched the videos learning the different techniques used in the poems and texts and understand why the authors used the techniques to give us their messages.
I found the flipped learning approach very beneficial especially because I could read the texts independently and form my own interpretation of them and then later contrast and compare with the video we were provided with. This video also was very useful as it dug deeper into the texts and helped me gain a deeper understanding.
Harkness discussion – Pupil reflections:
I think it’s quite interesting hearing what each person has to say about a single text, especially when it’s an interesting piece. However, I personally only prefer to be the person hearing their ideas rather than trying to come up with something to say at the table.
I think it is a good approach to try and learn a text as other, good ideas are added by people in middle while the people in the people on the outside write down these ideas for later use
At first, I found the harkness approach quite intimidating, but over time it helped build my confidence in sharing my ideas.
The harkness discussions were fun, and as said above they give us the opportunity to explain our viewpoints through spoken English, which is extremely useful.
I think it was really fun. Being able to discuss people’s unique ideas and opinions was fun because you can see and understand different point of views.
I think that more should be done to involve everyone in the discussion
I like how we shared the notes we took from the videos and sharing our point of views and understanding the meaning of what the authors write.
I deeply enjoyed the flipped learning approach as I found myself looking forward to it every week. It was always interesting to have open discussions with peers and to have new input and interpretations stemming from different viewpoints. It also allows for a more open final judgment of the texts we read which could be helpful in the exam if trying to demonstrate a new and unique perspective to these texts.
Poster summary – Pupil reflections:
I enjoyed making the poster and finally putting all our ideas about various texts fun, especially when doing it with someone else. As you work together to put all the ideas we have been accumulating for the past term all onto one page and present it interestingly.
I liked that we could work in pairs as that allowed for more work to be done in a shorter amount of time
I think that the poster summary task was a great way to review and remind ourselves of the texts we learnt over term.
I enjoyed planning the poster as well as the opportunity to go deeper into the texts.
It was fun doing something different. Working in groups that you made with friends was fun.
I thought that it was a very fun task to finish the term with
I think that the poster summary class was a good exercise for us writing our opinions and explaining why we think these things.
I found the poster summary task very fun to do. The question itself made the work interesting and the creative side of the work was very fun and exciting to take part in.
Pupil reflections on how the process could be improved
It could be improved by making sure that the people in the centre also get a set of notes to look back on.
I think they were great!
If I was really nit-picky. During Harkness: people on the outside could be more involved in more someway. Often it was a bit less exciting being on the outside and people wanted to get involved on the arguments. For flipped learning: Sometimes with longer poems the videos got a bit long and analysing got a bit repetitive. I noticed that people were more engaged and enjoyed shorter poems more.
I think it could’ve been improved by maybe having a bit more time to talk about it
I think the poetry / non-fiction work could be further improved is possibly by having more exam style questions to practice exam techniques.
I think the reflections above are super interesting. I’ve decided that whilst I track the talking at the moment (which I could easily pass on to the chair, perhaps), I am going to make a set of notes for those in the centre so all have notes and reflections from the discussion. I also like the feedback about exam questions and so I am going to think about how I can develop that loop in a stronger way. Maybe I could use one of the Harkness questions as an exam question – which I do but haven’t made explicit to the pupils as much. I am LOVING this approach and the collaboration with another member of staff. It’s so nice when something works well, right?