We are taking Paper 1: Poetry and Prose. I think I’ve just a free choice in my new school (which is part of the reason I’m choosing that place!).

I’m choosing 1984 as my prose text. I’m a big fan of teaching dystopian fiction, partly because it lends particularly well to integrating non-fiction tasks. The apparent dearth of figurative language also means that students need to engage with the narratology of the text. It also engages with questions of language and meaning, especially in terms of individual words referencing concepts directly, so it has nods to future ToK questions.

In terms of the poetry, I wonder what route through the poetry we will take… I hope to make connections to the other texts and to each other. I often teach poems in thematic pairs, but with a focus on one poem per lesson. That poem might have a particular form of prosody that we revise and really know, rather than intensely cover all techniques in every lesson.

We are also taking Paper 3 and Paper 4, so the single drama text and unseen. I see there is a choice between teaching Shakespeare or teaching Miller’s The Crucible. For me, teaching the context of early-modern drama is very interesting, especially with the different stage versions available etc. However, there are issues for non-academic students in accessing Shakespeare, and in managing the difficulty of reading archaic phrasing etc. As I am moving to a new school, I’d likely choose The Crucible, but I’m happy to teach Shakespeare. I think it is easy enough for students who have good prior knowledge of drama.

In terms of The Crucible, I think the scene where the pot is salted is especially interesting. Nothing much is happening in terms of plot, but the external and internal conflict is palpable. It is a great microcosm for what drama can be. I also think the dramatic structure is interesting as well. The multiple contexts (of production, setting and current responses) make analysis via comparative context particularly rich. It also links well with 1984 in terms of capitalist and state-fears of communism.

Students taking their set texts into the exam is somewhat of a burden. In 45 minutes students should really have a good knowledge of key quotes across the play, along with a series of dramatically productive quotations, too. I think open-book is useful for encouraging students to resonate analysis across a small section (e.g. the salt scene, the court scene, the confession scene etc). But securing resonation of dominant quotations with more precise details elsewhere is impressive, too.

For the unseen, I think that students need to have ideal approaches to prosody and narratology, preferably taught prior in KS3.

For the poetry I teach two broad approaches:

Approach 1:

What expectations are raised by the title?

Is there an apparent global idea?

Intensify or change?

Resolution or not of that idea?

Approach 2:

Literal interpretation?

Metaphorical interpretation?

Symbolic or social-moral interpretation?

For the novels, I teach via genre expectations and text-world theory (Gavins). By this, I meant that students engage with analysis of genre and how expectations are raised. This allows them to resonate ideas across the text and write more discursive responses. This tries to tackle the issue of students leading response via key quotations only.

Narrative theory is undertaught I think. I have had to self-educate myself. It is essential when responding to novels because without it there is an undue focus on finding figurative language. Finding figurative language can be a huge issue when that might not be what the narrative is doing, especially when focalised on a character who is uneducated (or just normal!). Therefore, understanding focalisation is key… to whom do the words belong?

Thanks for the prompt!

The third approach was actually the first (and sometimes only…) approach taken by some old colleagues. They literally suggested that students devise ”three sophisticated statement sentences” to head three paragraphs of analysis for an unseen. A bit of a leap needed there for students I think. Also almost impossible to devise a discursive argument as well, let alone engage with the keywords of the question. However, the thinking was that any other approach was too difficult.

Some colleagues also thought that separating language, form and structure into separate paragraphs would help some students, particularly weaker ones. Aside from the PERT explicitly warning against this, language analysis anchors analysis of structure and form. Again, the rationale was that any specificity in approach (e.g. global idea/intensity or change/resolution or not?) would make things harder for students. Lived experience suggests a specificity of approach makes it easy.

I’m looking to upload some examples of approaching unseens to my website using text-world theory and genre-expectations. Broadly speaking, it’s about asking social questions about the situation (e.g. How might adults respond to death? How might adults respond to death if children are involved?), and then being wise to narratology.