On Saturday 2nd March 2019 I taught a live GCSE English Literature Power and Conflict poetry lesson to my year 11 group at researchED Birmingham. I gave some context about my group to the 30+ teachers and educationalists that were gathered in room 16 before they watched the lesson. I am not going to give any more context here about the group, so in a way, this post may only be partly useful to you. This blog post here, though, gives you some context about my school, and this may be helpful for you to read before you read the transcript below. Since researchED Birmingham, after encouragement from Sarah Barker, I have recorded some parts of lessons with the same group for reflection on my own practice, and for use with colleagues in school. While I’m not sharing the videos here, I have transcribed the opening of a lesson to share, with a focus on routines, questioning, vocabulary and eliciting more. Hopefully the following may be of some use. You may want to read this blog post first as it will also give you an idea about what we have been focusing on in lessons, and the routines and strategies we use every lesson. In the transcript below, you will see that the group are ‘Developing Literature Scholars’.
– I still focus their attention on what they need to think about
– I still demonstrate but ask for pupil assistance with analysing and writing together
– We practise steps in ‘chunks’
– Pupils learn more vocabulary and practise the application of it every lesson
But, as you will hopefully see, they are moving towards being ‘More Expert Literature Scholars’, where they can add to and challenge the focus I have given them.
This transcript is the first 16 minutes or so of the lesson, illustrates the start of lesson routines, the Do Now, and the subsequent discussion. Photographs included here are from the live lesson at researchED Birmingham.
I am referred to as ‘CS’ in the transcript. Pupils are named alphabetically in the order in which they speak in the lesson. No names or real initials of pupils are used.
CS has come straight from lunch duty to the start of the lesson. She has just had enough time to distribute glue sticks, but nothing else is out on desks. There is nothing on the board. CS will be able to write the date and lesson question on the board while the pupils are completing their Do Now. The only resource CS needs to have ready for the very start of the lesson is the Do Now. This routine, every lesson, helps to reduce impact on working memory and reduces extraneous cognitive load.
Year 11 are lined up outside the door in the corridor.
CS (stands at the doorway and smiles): Hello year 11. You may come in.
Year 11 enter in silence and CS says ‘Good afternoon’ or ‘Hello’ to each pupil as they enter the room. They enter with coats and bags taken off. CS hands them the Do Now as they enter. Year 11 stand behind their chairs in silence, and organise everything neatly on their desks, including their books, anthologies, pens/highlighters etc. Bags are placed on the floor or on the chair next to them.
CS stands in the very middle of the front of the room and doesn’t move. Arms behind back. Open body language. Pupils arrange everything neatly on their desks.
CS: Right year 11. Everything super-neat on your desks please.
CS waits as pupils unpack bags quickly. Scans room. Doesn’t move from spot.
CS: I can see three desks that are looking perfect. Smiles. Waits while pupils are still unpacking and making everything neat. Scans room again. CS: I can see five desks that are looking perfect. A, your book is here (book was left behind last lesson).
CS holds book out for collection by the pupil and looks disappointed; pupils always take their books home.
Pupil A comes to the front of the room to collect book from CS.
A: Miss, I’m really sorry, Miss.
CS: (hands book to Pupil A). Thank you for apologising. I’ll speak to you towards the end of the lesson about it.
Pupil A returns to stand behind their chair.
CS is still positioned front and centre, motionless.
CS: Right, standing up straight. Check uniforms are perfect please.
Pupils double check uniforms, but had done so before they came into the classroom.
CS scans room again and smiles.
CS: Lovely. Good afternoon year 11. Have a seat please.
Pupils sit down immediately with no fuss.
It is 54 seconds into the lesson.
CS: OK, you have the Do Now for today’s lesson. It’s the same as the one earlier in the week that we’ve done twice now, and there will be some questions that you recognise from earlier in the term too. This is not about tricking you. It’s about repeating what we learnt earlier in the week, and earlier in the term, so it sticks in our heads. Do not use your book to do this Do Now. I’m trying to see if it sticks in your heads so you can recall it quickly. Try your very best, as usual, but don’t worry if you get bits of it wrong. It’s for us all to see how well we remember. It’s double-sided as it was earlier in the week. You should be able to get through it in 6 minutes.
CS maintains eye contact and pauses slightly to ensure everyone is looking at her and focused. Pause.
CS: You may start.
1:58 into the lesson.
Pupils start the Do Now immediately, and all work in silence. CS remains still for a minute to allow pupils to get on with the work. Pupils are practised, and know the answers to most questions. They are moving from ‘manual’ to ‘automatic’. They struggle a little as the Do Now progresses. CS circulates, and pauses to explain parts of it to some pupils. Two pupils are still confused about the noun “visage” from ‘Ozymandias’. They were absent from the last two lessons so CS explains in more detail, quietly, as the rest of the class work in silence.
CS ensures the date and lesson question are on the board. Pupils know to copy it down once the Do Now is complete – this is a routine.
CS: 20 seconds, year 11. 10 seconds.
CS positions herself front and centre again.
CS: Finishing off your sentence please. And all eyes on me. Black or blue pens down. Pick up your green pens please.
CS scans rooms quickly to ensure all pupils have done as she has asked. Smiles. 8:59 into the lesson (a 7 minute Do Now rather than a 6 minute Do Now as planned!).
CS: Front row has almost got green pens in hand (gestures and smiles to Pupil B, who hasn’t yet sorted out the correct colour pen!). Oh you two haven’t got green pens? Sorry both.
CS moves to hand out two pens she’s forgotten, and as she does so, says “Thank you C, thank you D” – to two pupils who are now sorted and ready. “Thank you back row – everyone ready.”
CS front and centre again.
CS: OK, right then. So use your green pen to make changes or corrections or additions, and to make any extra notes of things you find useful, as usual. Number 1: we all know this one. “That’s _____ what’s the word? – last Duchess painted on the wall.”
Pupils chant “my”. CS repeats the line, emphasising “my” and reading it deliberately emphasising the iambic pentameter.
CS: “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall.” D – what type of word is “my”?
D: Miss, it’s a possessive pronoun, Miss. Speaks very quietly.
CS: It’s a – pardon?
CS holds hand to ear dramatically (CS often does this to indicate she can’t hear – this is a visual cue and routine the class know and find funny).
D: Miss, it’s a possessive pronoun, Miss. Pupil D still speaks slightly too quietly.
CS: I still can’t hear you, D! CS smiles.
D: Miss, it’s a possessive pronoun. Speaks at the correct volume.
CS: Lovely, thank you, it is a possessive pronoun. CS has noticed a pupil is looking towards the window. What is it, E?
E: It’s a possessive pronoun, Miss.
CS: Thanks E. Eyes on me. But so what, D? Why does the poet consciously choose that possessive pronoun for the Duke to use?
D: Miss, it shows that she belongs to him. She’s his property.
CS: How do we know, D, that he’s bothered about ownership?
D: Well, he’s really affected when the Duchess seems to own things by looking at them – her gaze is almost as powerful as his.
CS: That’s really interesting. In what way?
D: Erm, it’s when she looks at the sunset and the cherries and the donkey that it bothers him. So her gaze must be strong.
CS: That’s fascinating, D. Thank you. I can see some of you making notes as we speak. Good – make notes so you don’t forget, or add them to your grid from last week. Now what else about that possessive pronoun? Look at question 2.
Hand goes up.
CS: Yes, F?
F: Miss, she has become objectified by the Duke. She is now more like an object rather than a person, and the possessive pronoun emphasises that his gaze is on her and owns her. It controls her.
CS: OK, thank you F. That’s really interesting. So what’s the noun in this line, apart from “Duchess”? CS reads line again: “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall.”
E: It’s “wall” Miss.
CS: Yes, it is. Why might have Browning deliberately chosen that noun “wall” for the Duke to say?
CS says the line again for them to hear. Pauses.
G: It makes the Duchess a part of the house. She’s there all the time, even though she might have passed away.
F: But we don’t know that definitively.
CS: What do you mean?
F: I mean we don’t know definitely or for certain that she has passed away – but Miss, can I used “definitively” instead?
CS: Yes! Please do. Put that word in a sentence again for me.
F: We don’t know definitively that she has passed away.
CS: Great, thank you. Right everyone, F is going to say that sentence again, nice and loud, and you’re going to say it back to me, so terrifically loudly that next door hear. Ready F?
F: Yes Miss.
CS: OK. 1, 2, 3 raises arms (again, it’s a routine the class are familiar with).
F: We don’t know definitively that she has passed away.
CS raises arms for the rest of the class to respond.
Whole class: We don’t know definitively she has passed away (a little too quietly).
CS (smiling): No. Not good enough. I want it so loud that next door can hear. I pretty much didn’t hear that, and I’m standing here! F is going to say it again and you’re going to repeat it, and you’re going to repeat it so loudly that I want complaints from the science labs upstairs. Ready, F?
CS: OK. 1, 2, 3 raises arms.
F: We don’t know definitively that she has passed away!
CS raises arms.
Whole class: We don’t know definitively she has passed away!
CS: Much better! Thank you. And it’s a good idea that some of you have made a note of that sentence in your book. Remember it’s your exercise book, so your own revision guide. I know you all write beautifully neatly because I check your books, but remember to write down things that we say in class that you think might be useful.
Waits a minute so pupils jot down the phrase.
CS: OK, so we don’t definitively know that something has happened to the Duchess, but we know she’s not there any more. And as G says, she’s still a part of the house – it’s almost like she’s become part of the fabric of the house itself. But don’t we think something awful might have happened to her – what about question 3?
H: Yes Miss, it’s alluded to when the Duke says, “Now all smiles stopped together”.
CS: What do you mean?
H: Miss, it’s like a euphemism. It’s good because it’s suggested but we don’t know if something has happened to her or not.
CS makes notes on the board as the pupils speak.
CS: It’s “good”?! (smiling).
H: (pupil smiles and corrects their language): I mean we might consider it to be effective because we don’t know if something has happened to the Duchess or not.
CS: So why might the Duke use a euphemism rather than overtly saying that he had killed or hurt the Duchess?
H: Miss, maybe because he didn’t want to lower his position in the social ladder.
E: You mean the social hierarchy!
CS: How can we tell he didn’t want to lower himself; that he didn’t want to lower himself to her level?
I: Because he says, “And I choose never to stoop”.
CS: What is the verb in that sentence that suggests that he will not lower himself then? Check the alternative options you’ve got on question 4 that you had to circle.
I: It’s “stoop” Miss.
CS: Good. OK, so we’ve got some nice ideas here. I asked about a minute ago about that we think that something awful might have happened to the Duchess, and H said it’s alluded to when the Duke says “Now all smiles stopped together”. So let’s put those ideas into fully developed sentences. I’m going to write on the board and you’re going to help me and write with me as I type.
CS sits at the computer to type straight onto an empty PPT slide (the whiteboard is not big enough, so the PPT is used instead).
CS (starts to type): How about this? “The poet hints that the Duke may have done something to the Duchess.” Actually, that’s not good enough. What’s the more sophisticated word I could use that means hints at or mentions something in a more indirect way?
B: It’s “suggests” Miss.
CS: Good. Thank you. But haven’t I missed something else? Surely the poet is doing this on purpose to consciously craft the character of the Duke?
J: He is Miss, so you need to use the word “consciously” after “poet”. So write “The poet consciously suggests that the Duke may have done something to the Duchess.”
CS: Thank you. Can someone finish this for me by adding a quote and saying something about a noun in the quote?
C: Miss, I can! The poet consciously suggests that the Duke may have done something to the Duchess when he gives the Duke the phrase “Then all smiles stopped together.” to say. The noun “smiles” is deliberately used by the poet to suggest – actually Miss can I change it to “which might symbolise” because we’ve already used “suggest? – CS nods. So the noun “smiles” is used deliberately used by the poet which might symbolise that anything that was joyful or happy has been taken away, or removed.
CS types and the pupils continue to write it down in their books.
CS: Thank you C. That’s looking more closely at the language now and why Browning has used specific words intentionally. But what modal verbs could we include to show that we’re considering other alternative viewpoints or possibilities?
K: I know, I know!
CS: OK K, go for it.
K: You could say “The noun “smiles” could or might be used deliberately by the poet to suggest…” – then it helps to show you are thinking – I mean considering – different viewpoints – CS cuts short because she knows this pupil knows another word to use.
CS: Different viewpoints or?
K: Perspectives, Miss.
CS: Lovely. Thank you.
CS stands up front and centre again, scans the rooms and waits for all eyes on her.
CS: Right, let’s go back a bit. A few minutes ago, G correctly said that Browning uses the noun “wall” when the Duke says, “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall.” I’m interested for us to think in a little more detail as to why that noun was intentionally chosen by Browning. I know it’s one of the questions on your Do Now, and I’d like you to turn and talk for 2 minutes: why might Browning have specifically chosen that noun for the Duke to say?
Pupils talk in pairs for slightly less than 2 minutes.
CS: OK, everyone. I’m really interested to hear your ideas. So all eyes on me and mouths closed please. Thank you. So Browning has con – shuss – how do I pronounce it, how do I say it, again? Can someone help me pronounce it correctly please?
CS deliberately struggles with the pronunciation to check the pupils can pronounce the word correctly.
D: It’s CONSCIOUSLY, Miss (pupil correctly pronounces the word).
CS: Ah yes. Thanks D for helping me out. So everyone, why might Browning consciously use –
A: Miss, you could use ’employ’ instead of ‘use’!
CS: Ah, of course! OK, so why might Browning employ consciously the noun “wall”? Is that right, A?
A: No Miss. Use “employ” after “consciously”.
CS: Thanks A. So why might Browning consciously employ the noun “wall” when the Duke says “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”?
L: We said it was something about her being there all the time.
CS: That’s interesting. What do you mean?
L: Because she’s become part of the actual bricks of the house – she doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so it’s almost like she’s strong – she’s like the wall holding things up. But maybe the building is almost like his mind, and she’s having a psychological impact on him by being there the whole time. It’s like he can’t get rid of her.
CS: What else?
M: Yes Miss, we said that it’s her gaze that has become more powerful now, because even though she can be hidden –
M: OK so even though she can be concealed by the curtain, her gaze is always there and always still watching and observing him.
CS: So what sort of impact does her gaze have on him? Is he affected by it?
B: Miss, is it the gaze of memory on question 5?
CS: What do you mean?
B: He’s thinking about her, and looking back into his memory, and she is making him angry.
CS: But how can you tell from how Browning has consciously crafted in the language or structure that he’s angry or frustrated?
D: Because of the rhythm. It’s broken.
B: Miss, the iambic pentameter.
CS: What do you mean?
D: The iambic pentameter is broken when he thinks about her. There are many breaks in the sentences –
B: Yes, and the caesura! And a high frequency of hyphens and exclamation marks!
CS: Thanks, B. But let D finish. You can help out in a minute if they need it.
D: So the iambic pentameter is broken deliberately. This was used intentionally by Browning to emphasise how controlled the Duke is – he is in control of his emotions. But now he’s looking at the Duchess through his gaze of memory, and it’s making him angry and out of control, so his language is now more fractured – which is why there are so many breaks in the lines – like on question 6.
End of transcript