A while ago Michael Gove sparked debate when he criticised an approach to reviewing learning by Russel Tarr, a History teacher who had had the temerity to suggest that the much loved Mr Men books could be used to recap learning in a simplified, fact-rich format. Look him up here: http://www.activehistory.co.uk/about_the_site.htm
I was interested to see how this might work this year, so my Year 11s were set a week long challenge: to turn de Maupassant’s short story “The Necklace”into a work of this genre. I attach a range of ideas at the foot of this post- 2 students made electronic submissions and the rest were in hard copy. Rather than scan them all, you have edited highlights.
SO why the post? Actually because I think this was a really valuable task and one which the students went for with great eagerness, after the intitial, unspoken WTFs. After all, at a Grammar School shouldn’t we always be writing essays and working with rigour?
But what is unrigorous here? Students need to synthesise the information in the story to present clear summaries of the storyline, together with a sense of the inherent ironies at the heart of the tale. They need to understand the characterisation and to debate the presentation of the characters so as to create simplified versions. These are all skills which they will use when processing longer texts and in examinations when faced by unseen fiction to analyse.
Ultimately, they have addressed the task with pride. For one of those rare occasions which remind us why we teach, I was lost for words and reduced to making inarticulate squeeks and grunts as I took each one in. I have not seen such even quality in a creative piece of work for a long time. This is a class of 32 and each student was eagerly showing their work and discussing it with their neighbours. One apologised for an excellent and detailed storyboard because he hadn’t realised he could make the whole book. Much praise was given. I praise heavily when effort and result combine to deserve it. Otherwise I am an encourager and a gadfly until the praise is earned. It was today and 11EY2 have made me proud.
Take a look:
electronic books: Little Miss Cowrafe
This was designed as an entertaining way in which to recap the learning of this story and to provide revision material. Now one of my colleagues is thinking of using the books to help low set access the story for the first time.
I hope Mr Gove doesn’t mind!