Beautifully Fractured

It's all about the why.

Author: Jennie Giovanelli (page 1 of 4)

Educating Northants – Celebrating The Positive Deviants Within Our County

Last October, I had the pleasure of listening to Roy Lilley (health policy analyst, writer, broadcaster and commentator on the National Health Service and social issues) at the annual Leading Edge Conference. For the last couple of years, Alex Gavins and her team have managed to source a speaker from outside of education who somehow seem to strike exactly the right kind of harmonious chord with those of us in the audience.  As Roy discussed the parallels between the challenges facing the NHS and our education system, I was introduced to the idea of positive deviance. This was one of those moments which resonated with me profoundly, and as the Educating Northants team embarked on our journey, I became more convinced than ever that positive deviance was what our profession, and indeed our county, was crying out for.

What Is Positive Deviance?

The beauty of positive deviance as an approach is that it is fundamentally affirmative in its nature.   It is an approach to change which is based on the idea that in any given organisation or community, there are people whose uncommon but successful actions and behaviour enable them to find better solutions to a common problem than their peers – despite the fact they are working with similar challenges and have no additional resources or knowledge.

Pascale, Sternin, & Sternin. (2010) outline that the approach is based on the following principles:

  • That the solutions already exist within communities and that they have the best expertiseto solve any given problem within this community.
  • That ultimately communities self-organisethemselves and have the right resources and assets to solve a problem.
  • That communities have collective intelligencei.e. the intelligence and knowledge that is required within a community, does not exist only within the community’s leaders or those external to the community, but that it is distributed throughout the entirety of the community.  Positive deviance aims to draw out this collective intelligence and apply it to a specific problem which requires behavioural or social change.
  • That positive deviance promotes sustainability at its heart because the community or organisation has sought and found solutions to a problem from practices and behaviours which already exist within the community.  As such, the successful behaviours are already being practised in the community within the same constraints and challenges of the current situation.   
  • That it is easier to change behaviour by practicing it rather than knowing about it. “It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting.”

Acting Rather Than Thinking

We all know that education is tough at the moment – and that it has been for some time now.  Regardless of our role or location within the system, the same challenges exist (albeit to a greater or lesser extent) in relation to recruitment, retention, funding, and the ever-decreasing resources which are available to support our most vulnerable learners.  Add to this, an accountability regime which at times can feel punishing and restricting in equal measures, it is no wonder that the discourse surrounding our profession is often dominated by negativity and helplessness.  Yet despite this – and I write this against the backdrop of what has been the hardest year of my professional career – I still truly believe that I have the best job in the world.  

One of the things that has anchored me to this belief this year has been the opportunity to work as part of an incredible team of educators in organising Educating Northants.  @621carly has documented our journey here in our opening address to 600 delegates on 30th March 2019, it was never more clear to me that what we were seeing at the University of Northampton that day was the power of positive deviance in action – and at scale.  

Collective Intelligence

During that day, over 600 educators had chosen to spend their Saturday sharing and learning from each other.  What’s more, we had the pleasure and privilege of hearing from many, many local educators who gave their time for free to let us know what they were doing in their classrooms and schools day in, day out to make a difference to their communities.  These colleagues face the same challenges and constraints as the rest of us, but they have not let this deter them from seeking out and finding solutions which are working despite the odds.  Issues relating to engagement, curriculum design, assessment practices, factors significantly impacting on the lives of our children outside of school, technology, behaviour, professional learning and much more, face all of us regardless of phase or institution type.  Yet here in the Waterside Campus on the 30th March were living, breathing examples of positive deviants who were telling us how they are transforming the lives and communities of those lucky enough to be touched by their work.  And the programme itself, which represented a huge array of differing educational philosophies and beliefs, demonstrated the power of collective intelligence.  We had been very clear from the start that we wanted the conference to be nonpartisan and welcoming to every voice within the education sector – what was most important to us, was that we tapped into the power of collective intelligence and invited everyone to part of the conversation.

Just Be Yourself

And so as I took my children to school this week – a rare opportunity afforded by different term dates between counties – I was given a piece of writing by the class teacher of my middle daughter Zara, who had written this independently following a philosophy lesson.

At 7 years old, here was a voice which at its very core had the belief that being yourself was enough – in fact, it was more than enough.  A voice which held firm the belief that being yourself, regardless of any beliefs, interests, backgrounds or ambitions, should be celebrated and not hidden away.  

Over a week later, as I reflect on Educating Northants and the conversations which have taken place – and are continuing to take place – I am reminded that Northamptonshire and our educators should not hide themselves away. Despite a narrative which at times has been hard to hear about our schools and county, we have every right to celebrate being ourselves. We are not going to accept that our story is told for us by others.  Instead, what Educating Northants has shown us is that we have more than enough positive deviants to author our own story, and show the rest of the education system in England what can be achieved through the power of positive deviance. 

This is just the beginning of the conversation.


  • Pascale, Sternin, & Sternin. (2010) The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems. Harvard Business Press. Print. 
  • Singhal, Arvind, and Lucia Dura. Protecting Children from Exploitation and Trafficking Using the Positive Deviance Approach in Uganda and Indonesia.Save the Children Federation, Inc., 2010. 
  • Sternin, J., & Choo, R. (2000). The power of positive deviancy.Harvard Business
  • Tuhus-Dubrow, R. The Power of Positive Deviants: A promising new tactic for changing communities from the inside. Boston Globe. November 29, 2009.

A Level English Language Revision Guide

This has been a bit of a labour of love – it may well have errors as I haven’t properly proofed it and I might make some more amends following work with my students next week but I hope it is of some use to someone somewhere!

A Level English Language Revision Guide Final

AQA GCE English Language Paper 2 Section B Question 3 Resource

A suggested structure / approach to thinking about the comparative representation question on Paper 2.  Any questions, please ask!

7702:2 Question 3

Linguistic Terminology Flashcards

See here for a link to a list of the linguistic terms on my knowledge organiser as flashcards.  Set up and ready to print / laminate!


Flash cards – JHG3 Flash cards – JHG9 Flash cards – JHG8 Flash cards – JHG7 Flash cards – JHG5 Flash cards – JHG4 Flash cards – JHG2 Flash cards – JHG

A Level Language Threshold Concepts

I have done a lot of thinking over the summer about the curriculum following a day spent with Martin Robinson and Tom Sherrington.  This has been from both a subject and a whole school perspective, but I have started trying to really get to grips with some of my thinking from a subject perspective.

I was particularly interested in the notion of threshold concepts and the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this is almost like the missing piece in a jigsaw.  As I started to think about what key ideas, concepts and knowledge students needed to be successful in English Language, the more I could see that most ‘gaps’ which appeared in students’ responses were likely to be because of one of these root causes.  And whilst I have a relatively sophisticated approach to addressing gaps in knowledge and skills at a grain sized level with accompanying resources and support for students, it now seems that I was trying to build the house too quickly!  Without making sure the foundations are in place, it’s clear to me now that the activities I have been using have superficially closed a gap but are not the most effective way to develop experts.  I am going to spend the first half-term of Year 13 focused on these and I am excited about the impact that this will have both for me as a teacher and the students!

It really has been a lightbulb moment in many ways and my initial thinking can be seen here:

A level Language Threshold Concepts (1)

I am sure this is just the start of an evolving process but thank you @trivium21c and @teacherhead for starting me on the journey!

AQA English Language Investigation Introductory Unit

I still haven’t got round to sorting dropbox but I am just planning for this term.  Link below to 8 introductory lessons and resources for the language investigation – hopefully they work!  It’s a little outdated in terms of some of the activities but still pretty much fit for purpose.

Year 13 Language Investigation Introduction Lessons (1)

School Data Mini Investigation 5 School Data Mini Investigation 3 School Data Mini Investigation 1 Sample annotated analysis para Sample analysis para PRESENTING DATA EFFECTIVELY Past Investigation Evaluation Sheet Language Investigation Proposal Form SAMPLE Getting to know your data Framing a focus for investigation ENB4 Proposal Form Effective Investigation Titles

Authentic Leadership – What Are Your Core Values?

It’s been one of those weeks where I have had the opportunity, for various reasons, to reflect on both my own values and those values that I would like our school community to represent.  In doing so, I have become even more evangelical about the ways of working which we promote and hold in high esteem from everyone involved with us: optimism, determination, thoughtfulness, clarity.  I am now even more convinced that these really are the values which reflect us best.

Lencioni summarises nicely in The Advantage the importance of values which are authentic to the organisation, and he distinguishes between core values, aspirational values, accidental values and permission to play values. He talks about the numerous organisations which have respect, integrity, excellence, and aspiration amongst others as their core values – his claim is that these values can in fact be destructive.  Empty values statements can create cynical employees and undermine everything the organisation is trying to achieve.  His alternative?  To follow the process below so that an organisation’s values actually mean something.

Step 1: Understand the different types of values. Lencioni defines them as below:

Core Values:

These are the principles / the ways of working which guide all of an organisation’s actions – these are evident in every aspect of the organisation and are sacrosanct.

Permission To Play Values:

These are the minimum behavioural and social standards required of anyone within the organisation.  These don’t tend to vary much across organisations, particularly those in the same sector, so by definition they don’t really help distinguish an organisation’s particular flavour.  These can often be confused with core values.

Aspirational Values:

These are values which the organisation needs to succeed in the future but which they currently lack.

Accidental Values:

These arise spontaneously without being deliberately cultivated by the organisation’s leadership.  They usually reflect the common interests of personalities of the organisation’s employees.

Step 2: Be unapologetically authenticc.

Step 3: Own the process.

Step 4: Ensure the values are lived – weave them into every aspect of the organisation.

The process we went through in determining our core values was interesting as at the start, we were in fact describing what Lencioni defines as permission to play values.  Of course we want to act with honesty, of course we want to operate respectfully, of course we want our community to be aspirational, but what really helped us was Lencioni’s question in relation to what constitutes a core value – do we do it better and with more deliberate focus than 99% of other similar organisations?  If the answer is yes, it’s a core value.

What was also interesting about the process was that ultimately as the leader of the school (and whilst I am also evangelical about team work), the values had to be authentic to me – I had to make the final decision.  I am lucky to work for a trust which absolutely understands leadership in its broadest sense, and the input from the commercial world is one which I welcome – the majority of my reading and inspiration on leadership comes from outside of education.  Sometimes in education, distributive leadership is talked about so much that we forget that leaders are the leader of an organisation for a reason – this is not about hero heads, but if the leader can’t make the difference, then why are they there?  Leading change and establishing a culture has to, in my view, come from the leader of the organisation.  And that’s why the four values had to be authentic to me.

This week, I have been comforted by the fact that my senior team, our systems and processes, and the way we work with everyone in our community, really does support the fact that our four core values are core values, and not in fact permission to play values.  I have also reflected this week on how interrelated my four ways of working / core values are – this perhaps reflects the fact that one of the things I have always wanted to achieve in whatever role I have undertaken, is cohesion.


I am by nature an optimistic person and one of my favourite quotations is from Einstein: “You have to learn the rules of the game.  And then, you have to play better than anyone else.”  Schools exist in the educational landscape we have – there is no point arguing or fighting against this – it is what it is.  I do not however believe that this makes me powerless.  I don’t buy that this means we have to operate our school in a particular way, I don’t buy that this means I have to compromise my values or my beliefs in education.  I make it work within the system we operate in.  It is possible.


I am also by nature a determined person.  I value hard work highly, and I will always find a solution or be committed to making a difference – no matter whether it is for a student, a staff member, a parent or the community which our school serves.  And it is a mixture of this optimism and determination which works for our school.


It is this value which has been most in my mind this week.  One of the things I admire most, in fact require, in terms of both working and personal relationships is the acceptance of responsibility.  This cannot happen without self-awareness and reflection.  My first response to anything is what was my part in this?  How did I contribute?  What did I do well?  What do I need to do differently?  What have I learned from this?  It is impossible to take responsibility without the ability to think about these questions.  This is not to say that anything that happens (good or bad) is solely down to me.  What it does mean is that my first instinct is to look to myself and my part within it.  And as the leader of an organisation, it is my role to share this and accept my part to play without feeling the need to blame others or manipulate the situation to detract attention away from myself.  And again, it is here that I am lucky to work within a trust who challenge my own thinking and help ensure I remain outward looking too.  I am encouraged to also think how I might also include awareness of external influences and the responsibility of others so that thoughtfulness is both an internal and external reflection.


All of the above three values result in my fourth core value – clarity.  With an optimism that I can change things, the determination to follow it through, and the thoughtfulness in relation to what needs to happen and how we move forward for the best interests of our community, my final value is clarity.  Clarity of agreed action, clarity of support, clarity of communication.

Authentic leadership – being true to my core values.  What are yours?


Year 12 English Language – Lexis/Semantics/Foregrounding/Metaphor/Phrases

As in my previous post, I am happy to email any resources referenced should anyone wish to have them!

Lexis and Semantics

Activity 1:

Taboo – a quick game of taboo is an interesting way to get students to start to think about lexical choices and meaning.  Once students have created taboo cards and played the game, unpick the mechanics of the game in terms of how they created it, and how easy / hard they found it to play.  This can open up an interesting debate and led nicely in my classroom into a discussion about lexis and its importance.

The activities in Section 4 of the EMC Introduction to Language Framework by @mmgiovanelli and @DanSeanClayton are an excellent way to start students thinking about lexis / semantics and I would really recommend these.

Activity 2:

Following the activities above and exploration with students, give students a purely factual description (Resource 1).  Ask students to add at least 10 words to the text – they cannot change or alter any of the existing text. Students should then share their descriptions with the class.  Other students should listen carefully, and as soon as the description has been read, share with their partner what image comes to their mind straight away.  Time should then be spent exploring why this image came to mind.  Which words created this?  Was it a combination or pattern of words?  Did everyone respond the same way and have the same or a similar image?  If not, why not?  What does this tell us about why writers use certain lexical choices?  What types of words were chosen and how did this link to the genre?  The really interesting discussion in my classroom came from the students actively thinking about the choice of their word choices.  They had undertaken this activity intuitively by simply adding words.  When they then thought about why they had chosen the words that they had, and the impact of these, it was a light bulb moment for some of them in terms of thinking about lexical cohesion, and how certain choices were preferred because of the type of factual text they were adding to.

For this next part of the sequence, despite being biased, I would definitely recommend @mmgiovanelli’s Teaching Grammar, Structure and Meaning, published by Routledge.  The book introduces teachers to some ideas from cognitive linguistics as a way of explaining and teaching important grammatical concepts. My A level class were the original guinea pigs for these activities and every class I have done them with since have found them really useful.  I have had permission to share the content below but this really is no substitute for buying / reading the book as the resources and explanation are far more detailed!

Activity 3: Figure / Ground

Students begin by considering some classic optical illusions to understand the concept of figure and ground, and I then used physical examples in my classroom to further consolidate the idea.  For example I asked them to identify something on a particular classroom wall which ‘stood out’ to them.  We discussed why this was, the effect of this, and why this may be the case.  There was some interesting debate about whether students had chosen similar objects and why this might be.

The activity on page 91 takes an extract from The Woman in Black and asks students to embody ‘Eel Marsh House’, ‘narrator’, ‘door’ and ‘sound’ and is an excellent way to get students to consider the importance of patterns in texts.  I divided students into groups:

1 student representing each of the aspects from the text (represented by the word on a piece of paper).

1 student reading the extract.

2 students commenting on what they saw as the passage was read and enacted.

In essence, as the student reads the passage, the students ‘step forward’ and physically position themselves in relation to each other as either ‘figure’ or ‘ground’ .  The resulting discussion following this activity led to some really interesting observations about the particular effect created and why this may have been chosen given the genre of the extract.  It also led to some really insightful comment by my students on the extract itself.  One student was able to talk about the patterns within the extract and how the pattern and use of foregrounding led to a really interesting effect on the reader.  He described a readerly immersion as he began by feeling as a reader that he was observing the narrator, but by the end of the extract as if he were immersed in the storyworld itself and he, not the narrator, was experiencing the sound.

Activity 4: Metaphor

Again the work in Teaching Grammar, Structure and Meaning on metaphor is really useful in explaining the concept (which students will be familiar with from their GCSE studies but potentially in a relatively simplistic way).  The explanation on pages 69-70 is particularly helpful.

Resource 2 – students match the sentences with the accompanying metaphor.  Discussion about how these metaphors work.  Where might they be used and why?

Resource 3 – students are given a range of texts (variety of genres) and explore how metaphor has been used by the text producer.

Activity 5: Morphology / Phrases

Explain linguistic rank scale.  Pages 31-32 CUP book.

Resource 4. Explain phrases, and model types of phrases.  Use Section 5 of EMC Introduction to Language Frameworks for practical examples.

Resource 5. Analysis of texts – particular focus on genre and the types of phrases used and why.

Next Up: Modality – one of my favourite concepts to teach!

When teaching meets leading – the problem with learning walks.

(This is a post about ‘learning walks’…I have tried to section it so for those reading who aren’t English teachers, or aren’t interested in the background, you can skip to the point!)

I can’t imagine not teaching – ‘just because’ and @dowise’s post here:

Blog: Just a teacher

really resonated with me this weekend.  It has also prompted me to finally get round to sharing the following experience which happened *because* I was teaching.  For a short moment, I was the recipient of one of the processes which as a school leader, I had been a part of developing.

The Context Of My Lesson Visit

Colleagues were undertaking a ‘learning walk’ – specifically visiting English lessons.  I was teaching my year 12 class at the time and I was in the middle of a lesson on genre and intertextuality.  At the moment colleagues entered my classroom, I had just started to take feedback on the transformation task that I had asked students to undertake.  Students were sharing their transformed texts and we were considering what this might tell us about genre, but more specifically what this suggests about the ways in which meanings were created by writers and readers, and how it was in this negotiated space that ‘language’ existed.

Colleagues remained in my lesson for about 10 minutes and the majority of this time was spent exploring, as a whole class, responses to the sharing of ideas – this involved to all intents and purposes to an observer, teacher questioning, student think-pair-share, and student response to both teacher questioning and other students’ responses.  One colleague spent a few minutes talking to two of my students about the work in their folders.

My Response

As the lesson ended, I was barely able to contain my excitement about the direction the lesson had taken in terms of the part which had been observed.  The off the cuff response from one student along the lines of “It’s funny because we all know the apple is poisoned”  had led to a really interesting discussion about how shared knowledge forms such an important part of ‘reading’ a text.  I had simply asked the question “Do we all know this?” to the class following this comment, and this led to further student discussion about whether they did or didn’t know this.  If they didn’t (as some students did not), how did this impact on their reading of the text?  Were they still able to find the text humorous?  What was the difference for those students who did have that knowledge?  How did this add to the richness of the reading experience for those readers?  And if they did have this knowledge, did they all respond in the same way?  For those of you reading this who are not English teachers, you may be a little perplexed as to why I was so excited by this turn of events.  But for me, this one throw-away comment and what we were able to discuss following this, and how we then used this to shape the rest of the lesson was what had prompted me to be so excited as I left the lesson.  Later that night as I was recounting the lesson to @mmgiovanelli, he not only appreciated why I was so animated, but more importantly was able to develop my thinking further by giving me some more subject content to think about, and point me in the direction of some further reading I might like to do by @Droflet Jess.  This conversation led me to further refine my teaching practice when I taught the same lesson to my other year 12 class a couple of days later.

My Colleagues’ Response…And My Reaction

Later that day, I had also spoken with those colleagues who had visited my lesson.  Naturally I was interested, and let’s be honest a little nervous, about what they had thought (and this was a timely reminder that if as Acting Principal I was feeling this way about someone being in my lesson, how did colleagues very new to the profession feel when people dropped in).  Comments about the high quality of my questioning were made, the challenge that had been evident in the lesson, and also a comment that the students who had been spoken to were a little unsure about what they were learning and that there didn’t appear to be much in their files.

In absolute honesty, my natural reaction to this feedback was that I, internally, got defensive.  I am a reflective practitioner and leader, and always welcome feedback, but there were a couple of things which ‘got’ to me:

  • Despite the fact there was no intention to draw any conclusions about me as teacher from such a short visit, my inference from the comment about my students’ work was that I wasn’t doing a good enough job in this regard. In reality, I knew that we were only a few lessons in, much of the work we had undertaken so far had been exploratory text work, and the work we had done simply did not have copious ‘notes’ attached to it.  I also know the two students who had been spoken to were students who I knew needed further support both in terms of a subject perspective, but also from a work ethic point of view – both needed support with the transition from GCSE to A level study.
  • The best part of the lesson from my perspective had been completely missed because neither of my colleagues were subject specialists. The conversation which developed me most as a subject specialist came from my discussion with @mmgiovanelli at the dinner table later that evening.

So What’s The Point Of ‘Learning Walks’?

As a school, we don’t grade teachers, we don’t weigh the pig, we are absolutely aware of the limitations of observations in all their guises, and we at all times prioritise developmental work which impacts in the classroom on adapting teaching practice to make a difference to the students.  This short experience though and the subsequent discussions have led me to the following conclusions about something which has bothered me for a long time about the term “learning walk” and its impact / use in departments and schools:

  • The development of practice takes time and any meaningful feedback in relation to this requires consideration and discussion of multiple evidence bases.
  • Short visits do not lend themselves to meaningful comments on pedagogy.
  • Short visits, which in effect are climate checks, can give a good indication of the ‘base’ conditions for learning. It is possible in a short amount of time to establish whether the teacher’s classroom is likely to be one, in its broadest sense, where effective learning can take place.
  • Where a practitioner operates a classroom which is conducive to learning, the development of subject pedagogy needs to come from a subject specialist.

Rapid Assessment Of Teacher Effectiveness

This thinking reminded me of an article I had read several years ago now by Robert Marzano on the difference between measuring and developing teacher expertise.  The article which can be found in the November 2012, Vol 70, Number 3 edition of Educational Leadership magazine had really helped me define my thinking on leading learning and teaching at the time, and for a while (prior to the inception of the evaluating teaching cycle), I had experimented with two mechanisms within the school I worked at – one which measured, and one which developed.  My experience of my classroom observation reminded me of the rubric Marzano talked about in this article – the Rapid Assessment of Teacher Effectiveness (Strong, 2011).

I have also always been of the viewpoint that all students deserve access to teaching which enables them to make good progress and despite my polemics on the necessity of development over measurement, the importance of evaluating teachING not teachERS, I am (and always have been) clear that one of my roles as a leader of a school is to ensure that students get a good deal.

A Moment Of Clarity

And so this whole episode suddenly helped me become clear  – ‘learning walks’ or the much more helpfully termed ‘walk-throughs’ as Marzano describes them, do serve a purpose for Heads of Departments, and leaders within the school.  They enable a leader to ascertain whether a teacher is likely to create a climate which is conducive to learning.  There are, regardless of all the debates about checklists / frameworks, some base conditions which relate very broadly to aspects of pedagogy which need to be in place for this to happen.  If you are interested, I cannot recommend reading both the Marzano article and considering Strong’s RATE model highly enough.  It is not that there is prescription about what these 10 aspects look like in terms of how specifically teachers or schools undertake them.  However, it does sit comfortably with me, and the experience I have had as a teacher and a leader within a school, that there are certain broad aspects of pedagogy which all effective teachers demonstrate – and this is not at odds with my belief that what’s good is what works.

This is where Strong’s RATE scale is, in my view, really helpful.  If on a walk-though, these conditions do not appear to be in place, this would merit further walk-throughs to establish whether this is typical of all classes, which particular base condition appears to need some development and so on.  Any effective teacher can help a colleague work on these aspects, and these ‘base’ conditions are not dependent upon a subject specialist.  Short, more frequent visits to a range of classes are appropriate in this situation.  If walk-throughs suggest the climate is conducive, then it would seem to me that the development of practice looks very different.  In these cases, the further development of teaching is best met by a subject specialist over a much longer period of time.

@benbainessle, as he so often does, has diagrammatised this and thought about how and what this looks like for both leaders and teachers in our school and I am sure he will share this at some point.  But just as I felt a sense of cohesion with the evaluating teaching cycle, I now feel the same about this process within our school – it is now fit for purpose.

Year 12 English Language – Introductory Unit

I love all aspects of my job but I am always reminded, every time I go into my classroom to teach, just why I came into the profession in the first place.

I have been promising @amsammons since the start of term that I would get my act together and upload the resources and lessons I have taught to my year 12 language classes…I have finally got round to it…well kind of.

I  finished the opening unit of work a couple of lessons ago and the easiest way for me to share what I have done is to write about them sequentially in a blog.  Woven throughout all the lessons are quick quizzes in terms of key terminology which we undertake as we go along.

The accompanying resources are available but as I am at home and they are saved on my computer at school, I have just referenced them here.  If anyone would like them, I will happily provide – in fact @amsammons may help me in terms of uploading them!

Hopefully for anyone teaching A Level Language, there is something in here of use…

Lessons 1+2

What are texts?

Activity 1: Share the hot chocolate text with students (Resource 1).  Simply ask students to tell you about the text.

The idea now is that you give students a series of clues – after each clue, they are to re-evaluate their discussion about the text.

Clue 1: It was found in a school.

Clue 2: It was found in a cafe.

Clue 3: The café was for sixth form students only.

Clue 4: It was written by the café manager who is employed by the school’s catering company.

Activity 2: Ask students to unpick the thinking process that occurred in the above activity.  What does this tell students about how texts are produced and received?  The activity should reveal that students instinctively know how to understand texts in their situational use but that they are unlikely to have the critical vocabulary to discuss this in an academic sense (both from a context and language methods point of view).  This is the point of the course!

Activity 3: Share and explain the context diagram with students. (Resource 2)

Activity 4:  Negotiation of reading activity.  (Resource 3)  Students to analyse the dating ads and answer the prompt questions.  Explore with students the idea that behind language use, there is a language user.  Explore the importance of always starting with the context of any text.

Activity 5: Ask students to analyse the Jaws extract. (Resource 4)  It is likely here, that despite the previous part of the lesson, students will forget all about context, and instead focus on language methods.  Ask students to rethink their analysis of the extract by starting with answering the context questions and then looking at the language used.  Discuss with students the difference in the thinking process that has occurred, the ensuing analysis of the text in light of each approach and what this tells them.

Activity 6: Analysis of Samaritans text. (Resource 5)  Teacher to model analysis based on model of: context – ideas and concepts – language methods.

Activity 7: Students to work in pairs on the texts provided. (Resource 6) Students to share analysis of texts with a partner pair.

Homework: Interpretation of pop lyrics assignment. (Resource 7)  Further activities appropriate to this can be found in Section 1 of the excellent (I know I am biased…) EMC Introduction to Language Frameworks resource.

Lesson 3

Why and how are purpose and audience significant in textual analysis?

Activity 1: Ensure students are familiar with the key terms in Chapter 2 of the AQA textbook.

Activity 2: Ask students to consider the letter I sent home to all parents on the first day of term. (Resource 8)  Ask students to consider who the implied writer / reader and actual writer / reader are.  Students to represent this diagrammatically (I have a photo of what my students did for anyone who wishes to see what I mean!)

Activity 3: Language investigators – ask students to go and find 3 examples of texts around the school site which demonstrate different audiences and purposes.  Students are to take a photo of each text.  Students to return and apply key concepts in Chapter 2 to each of their texts including how writers construct an image of an idealised reader who fits their own belief systems / messages about the company / products they want to portray and why.  Share ideas.

Activity 4: Text patterns – using the EMC resource, undertake activities in Section 2.

Lesson 4

What is mode and why is not quite as straightforward as it first looks?

Activity 1: Explain the concept of mode to students.  Ask students to create a venn diagram which considers the similarities and differences between writing and speech.  Take feedback and explain to students that this is an oppositional model of considering mode.  Explore the pros and cons of this approach.  Ask students to consider examples of texts where this approach would not be helpful.

Activity 2: Explain idea of blended mode to students and the continuum model of considering mode.  Ask students to take the examples from the activity above and place on the continuum justifying their positions.

Activity 3: Name 5.  Ask students to name the first 5 things that come into their heads in the following categories: fruit, drinks, vehicles, football teams.  Take each category in turn and tally up the responses.  It works best if this is represented visually on a whiteboard.  Ask students to comment on any patterns they can see.  Which is the most common thing and why?  Which are unusual and why?  What reasons might there be for this. Out of the total number of possibilities (number of students x 5), how many ‘things’ were actually named?  Ask students to consider why this might be?  Repeat activity for each category.  This should lead to some fascinating discussion about the influence of contextual factors on knowledge so for example you are likely to find that there is greater variety in the football teams named, and this is also interesting if you analyse it further in terms of the influence of gender on choices named in this category.  If you have any students who are not British, this can also have some interesting effects on ‘things’ chosen particularly in relation to fruit and drink.  Explain the idea of a prototypical way of categorising texts with students.

Homework: Ask students to choose 5 texts and choose either a prototypical or continuum to categorise them on in relation to mode.  Each text should be accompanied by a short justification of why.

Lesson 5+6

What is genre and why is it important?  Does intertextuality belong to the text or the reader?  What is register and what impacts on the creation of it?

Activity 1: Genre transformation.  Ask students to choose a fairytale.  Students should then use that story as the content / basis for one of the following types of text: recipe, newpaper article, song lyrics, instruction manual, persuasive speech.

Activity 2: Students to share texts.  Discussion and analysis of these – this led, in my classes, to some really interesting discussion on why students had chosen to transform particular aspects and how they had done this.  Many students (most unknowingly!) had created a humorous text which the students listening laughed at because of the way the writers had manipulated genre and used aspects of intertextuality.  Another student commented on the fact that it was humorous because we “all” knew the story of x.  We then had an interesting debate on whether we were all familiar with that particular fairytale and if we weren’t, would the effect be the same? Talking to @mmgiovanelli later that evening, we had an interesting discussion on whether intertextuality ‘belonged’ to texts or readers and he says @drofletJess has a great paper worth reading on this…

Activity 3: Ask students to find example of fiction and non-fiction texts which use aspects of genre / intertextuality in interesting ways and why.  Each students to ‘present’ their chosen texts and analysis.

Activity 4: In pairs, give each students a role card (teacher / student; police officer / member of public; friend / friend; boyfriend / girlfriend; hairdresser / client; employer / employee etc).  Ask students to create a short piece of dialogue in role.  The topic for every pair is the same: what they did last night.

Activity 5: Hear dialogues – can other students guess who the participants are?  How?  What does this tell students about language use?

Activity 6: Explain notion of register and situational characteristics to students.  Students to apply this idea to their own dialogue and produce a more critically aware commentary on their dialogue in terms of language choices.

Lesson 7

Baseline Assessment (Resource 9)

Hopefully by the end of the unit, all students will be able to tell you why the why of a text is just so important!






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