I have an interview on Monday.
For me the most stressful part of interview preparation is getting the lesson right. I’m happy to take criticism over almost anything else but I really don’t want to hear that my teaching is anything less than outstanding. Why? Because it’s what I do all day. If I can’t put together an outstanding lesson at an interview then, frankly, what’s the point?
But, as we all know, interview lessons are highly artificial. You have no prior knowledge of the students beyond some broad statement about their ‘ability’ and you don’t have any kind of relationship with them. Not only that, you normally have to compress everything into 20 minutes. 20 minutes in which you have to build relationships, give students something interesting to do and take time to demonstrate the ‘progress’ they’ve made. Not ideal.
The brief for the lesson I’m teaching on Monday is as follows: A 40 minute Shakespeare masterclass to a mixed ability Year 8 class of around 30 students in which a pedagogical thinking tool is introduced. Now, I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear ‘pedagogical thinking tool’ of late I think, SOLO taxonomy.
My starting point for this was Lisa Jane Ashes’ blog post on using Shakespeare to introduce SOLO. A perfect fit you might think. Well, apart from the fact that I have no idea what, if anything, the students I’ll be teaching know about Shakespeare this seemed like something of a risk. So, I thought, how about if I use Tait Cole’s idea of SOLO stations to allow them to make decisions about how much they already know and how much support they need. This will mean that there will be a class of 30 Year 8 students that I’ve never met before, getting their heads around not only Shakespeare but also the initially confounding language of SOLO, wandering round a class room directing their own learning. Risky? I’ll say.
But, fortune favours the bold. For this to work, my planning needs to be tight. But, as a wise old bird recently told me, whilst we need to tighten up for good, we need to loosen up for outstanding. Despite my current irritation with Power Point, I’ve put together a presentation to introduce the basics and get them on their way:
But, as soon as they’ve been briefed on SOLO stations protocol, they’re on their own. I will be using all my “Sir, I’m stuck” strategies to avoid giving them easy answers to thoughtless questions.
I will initially ask them an abstract question I know full well they’ll be unable to answer: Are all writers trying to copy the success of Shakespeare? I’m expecting one word answers which demonstrate little or no thinking. To show that they can make progress, I’ve worked out a series of tasks design to lead students from a (potentially) prestructural knowledge of Shakespeare through to an extended abstract understanding of Shakespeare’s influence on modern writers.
I raided the library for a pile of easily accessible books on Shakespeare’s life and times. Students have a simple task sheet to complete to show that they have grasped some of these basics.
Students will select from a pack of cards with tidbits of information about Elizabethan England and cross reference against their knowledge of the present day.
And the final piece in the essential knowledge jigsaw is that students have some understanding of some of Shakespeare’s plays. For the purposes of this lesson I’ve restricted things somewhat and have only given them access to Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. More than enough I hope for such a brief lesson. Students will extract details from the plots of each text and record on hexagons. These hexagons will then be taken with them to the Relational station.
Here students are asked to make connections between either Romeo and Juliet and Twilight or Macbeth and Harry Potter. On the off chance that they are ignorant of ether of these modern ‘classics’, I’ve taken the liberty of providing them with handy synposes of the plots. They will add to their existing collection of hexagons by making new ones with plot elements from one of these two texts. Their task is then to tesselate their polygons in a pattern which is both pleasing and which makes clear the similarities and differences between Shakespeare’s masterworks and these tawdry imitations.
Having made these connections and with their brains full to brimming with Shakespearean knowledge, students will now have to answer the question, Are all writers trying to copy the success of Shakespeare?
Obviously, I’m hoping this’ll tick all the boxes on everybody’s clipboard and is a resounding success. But, who know? I’ve tried to account for all the variables I can think of but if anyone can point out any particularly glaring holes I’d be grateful if you could let me know before Monday morning. Thanks.
And if you’re still not sure about what SOLO is all about, watch me attempt to explain it at Teachmeet Clevedon: