Come here and take my hand, I’ll show you
I think I know a better way, y’all
Around the World in a Day – Around the World in a Day – Prince (& The Revolution)
A good curriculum is a consequence of well taught lessons, appropriate content and an effective assessment system (Spielman 2018).
When writing a curriculum for KS3 which aspects do you focus on? In English consider all the literature available over hundreds of years, from around the world – which plays, poetry, novels and articles do you choose to teach? Which themes and topics do you cover? You can’t teach all of them!
Masterclasses, Lectures and Projects!
A couple of years ago I decided to contact my local university and see if we could work together to raise aspiration in a final push with our year 11s. They agreed, and our students spent the whole day in lectures. The university bent over backwards to organise a fantastic day with our students. I strongly urge you to do this. When questioned, our students said it was a very worthwhile experience. Our plan is to do this every year.
But what about KS3? What can you do to raise achievement and academic excellence for KS3? Last year, as a department, we ventured into the wilderness of projects!
The beginning of our Project journey
A couple of years ago I was talking to Claire Hill (@Claire_Hill_ ) about a “master class” she was putting together on Fairy Tales and it made me really consider different ways we could get students learning some key topics that underpin literature.
Our aim was to engage, challenge and motivate students to achieve for themselves by giving them opportunities to explore ideas and other areas of interest connected to the English curriculum.
We wanted our students to develop:
- Knowledge: To expand student understanding of English language and literature.
- Commitment: To demonstrate excellent research and planning strategies so that students can make a high quality final project.
- Independence: For students to take responsibility for their own learning by researching a topic and showing that they can remain on task.
- Resilience: To obtain, select and synthesise information from a range of sources, overcoming obstacles to learning whilst making appropriate connections across the topic.
- Presentation skills: Students develop the skills to evaluate outcomes in relation to agreed objectives and their own learning and performance.
We wanted our students to make a significant contribution to the choice and design of their own project and take responsibility for their individual task. We hoped students would, in turn, develop and improve their learning and skills beyond the classroom including the ability to transfer skills to other areas of the curriculum and their education.
We picked topics related to our subject that we felt underpinned knowledge needed at KS4. These were the final topics:
|Year 7||Term 1||The British Empire|
|Term 3||Fairy Tales|
|Term 4||Children in Literature|
|Term 5||Greek Mythology|
|Year 8||Term 1||Religion in Literature|
|Term 2||Allusion (Adam and Eve/Garden of Eden)|
|Term 3||Victorian/Modern England|
|Term 5||Science/technology (man v god)|
|Year 9||Term 1||Patriarchy (matriarchy)|
|Term 2||Women in literature|
|Term 3||Crime, violence, murder|
|Term 4||7 sins|
|Term 5||Diversity (in literature)|
The Master Class
In the same way that you prepare for a lesson, we planned the topic in relation to influential world literature and scripted a masterclass suitable for the year group, topic and content we wanted students to benefit from.
We took one English lesson (usually in the first few days back after a half-term/end of term break) and gathered the whole year group together with all the English teachers. Students were given a folded A3 sheet of paper with key words, dates, important authors or works of literature on the front and the rest of the pages were printed in a Cornell note style layout. Whilst we delivered the masterclass, they took notes. We didn’t give them any other resources – just their own notes!
I need to point out that we do cover many of these topics in our KS3 curriculum and lessons, for example, we have a unit on the topic of “Heroes” in year 7, but it is a non-fiction unit. The masterclasses tended to focus on a topic through time, how something was represented or how it influenced many authors’ work. For example, in year 8 we looked at how children were represented in novels from 19c to recent popular novels/literature. We looked in detail at the representation of women across poetry and fiction and how it has changed, particularly in books aimed at children or young adults.
We didn’t want to restrict any child’s creativity and let students approached the projects in different ways. We did give students some guidance on how to organise themselves:
- Research the topic. Use the local library, websites, images, books etc – and keep a record of all the sources you use:
- An artefact
- Other people’s research in books/articles
- The internet
- Newspaper articles about your topic
- Books and poems on the subject
- Art about the subject
- Interviews with people who were directly affected
- Make notes. You must NOT copy and paste, notes must be in your own words.
- Decide on the best format to present ideas. To help with ideas on how to present their final project we gave students a table with possible tasks such as:
- A timeline, glossary of terms, mind map, a quiz on the topic.
- Summary of main points, author profiles.
- Write a biography for an author with a focus on topic. Or A fact file of authors, books, ideas etc
- Read novel from the list, or another of your choice, then write your project based on the book/topic/author.
- Submit your project!
If anyone is wondering did the projects replaced homework? NO!
The projects were completely separate from homework. Students still get a range of weekly homework(s) to support classroom learning including reading, comprehension and writing.
Did all students have to complete a project? YES!
After we delivered the masterclass, we nervously waited for the 6-week deadline and for students to bring their projects in.
I had no idea as to exactly what would be handed in, but as the projects began to roll in my emotions ranged from joy and pride to awe: All of our students had completed their projects and they were bloody amazing!
One boy had sat down and interviewed his grandad for his British Empire and literature project, typing up his interview, then sticking it to card and making into a booklet. Another worked with his KS5 brother discussing Christina Rossetti for his Women in literature. We had timelines with books, folders broken down into sections, and podcasts! We had miniature libraries of authors made with bios and pop up books that were so beautiful I didn’t want to give them back!
All projects were rewarded with certificates and house points! We ended up giving more merits and distinctions than standard passes because the standard was so high. As the year went on students were learning off each other, seeing how different projects had been put together, how they’d been presented etc.
Finally, because of the high standard, we decided at the end of the year we would give a special award for students that we felt deserved further recognition in the following three categories:
- Independence – the ability to collate and present ideas to a high standard
- Communication skills – presenting ideas in an interesting and clear way
- Creativity – presenting ideas in an original and innovative way
Over the next three years, we hope students will build a bank of knowledge to support their learning of English language and literature, developing their ideas through classwork, homework and their projects.
And if somewhere along the line the knowledge picked up helps our students secure deeper understanding that leads to better grades then it’s a win-win!
Key Stage 4
We ran similar sessions for our year 10 and 11, but instead of a “master class” once a half term we gathered our whole year group and went for a lecture-style session. These were text-specific and students weren’t expected to complete a project. These were mainly to secure knowledge or context needed for their upcoming GCSE.
After reflecting on this year, I have changed, merged and added topics for our KS3 titles for 20/21 will be:
|Year 7||Term 1||The British Empire (colonial literature)|
|Term 2||Heroes and legends|
|Term 3||Fairy Tales & Greek mythology|
|Term 4||Children in Literature (coming of age literature)|
|Term 5||Identity, culture and realism|
|Year 8||Term 1||Religion in Literature + Allusion (eg Adam and Eve/Garden of Eden)|
|Term 2||Gothic & Science/technology (man v god)|
|Term 3||Victorian (Modern) England + WW1 poetry|
|Term 4||Science, dystopia & apocalyptic|
|Term 5||Contemporary literature (inc verse novels)|
|Year 9||Term 1||Patriarchy (matriarchy)+ Women in literature rise of Feminist lit|
|Term 2||Crime, violence, murder & 7 sins (rise of detective)|
|Term 3||World literature (American, African, Asian)|
|Term 4||Diversity (in literature) LGBTQ|
|Term 5||The power of language – Literature that changed a world (books, poems, speeches)|
Thank you for reading!