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English - Persecution in prose

What it's all about

We began reading Susan Hill's I'm the King of the Castle last term and it ended up dominating the lessons. My Year 9 (S2) pupils, predominantly boys, were fascinated by Edmund Hooper's persecution of his unwanted house guest, Charles Kingshaw, writes Fran Hill.

Hill's title is a common playground chant. We explored similar chants and childhood rhymes that contain sinister messages of exclusion, intimidation or conflict; researching their origins proved a handy homework task.

In the novel, Kingshaw commits suicide as a result of Hooper's bullying and there is no shortage online of similar news stories today. We compared ways non-fiction journalists and fiction authors achieve reader sympathy for their "characters" with their use of language.

Amanda Todd, a teenage victim of cyber-bullying, committed suicide last month, five weeks after posting a video of herself on YouTube (to read the BBC news story, go to bbc.inRx1n2Y). In the video she is silent, but holds up pieces of paper expressing her feelings. Pupils could imagine what Kingshaw would write on his pieces of paper if he were to post his own YouTube video. Handled sensitively, this could link fiction with real life effectively.

The arrival of Kingshaw at Hooper's home sparked enthusiastic opinions and real-life stories from pupils. How does it feel to have an unwanted guest imposed on you? How does it feel to be that guest? Writing from two different perspectives and using a thesaurus to explore different "emotion" words led to some empathetic work.

What else?

Using a resource pack from TESEnglish, help pupils to use emotive language to discuss characters in I'm the King of the Castle, bit.lyKingOfTheCastle.

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