Play the Simon Armitage game

4th February 2005 at 00:00
Rachel Kitley shares tried and tests ideas that help make the texts stick

We remember only 10 per cent of what we read, 50 per cent of what we hear and see, 80 per cent of what we experience, and 95 per cent of what we teach. Adopting a multi-sensory and interactive approach to revision pupils of all abilities prepare for GCSE English.

In my department, pupils were struggling with the large numbers of poems they have to cover for the new literature syllabus. They were finding them hard to engage with and remember, particularly as anthology annotations are no longer permitted.

I've used speaking and listening activities as part of revision. They help embed ideas while encouraging pupils to engage emotionally, think creatively and get competitive: * Try a game of "Who's the real Simon Armitage?" Four pupils compete to persuade the class they are the genuine poet through the quality of their answers to questions from other pupils about the studied poems. The class votes for the most convincing one.

lRevise key personas from the ArmitageDuffy collections through a class chat-show exploring deviant personalities. Pupils can be in role as characters such as those in the Laboratory, Hitcher and Salome, with the rest of the class as the audience to develop alternative interpretations.

How do the boys interpret Salome, compared with the girls, for instance?

* Recap both a text and the three-part paragraph structure of PEE (point, evidence, explain) through a tag team game where the two sides discuss an essay question. The rest of the class awards marks for how well each team makes points, provides evidence and explains quotes. Explanation scores more than quotation and alternative interpretations score most.

* Revise both writing to persuadeargue, and the key texts, with a class debate titled "Which are the best and worst poems in the GCSE anthology?"

* Split your class into groups and get each to teach an area of the syllabus to the rest of the class.

If you can, encourage them to use PowerPoint. I've seen unmotivated boys rise to this challenge, creating humorous, insightful and memorable mini-lessons on topics such as "the role of imagery in The Lord of the Flies".

Straight from the horse's mouth After teaching Year 11 for nearly two years, it gets frustrating when not all of them seem to be taking your advice. This all changes with this strategy - buy in a GCSE chief examiner (or former chief examiner) to kick-start revision.

You can dictate the content of the day as a department (and which pupils you would like to target), asking the examiner to focus on pupils'

weaknesses. It is useful for them to hear a chief examiner echoing what you've been telling them, but this insider perspective adds much more.

In my experience, the day's mixture of lecture, advice, group activities and question time is invaluable.

The department also found it provided useful training for staff, and Year 11s learnt what exactly gets different grades and what markers are looking for. Most importantly, pupils really enjoyed themselves and left feeling motivated to revise with greater focus and efficiency.

Rachel Kitley is head of English at Kingsbury High School, London REVISIT THE SCRIPT

Using the GCSE language and literature exemplar answers is an excellent way to demonstrate the differences between, for instance, D and C grades for the same question. One of the major difficulties we've found with having a new GCSE syllabus is that we have had to abandon much of our long-collected bank of pupils' work produced in mock exams and lessons over the years.

One way round this is to request pupils' scripts back from your board early at the start of the next academic year. They don't cost much (pound;7 per script for our board) and we now have a fantastic resource that, for once, doesn't give us a huge workload (pupils have to give permission for their scripts to be used in this way). It's also useful for department training to see what did get a certain grade in the real exam. Our department admin support typed out the scripts and we then set the previous summer's exams for our December mocks.

During feedback this term on the mocks, we will now use these scripts, ranging from D to A*, to show pupils how to work towards achieving the next grade.

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH

After teaching Year 11 for nearly two years, it gets frustrating when not all of them seem to be taking your advice. This all changes with this strategy - buy in a GCSE chief examiner (or former chief examiner) to kick-start revision.

You can dictate the content of the day as a department (and which pupils you would like to target), asking the examiner to focus on pupils' weaknesses. It is useful for them to hear a chief examiner echoing what you've been telling them, but this insider perspective adds much more.

In my experience, the day's mixture of lecture, advice, group activities and question time is invaluable.

The department also found it provided useful training for staff, and Year 11s learnt what exactly gets different grades and what markers are looking for. Most importantly, pupils really enjoyed themselves and left feeling motivated to revise with greater focus and efficiency.

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