Classroom Lessons 2: Quality of Discourse in English

Before Half Term,  I observed Lucy Stadward with her Lower 6th English group. The lesson objective was for students “to be able to make thematic, stylistic and narrative links between the tales in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber”. It was an excellent lesson in many ways but the one aspect that impressed me above all was the quality of the academic discourse.

There is a certain sweet spot to hit when managing a class discussion like this: students need to feel comfortable enough to share their opinions but the teacher needs to insist on academic language and quotations, with an eye on future essay composition. When a teacher strikes this balance between approachability and rigour, the resulting discussion can really fly. It is a wonderful thing to watch. The teacher gently coaxes and guides, subtly bringing in the quieter ones, reining in their louder peers.

Such insistence on academic language is one of the ‘micro-strategies’ that Lemov has isolated in his research into techniques common to the very best teachers. He calls it ‘Format Matters’, as in the format of the response. Examples from this lesson: “…I certainly agree that the character was ‘sarky’ but can you put that another way?” “Would I prefer “mummy issues” or the Oedipus complex?”. The class were clearly well drilled in this culture of high expectations, self-correcting their language on several occasions.

Later in the lesson, the group broke into pair-work to analyse a particular element of the work in more depth. You can get a feel for the quality of the work below.                        [JAS, Feb 2017]



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