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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Teaching and Final Thoughts About Beechen Cliff

During my final day at Beechen Cliff, I taught two lessons. The first was

observed and for a class of Year 7 students, and the second was with a small group

of Year 10 students. Both lessons went well overall, but there were definitely some

things I would have done with the Year 10 students if I had more time or was better

about spending the time I did have. The Year 7 lesson went smoothly, but I wish I

spent more time on the first part of the lesson than I did. With both of these lessons,

I have learned yet again the importance of time management. When I have taught

lessons in the past, I have had a problem with not having enough planned for the

class period, and rushing through certain activities. This semester, I think I have

gotten better about structuring my lessons. Now I just need to work on figuring out

exactly how much time I should spend on each segment—specifically trying to

spend more time on the important elements of the lesson, and less on the activities

that are less substantial.

I have really enjoyed student teaching at Beechen Cliff overall. All of the

English teachers were very welcoming, and they engaged in conversations about

teaching and my past experiences in schools often. In my past prepractica, I spent a

lot of my break time with either my supervisor or the other student teachers.

However, in this time around, I ate lunch in the English department’s staff room, and

therefore was able to interact with the teachers and listen to some of their thoughts

about teaching and Beechen Cliff as a school. It seems like a lot of the teachers are

happy at Beechen Cliff and enjoy teaching the students there. A few have mentioned

to me that they wished they had more freedom in their curriculum planning. It

seems that many find the National Curriculum a little rigid, and aren’t happy with

the extent that they have to teach to the GCSEs.

I have also really enjoyed working with the students at Beechen Cliff for the

most part. Many of the students are very insightful, and several of them are very

funny when they strike up a conversation with me about Compton, the Red Sox, and

Donald Trump. They have a lot of really interesting things to say, but I wonder if

they are not engaged by the way some of the teachers instruct the material. Many of

the teachers tend to deliver their lessons and only ask students to copy things down

or write for an extended period of time. I think the students find group work

stimulating, as well as projects, but I rarely see this in classes.

Beechen Cliff was an insightful experience for me because I got to not only

witness a British school, but also an all boys school. I have enjoyed exploring the

implications of both.

The Importance of Shakespeare in the UK's English Curriculum

There is one unit at Beechen Cliff that spans all years and all academic levels:

Shakespeare. Every year, the students can be sure that they will be learning at least

one Shakespeare play. In Year 7, the emphasis is on A Midsummer Night’s Dream,

Year 8 is an adapted version of Othello, Year 9 is Romeo and Juliet, and Year 10 is

Macbeth. I have not really observed many Year 11 classes, but I would be shocked if

they did not study Hamlet. These plays are often the subject of a unit of work.

Of all of the ways the teachers handle how they deliver this unit in its

entirety, I thought the Midsummer Night’s Dream unit was most effective. Each class

in Year 7 individually studied the play, pairing it with scaffolds and videos so that

the students, who are still pretty young, would understand. Then, each class was

assigned a scene from the play. Within the classes, the students would be grouped

with five or six other students. Each would choose a character from that scene to act

out. Then students were given the opportunity to rehearse this scene as if they were

performing it to a wide audience. Students were encouraged to bring their own

creativity into the play, acting out the scenes in whatever way they saw fit. Each

group would then perform their scenes to the rest of their individual classes. The

teacher would decide which group performed the scene best, taking into account

how well they understood their lines and how enthusiastic they were in the way

they presented their characters. Once the teachers decided which group was best,

those groups would perform their scene in front of the entire Year 7 on a stage. The

scenes would go in order, so that each class is represented and each students gets to

witness what watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be like.

I thought this unit was an effective one because the classes I observed were

always very engaged in rehearsing their scenes. The other Shakespeare units do not

interest the students very much. In the Year 9 class I participate in on Tuesdays,

many students have told me that they do not understand the language in Romeo and

Juliet, and that the plot is too confusing to grasp. They have only studied the play by

looking at the lines and analyzing them. Perhaps if the students were given the

opportunity to engage with the play in a more creative and personal way, they

would like it more.

With this in mind, I planned my lesson for next Tuesday to engage the

students creatively. My CT was extremely helpful in providing me with the materials

I would need to deliver this lesson effectively. It is situated at a point in the unit

where students should understand Treasure Island’s characters and be prepared to

create characters that model the ones imagined by R. L. Stevenson. I am looking

forward to teaching this lesson and I hope the students find it engaging and