An Explanation: Romeo and Juliet – Fate and Interpretation

This month’s #blogsync calls for “an example of a great classroom explanation”. I must admit that I have thought twice about the following contribution as there’s a sense that it really does put me in the firing line – and with a recent damning judgement by an Ofsted inspector, I don’t feel in any strong position to propose that my approach to teaching and learning is in any way congruent with current demands. Nonetheless, I continue, somewhat stubbornly to rely on what the evidence in front of me demonstrates – and that’s that my methods lead to increased interest, engagement and achievement in my students (most of the time)

So, to follow are two captures of my delivering, lecture-style, some ideas about Romeo and Juliet to a mixed ability Year 9 class. You can see the learning programme that these short explanations were embedded in, and you can also look at some samples of the students’ work, which are linked to below.

The students like these mini-lectures and they always ask to record them so they can go back to them later. They are easily accessible to students with dyslexia and the recordings have been of tremendous use with teaching assistants as they like to listen to them before working with the students on their analyical essays. They are a demonstration of the level of sophistication that I expect of students at this level, and I’d be very interested to hear from others whether they perceive this level as too high, too low or just right for students in Key Stage 3.

They do come with a health warning – don’t ever be seen doing anything like this if Ofsted are around!

Capture 1: Fate in Romeo and Juliet

 

Capture 2: Interpretation of Romeo and Juliet by Baz Luhrmann

 

The following is a video of a presentation I created earlier in the learning programme exploring the use of metaphor in Romeo and Juliet:

Presentation 1: Metaphor in Romeo and Juliet

 

Examples of students’ work arising from the learning programmes within which the above explanations were embedded:

  1. Louie’s Essay on Fate
  2. Joe’s Essay on Fate
  3. Henry’s exploration of Metaphor: Attempt 1, and Attempt 2

So, what do you think of the explanation, method of delivery (acknowledging that these captures are published and accessible to students) and the quality of the outcomes? I’d be genuinely interested to know.

Posted by Christopher Waugh

  1. stephen ruffins June 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Chris:
    If I had not read the students’ essays I would have thought you absolutely crazy to use such methods with kids so young. But I stand corrected and happily so – You Da Man!

    Reply

    1. Thank you kindly! Be assured, lecturing isn’t the only method I use with them. These students were able to do things like make their own props, enact and re-interpret scenes – the whole gamut – but I still think there’s a place for the pleasure of listening to someone with a bit of knowledge discussing thoughtful ideas…

      Reply

  2. Hi Christopher. I would say this is traditional good teaching and the students’ work shows they have learned from it. I guess Ofsted thought you did too much of the talking? There is a long tradition of critiquing the teacher-dominated ‘discussion’ (coming from Britton & Barnes in the 60s) but it must have its place alongside more student-led dramatic approaches (e.g. as suggested in the Cambridge editions) which I’m sure you also use. I think I might have focused a bit more on genre (the idea of tragedy) when discussing fate – and maybe explored the students’ own feelings about predestination etc. I hope this comment is of some use. John

    Reply

    1. Thank you kindly. It’s such an interesting time for teaching at the moment – especially with thinkers like Daisy Christodoulou entering the fray with her: Seven Myths of Education. It seems we may give some credence to the old ways of doing things again.

      Reply

  3. I can see why an Ofsted Inspector would struggle to assess the mini-lectures…..in fact, I think they would struggle to assess your overall approach….mainly because I can’t see that any meaningful conclusion could be arrived at without following the progress of students for three years, or so (which is something I hope your SLT are doing). But, there are a number of points to be made, I think:
    -your passion for your subject, your students and developing your teaching approach is very, very obvious, and very encouraging. I think that ‘passion’ is very, very important in teaching. It’s what inspires the students. It also very strongly signals that this is serious and important stuff, and the students should take it seriously, too. Which I’m guessing, they do.
    -the development of your teaching approach is also very impressive. I guess that this is/has been very hard work…over a relatively long period of time….and that this also signals seriousness and importance to the students (they know that there is a lot of effort, here, and that it is for them). The multi-layered feedback loop appears very powerful (partly because this is how the real world works)…but I am not in a position to assess if it works (over to your SLT, again).
    As far as the mini-lectures are concerned; it strikes me that they are ‘reference material’, like a set of notes, but capturing your passion. Not everyone could do this, I think. Your passion and expertise are captured very effectively in film, but not all effective teachers would have suitable styles. Provision of reference material embedded within a larger programme of study seems a no-brainer.
    On the larger question of whether your approaches could be widely used…..I suspect, probably not. I guess that their success depends a lot on the teacher who is trying to implement them (and on the subject being taught). That is not to say that they couldn’t be used more widely for a smaller defined ‘project’ or piece of work; I think they probably could. One concern I have is the level of familiarity with the technology required, but, anyway I think the approach would probably not suit a lot of teachers.
    In conclusion, I see your work as trail blazing and exciting. Your students are lucky to have such passion and dedication focussed on them.

    Reply

    1. I think your assessment is both a huge compliment (thank you) and very fair. I agree my methods are not for all, though I would say that modified versions of my methods are reasonably viable – especially the feedback aspects. I’m doing the tracking myself, by the way. Keeping all the evidence I can find of the progress of the students exposed to my methods in comparison to those in their cohort (and comparable ones nationally) who are not.
      Early signals demonstrate that the effect is very real.

      The interesting challenge is going to be to find ways to demonstrate that this approach of high sophistication, high seriousness, high formality, deep, long-term processing of thinking and writing in the 20 minutes allowed by ofsted. I’m sure it can be done, but they won’t be seeing a representative lesson, which is a bit of a shame.

      Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate it tremendously.
      Chris

      Reply

  4. […] Chris Waugh: A very old-fashioned explanation […]

    Reply

Respond