Pay attention, there’s a test (part 2)

At 18, students ought to be able to handle History plays, but the exam boards don’t seem to like them?

BH KS5 texts

Following my recent KS4 post, I extended my research to A Level – that is the exams taken by 18-year olds before they hit university.  Again, I’d love to hear from students or teachers, especially in other countries.  Here are a few thoughts of my own:

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PTS 12/072: A Game of Two Halves …

Maybe Prince Escalus should have gone to VAR … ?

BH mob-football-in-england
The keeper (left) tried to make himself look big, whilst under pressure from a swarthy Croatian defender, Harry Kane tried to nudge the ball home

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene i

Regular readers will understand my complex relationship with the notion of ‘England’.

The catchy simplicity of Three Lions (It’s Coming Home) turned from pleasantly nostalgic ‘earworm‘ – I well remember the song’s release for Euro ’96 – to a cankerous ‘worm ‘i the bud‘ [a] long before Wednesday’s almost inevitable defeat to Croatia.  The entire nation, it seemed, had been reduced to a vocabulary of just three words – a mantra which was unchallengeable, a self-evident truth destroyed in just 120 minutes (if only Brexit could fall as quickly.) As I watched people (including several students) spill out of The Sun – opposite where I was drinking – in a numbed state of shock after the match, I was glad I wouldn’t hear it for a while.  Having ‘sat like Patience’ I was now, almost, ‘smiling at grief’.  To no avail:  by 11am the next day – no lie – I was hearing “World Cup 2022:  It’s Coming Home” in the corridors of ‘C’ Block … sigh.

Has this anything to do with Romeo and Juliet?  Of course.

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QotW: 09 July 2018 (#48)

Vicarious living is the ONLY way to fly …

BH Jojen-Reed-Profile

Maybe it’s ironic to quote an author I haven’t read – apart from a single short story in a SF anthology (‘The Way of the Cross and the Dragon’ (1978), if anyone’s interested) – but this is the second time I’ve used GRR Martin‘s quotation (and indeed this image):

‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.’

Everyone‘ says I would love Martin’s work if I could find the time to read it, by the way.  It’s not even close to reaching the slopes of Mount Tsundoku at the moment.

If Marxist literary criticism were renamed, say Contextual Critical Theory, I wonder if it would be taken more seriously by the uninitiated … like rebranding Labour as ‘New Labour’ in the UK helped Tony Bliar (intentional misspelling) come to power in 1997 … How can we possibly dissociate a text from the society in which it was created, or indeed from the intertextual cauldron that formed the author’s views?

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Pay attention, there’ll be a test!

For too many of the 600,000 students who sit that GCSE, it’s their final taste of Shakespeare …

BH KS4 Shakespeare exam boardsShakespeare is the only author that everyone over here has to study.  Unless, it appears, you live in Scotland (and someone might be able to correct me on that if I have misread the SQA specification) …

‘For divers unknown reasons‘ as Richard III would say, I’ve been engaged in a little research of what our exam boards offer at Key Stage 4 – that is for the 15/16 year-olds who sit their GCSE English Literature.  I think it throws up some interesting points:

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PTS 12/071: Choose Life!

‘Why would I bother watching Titanic, when I know how it ends?’ Silence …

BH trainspotting_uk

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through.  Romeo and Juliet:  Prologue

As a trainee, I remember ‘inheriting’ R&J from the usual teacher on placements. Twice.  And I vividly remember teaching the Prologue to a top set of smart, welcoming, wonderful students.

This was the class that christened Romeo the ‘pervy monkey boy‘ after watching Zeffirelli‘s interpretation of the balcony scene.  Thanks, Hannah – I will never forget that.  They’re also the bunch that did the ‘Mean Girls‘ recreation of Act III, scene v.  They made ‘fetch’ happen!  So much for ‘Two households, both alike in dignity‘ …

Despite the brilliant memories, I wonder if it’s significant that I have never, since, opted to teach the play, now that I am largely in charge of my own destiny?  And for PTS purposes, what can we, can I, pull out of these fourteen lines that hasn’t been said before over the last 400-years?

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Forensic Friday (#05): RIII – V.v.61-65

Richard III is fooling very few of us with his inclusive pronouns …

BH freedom

I’ve had to take a week out, basically, through pressures of work.  It could easily have extended into a fortnight, but to paraphrase Lord Foul – the Sauron-style character in Stephen Donaldon‘s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant – I am ‘stubborn yet’.

So, where were we?

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Forth, and Fear No Darkness …

“DO panic tomorrow. For 5 minutes. Then dive in.”

BH ride of the rohirrim

Tomorrow is the Year 12 end of year exam …

150 minutes.  Three questions, on Richard III, Edward II, and Tennyson‘s ‘Maud‘.  And despite my best efforts, my class have been increasingly panicked, increasingly convinced that a ‘U’ grade will result in their being kicked off the course.  Most of my free periods this week have been taken up in reassurance and revision.

It’s been contagious:

Open your ears! For who could possibly block them when loud Rumor speaks? (2HIV)

And it’s been unhelpful.  For a certain type of student, fear of failure is the biggest barrier they have to succeeding.  Whoever propagated this ‘you’re getting kicked out’ myth needs a kick in the codpiece.

One of the latest things I asked my students to consider was the contrast in pre-battle speeches between Richard and Richmond.  Which inspired me to email them my own, a short while ago …

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