#10 Character Cubes

Character Cubes is a really effective way of engaging students whilst allowing them to analyse characters on a number of levels. As you can see from the picture, the cubes incorporate the SOLO Taxonomy stages and are a great way to make progress visible.

In recent weeks, I have been trying to create new ways for students to make links between texts/characters/themes without writing their ideas straight into a conventional paragraph. More visual (and practical) methods of making connections ultimately helps students to retain information and is more likely to stimulate discussion. This task is perfect for group work (ideally four), as each student has to work on a specific character.

In the example, I have used characters from ‘Of Mice and Men’. Students begin by making the cube and then addressing pre structural task – in this case to read an extract from Curley’s Wife’s first appearance. Learning is then guided further by the ‘Unistructural’ stage – students are to identify key words, phrases or symbols from the extract. Next, the ‘Multistructural’ stage requires students to explain the significance of the key words/phrases or symbols identified. This can be done as a written response or in note form. Within the ‘Relational’ stage, students are challenged to make links to other quotations in the novel to back up and support their exisiting views. Again this can be added to their written response or notes can be taken. Finally, in the ‘Extended Abstract’ stage of the task students have to reflect on how their ideas link to the social/historical context of the novel. With regards to ‘Of Mice and Men’, comments on Steinbeck’s views on 1930s society could be made and linked to the character in question.

In order to encourage students to explore their ideas in a more sophisticated and developed way, I have included key terms from the ‘Dynamite Paragraph’ resource which shows students how to expand responses through key words. Here’s an overview of what I have included:

D/C Grade: implies, suggests, demonstrates, indicates, highlights

B/A Grade: another, in addition, moreover, furthermore

A* Grade: perhaps, maybe, could, might, possibly

Please see previous post on Dynamite Paragraphs for further information.

The best bit of this task is to build the cubes and make perceptive links between each. For example, the Curley’s Wife character cube can be placed on-top/next to Crooks as both characters are oppressed isolated and lonely. It would be up to the students to justify the connections they make and explain why they have arranged the blocks in a particular order.

Please download the resource from: sellfy.com/JamieClark85

If you use this in your classroom, please please tweet a picture of it in action!

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#8 Exam Support Materials

The English Language Unit 1 exam is notorious for its difficulty. Over the years, I have seen students struggle with a range of questions in both Section A and B. There’s no doubt that the most formidable requires students to analyse and comment on the effectiveness of language features in a text. What’s more, comparing or linking presentational devices frequently leaves student bewildered and frustrated.

With this in mind, I have been inspired to create various resources to support analysis and remind students of the skills required in each question. In the examples below, you can see how each overlay contains clear steps to aid learning. Both overlays feature support QR codes that link to exemplar responses and each contain analysis prompts when considering the effectiveness of a specific feature.

On the ‘higher tier’ overlay, I have included a viewfinder in order to train students to look for small details within a text. This concept was taken from @siancarter1 who introduced the idea in her Unit 1 resource materials – this has also been adapted by @theedukator who created the fabulous acetate overlays pictured below.

The ‘SOLO Squares’ have been extremely useful in encouraging students to focus on deeper analysis of presentational devices – in other words explaining what the features look like and (more importantly) how they are effective and what connotations they have. This strategy is effective for both more and less able students as it provides a more visual way to see the process of analysis. In the picture below, the student has colour coordinated his points for Source 2 and Source 3. This was a useful method that resulted in a great plan for his mock question.

Keep a look out in the future for more Unit 1 resources. I’ll continue to update this post.

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#2 QR Codes

QR codes are bloody brilliant and can be used in a variety of ways.

In case you are unaware, QR codes are ‘scannable’ links to websites, videos, pictures, resources etc. To create them, the best place to visit is http://www.qrstuff.com where you can change the colour and print out multiple copies. Students are required to download a QR code scanner app on their mobile device to access content… something they all love to do.

I have used QR codes for marking and feedback purposes. In the example below, the code served as support for the student’s  ‘EBI’ (even better if) and brought up a webpage full of comparison connectives. The best thing to do is to set aside some time during a lesson to allow students to use their devices in order reflect on their feedback and improve their work… this is sometimes known as DIRT (dedicated improvement and reflection time).

The second picture shows QR codes being used to differentiate tasks. In this case, they provided ‘Support’ for students who struggled to form ideas and ‘stretched’ those who need to be pushed and challenged. I have found student enjoy developing and crafting their responses using the codes PLUS you no longer need to hand out support or extension task sheets!

More recently, I have used the codes for planning and revision purposes (see the third image). If any student misess a lesson/needs to strengthen their understanding of a certain area, they can independently consult the mat.

There are many other ways QR codes can be used. Some excellent examples you can find on Twitter – see @tombrush1982 for some top-notch practice.

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