Sunday, 2 February 2014

Of Mice and Men: A Whole Scheme


As a new teacher, there can be no greater gift than the opportunity to teach Of Mice and Men. Resources are plentiful, the internet and teaching guides are awash with ideas and approaches to the text, the book is reassuringly short and the whole enterprise seems so much more manageable than starting with something like Mockingbird or Lord of the Flies.

I've been using the novella with two different classes. My Y10s have been treated to some whizz-bang lessons with Aloe Blacc and O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtracks, a lesson on the etymology of the N-word (and its alleged re-appropriation), hot-seating, a whole lesson about a punctuation mark (Curley's wife's apostrophe) and an hour spent analysing and writing about the word 'tart'. They seem to be really enjoying it, and i have really enjoyed studying it with them. Their work has been bloody good too.

My Y9s, on the other hand, have struggled slightly. They are very low-ability and, while they love the story, a change in focus and curriculum at my school means that they are relatively inexperienced in studying literature in this way. I am delighted that language is no longer seen as more important, but hamstrung by their lack of familiarity with whole text work. With this in mind, I wrote an entirely new SoW for them which focuses very much on cementing their understanding of the plot and context. Further down the line we'll return to OMAM and concentrate more closely on themes, structure and subtleties which, at the moment, are a little lost on them.

It’s a scheme which is heavily scaffolded in the beginning, becoming less so as it progresses. There is an early assessment point, followed by an end of unit assessment built in to the planning. Each lesson has a discussion based starter.  There are questions interleaved throughout, designed to constantly recap information relevant to the chapters of study. Each lesson ends in a writing task. These are heavily scaffolded initially, with that scaffold being gradually removed as the unit continues, hopefully leading to some strong independent writing in time for the final assessment (which focuses on George). It uses a made-up mark scheme which is kind of a hybrid of Extended Reading and Lit, but you could mark it any way you wanted, really. There’s a sample essay which is not designed to be brilliant, so please don’t tear it apart!

The whole unit is based on an abridged version of the text, but could easily be used with the novella. Individual chapters could be printed for annotation or closer study, the whole booklet could be printed as revision resources, or pupils could be given it at the start of the unit and asked to keep notes on it throughout. It would be really simple to differentiate the scheme for more able classes. It takes 24 lessons to deliver, including assessments.

Hopefully you’ll find something useful here. Please ask if you have any questions.

Rob @PGCEng

All the resources for the Of Mice and Men scheme are available here. If you don't have Google docs, DM me your email address and i'll share a DropBox link.

This scheme was inspired by a blog by Joe Kirby. Follow the link for his views on planning a ‘knowledge unit’ on Oliver Twist and Greek Myths.

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