Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Singh Song by Daljit Nagra

During my time as a TA, I saw poetry taught very badly, very often. Two 'old school' teachers I observed seemed to believe the hallmark of good poetry teaching was ensuring that pupils had reams and reams of notes scrawled all over their texts - regardless of whether they understood them or not. I hated this approach - it amounted to little more than dictation and encouraged little thought, analysis or interpretation. Wherever possible, I would step in by offering to teach the lesson or by interjecting vociferously. Thankfully, the teachers encouraged this and the pupils seemed to enjoy it. Hopefully they learned something, too.

So now, despite having not yet started my PGCE, I'm bravely putting my lesson on Daljit Nagra's 'Singh Song' online. I focused on how Nagra created the character of Singh through language. Hopefully some of you will like it and use some of the ideas within.

Following some fantastic feedback from the Twitter community (much of which is in the comments section below), this plan has been revamped and reconfigured in an attempt to make better use of learning objectives, assessment and structured questioning. It's quite different to before - and hopefully much improved!

Click the links to download the plan, accompanying Powerpoint slides and handouts. All of these can be downloaded as regular documents or PDF files.

Singh Song: Creating Characters Through Language
Sing Song: Powerpoint Slides
Singh Song: Extracts Handout
Singh Song: Standard English Handout

Thanks to everyone who offered advice - it's much appreciated!


  1. Hey,
    Just had a read. I liked the lesson starter idea, would certainly grasp many. (Consider practicalities re. desks if they are all in centre of the room, where are the desks? Do you need to move them back? How long will that take) Also, how do you engage the painfully shy mute child who hates anything dramatic? How can you utilise the natural show offs/attention seekers here?

    Lots of good ideas that need more focus. So start with your LO: Make it more specific, 'To learn how writers' is too broad, and too open which means you're trying to do lots of things quickly (pace important, but not at the expense of the learning). Consider how you can use a more specific verb to focus the learning objective - look Bloom's taxonomy and SOLO taxonomy is useful for this. David Didau's 'The Perfect English Ofsted Lesson' provides really useful ways to introduce your LOs that engage the kids more fully in lesson - to write it down doesn't mean they understand it or its purpose. I plan to be using them myself this year!
    Even bright groups need guidance on what specifically to look for. Key words, phrases etc are useful. You write some useful discussion and analysis Qs - will the class also have access to them? If so how?
    Timings, especially when writing for PGCE, are very long should pupils take on each task? How will you and them keep to time? ( has a timing device). The timings help you work out if you have too much content in the lesson - is that the case here? Or do you need to reduce the length of each extract? Each slide contains a lot of text - will they be more focused with shorter extracts or slightly less to analyse?
    The writing task is a lovely idea - but some will pull the 'I don't get it' and 'How do I start?'cards - How can you get them started? Modelling and shared writing helps here. Provide an example (written by you, short) - ask them to contribute to the next section - involve them in the modelling - then ask them to continue.
    How long should they take writing this paragraph? How do you measure success here?
    Looking at the lesson - you have lots of good, ambitious and interesting ideas and content but probably for more than one lesson.
    Erm, apologies if that seems like an assassination, it's not meant to be. I'm hoping you'll find it helpful. @Gwenelope

  2. Thanks for this, Gwen! Constructive feedback is exactly what i was looking for - i feel pretty lucky to have got such a detailed response! I'll address your points and explain some of my thinking and shortcomings in turn...

    Firstly, the idea of the starter is that it's 'anonymous' - hopefully that'll help alleviate some shyness, but not everyone will be called on to speak anyway, so knowing your class would be helpful here. In terms of space, i'll be hoping my classroom can be set up in a way conducive to activities like this the majority of the time.

    I know that Learning Objectives are something i need to learn more about. The teachers i observed used them very badly indeed (if at all) so i have little experience here. I've got Didau's book so will have a look at that before adapting what i've done here with more specific LOs in mind.

    For the literary extracts i had intended to offer advice verbally on what the pupils are to look for - perhaps inviting them to come up with these questions themselves (with some guidance) would cement the learning more effectively?

    As for timings, i'm well aware that there's more than one lesson here. I've seen how unrealistic student teachers' expectations are of what can be achieved in an hour - i think my weakness with LOs is probably what caused me to only use one. In teaching Moon On The Tides, i reckon two lessons is optimum - long enough to be thorough but not long enough on each poem for boredom to set in. Tasks could certainly be adapted/abandoned according to what worked, what didn't and what was getting the best outcomes - this was always my intention.

    Thanks taking the time to give me such excellent advice - i'll certainly put it into practice and will keep sharing resources in the hope of adapting and improving my work after hints and tips from people with more experience and expertise than me!

    The Secret PGCE Student x

  3. Much better - now, you tell me why that is the case. @Gwenelope :-))

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  5. Ha ha! Thanks!

    It's now a more structured pair of lessons with two distinct aspects: exploring the technique in lesson one, then its application in lesson two. There's also an obvious link and cementing of learning between the two.

    The tasks are now linked to the specific learning objectives and follow a more 'SOLO' way of thinking - identifying techniques, analysing how effective they are and then using that knowledge to create something original - all topped off with a plenary which ties it together.

    Did i pass?