Last minute Year 11 lessons: a collection.

04 May 2018

“I don’t want to know about evil
Only want to know about love
I don’t want to know about evil
Only want to know about love”

John Martyn ‘Don’t want to know’

Our lovely wee boy, Christopher,  entered the world last Monday. While he has fully embraced his literary nickname of ‘Christopher Robin’, one thing he has well and truly refused to even recognise is the importance of sleep. Now, I have indeed ‘treated’ him to the ironically named ‘Sleep Easy’ chapter from ‘Slow Teaching: Finding calm, clarity and impact in the classroom’, but to no avail (see that subtle bit of book promotion?!). He just looked at me quizzically while I outlined how he could cut down his caffeine consumption or embrace the power of meditation.

Anyway, late last night I decided to put this new bewitching hour in the dead of the night to good use and collect all the writing I have done for Year 11 this year. While I would love to claim this is entirely utilitarian, for the greater good of Year 11 cohorts across the country, that would be untrue. First, it is to assuage a ridiculous guilt that has been whispering menacingly in the last couple of weeks about missing important stuff while on paternity leave – and secondly, to see what I can reuse when I return to school next week as a shell of my former self. So, this is a list of things that might work for Year 11 in the last couple of weeks:


  1. The Mystery of Narrative Writing. Having wrestled with this last year, I decided at the start of the academic year to collect all the wonderful edu-world resources on narrative writing. This has lots of revision material, examples and guidance on how to help students to construct effective narratives in the exam.

  2. This is a post from the start of the year on how to tackle ‘Macbeth’ extract questions. This older post also has a collection of fifty top ‘Macbeth’ quotations and resources that might be useful for quizzing student on the play in the last couple of weeks.

  3. This post reflecting on the examination report for ‘A Christmas Carol’ and teacher strategies for this year might be useful for any last minute work on this novel.

  4. That troublesome mystery that is unseen poetry is the focus of this post. This has a lesson looking at ‘Refugee’ by Brian Biston and a range of poems that could be used and compared with. I have been using these as unseen starters with my group, with a ten minute timer on the board and the class expected to come up with ideas about the poems.

  5. I have spent lots of time thinking about the reading section of the English Language paper this year, with my group last year performing much better in Literature than Language. This post on how writers’ create effect using ‘Enduring Love’ would work as a one-off revision lesson – the extract is particularly useful. This post looking at tracking meaning using an India Knight article would also work to help students recognise the importance on reflecting on structure in the exam.

  6. For the writing paper, this more recent post looks at a range of stimulus and writing tasks that could help students understand the difference between the styles in the exam. The complaint letter to KFC is a particularly entertaining revision lesson!

Now it is a truth universally acknowledged that new parents only talk about their delightful new arrivals (and hound loved ones with photographs – just you wait). So back to young Christopher. Another way we have passed the late nights is by working through the ‘Fifty Essential Albums To Listen To In Your First Fortnight’ challenge (catchy name). Now fear not, he has completely thrived in this challenge (regardless of what Mrs T might claim), and we have had some heated debates about the album that will take the overall top crown. Paul Simon? Pearl Jam? Tracy Chapman? Oasis/Blur (that one was particularly intense – milk was spilt but we won’t “look back in anger.”) Bruce Springsteen? David Bowie?

I will keep you in unbearable suspense. Back to Year 11.

Some of our students will be desperately looking at us to provide some magic solution at this time of year. We are not, however, superheroes (sorry – this had to be done) who can provide a quick instant fix for them.

Instead of being a teaching Batman for the next few weeks – on high alert and moving at a million miles an hour –  communicating calm, positive optimism for our students has to be the way forward. They need to know that we have unreserved faith in them that they can do it on their own, and the final few lessons are merely confirming their outrageously impressive knowledge. Confidence and perspective is half the battle.

The entirely subjective winner, voted by the wee man, of the album challenge (the fact he is a fellow Scot has nothing to do with it) has it absolutely spot on in the outstanding ‘Don’t want to Know’ from ‘Solid Air.’ Our students “don’t want to know about stress, they only want to know about success” (as he might have said)

Thanks for reading. Any errors or excessive sentimentality can be blamed on lack of sleep.


Jamie Thom

English teacher, host of @TES English teaching podcast. Author of 'Slow Teaching.' MEd in Practitioner Enquiry, doctorate student #StrathEdD. Runner.

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