In support of essay writing for the re-sit GCSE, bite sizing content is a simplifying method of making things tangible to others. I am writing to advocate replication of form for writing, showing step by step how I hope to achieve more congitive discussion in students moving from whole class group to small, co-operative discussions to individual tasks. I use the context of the Spoken Language Study unit.
FE students of the GCSE re-sit appear to favour the ‘more brains are better than one’ approach of co-operative working. With analysis of text, we start with some situated cognition to create relevance of the significance of Prosody: highlighting real world contexts and reflecting on uses of those functions in individually conceivable and relevant contexts: job interviews, naturally; hanging out; talking to parents; talking to friends parents; talking to teachers; answering a police officer; being in court; working in a call centre, etc. This allows some subjectivity and dramturgy, i.e. ‘how would you respond if….?’ There’s a lot of contextual validity for this unit, which helps make these relatable and to improve comprehension.
I stress the questions ‘how’ and ‘why’ to make things tangible. We are working on the spoken language unit, so:
How does Malala Yousafzai (or whomever) use spoken language features to make her speech impressive.
Why does she do those things?
I break the mark scheme down into a series of easier questions as sub-heading to respond to:
- Who is the audience? How do we know?
- Is the audience engaged? How do you know?
- Is the speech impressive to you (or not)? Why?
- How do you use similar speech patterns in different contexts?
We use a table for analysis, where students fill in notes as they watch videos and record the times of incidence. The notes, in combination with those answers, is halfway to compiling an essay.
So far, we’ve repeated this method over and over with videos linked to each vocation course: Gordon Ramsey training chefs, the Rafa Benitez rant compared to Kevin Keegans, make-up TV adverts and tutorials, etc. This gets them in the groove for the main event (Malala).
The downsizing method appears more effective to promote gradual independence. Nothing original here. It goes from whole class analysis and discussions, which FE students seem to find most palattable, to smaller group discussions, to individual analysis, repeated several times in short video-lead drills. At the moment, we literally repeat these methods over and over for reinforcement, with a lot of explaining that this method is designed to coerce students to work things through by themselves, ultimately. In the first and second instance, the teacher may complement the students’ notes with tips to connect to the marking criteria, on widening discussion, and on writing-up.
Through this spoken language unit, it’s been far easier to handle outbursts and behavioural cconflicts, by tuning attention of ‘volume, intonation, stress’ to the immediate moment, e.g “I noticed a lot of giggling when Billy answered the question with a monosyllabic response. Why is that?” (‘We feel awkward, like you’) and “Why have I hesitated for two minutes here?” (‘You’re waiting for us to be quiet.’).
Finally, using Strategic Communicative Actions (truth statements) helps scale up analytical data to justify responses, e.g.
‘True or false: Malala uses contractions in her speech to emphasise clarity of her words.’
NB: this last has not been tested yet; usually they are simpler, such as:
‘A policeman may talk slowly to show his control and authority. True or False?’ This is followed with the question ‘why do you say that?’ to stimulate discourse. Ideally, you arrange T/F questions to culminate in a more discursive answer, such as ‘It depends…’
That’s it. Working so far, I hope. I can see how this method can be transferable to online learning, but the initial group discussion stages are imperative to encourage discussion as first response and generate ideas. This would be difficult to establish at this level online as face-to-face is still a domain of assurance and allows more spontaneity in soccratic questioning responses to live ideas.