Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Student Teacher's First Lesson

Today, our wonderful writer-in-residence was whisked away to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen!

Initially, we were hoping Miss Woolley would lead the lesson, giving our young writers an opportunity to catch up and edit existing work, making developments and alternations and working towards the First Story anthology. But then Miss Woolley was called away on urgent business where she would meet another royal, Prince Charles, so Mr Moyser, our lovely English intern, offered to take the session.

As a student teacher, Mr Moyser presented me with a brilliantly structured and fluent lesson plan before commencing teaching. It noted the lesson aims, resources to be referenced, and differentiation opportunities. It was very detailed, but what impressed me most was his actual teaching - engaging, entertaining and educational.

Mr Moyser presented us with an extract from Zadie Smith's NW, in which she describes a route from A to B in a rather unconventional manner. The first part of the extract looks a little like a Google Maps route, outlining distance and turnings. The second part described the same journey using short snippets of detail, such as the smells, sights and sounds. It was a very unconventional starting point, focusing on sensual settings rather than character or story.

Then, the group were asked to think about a journey they know well, like the route to school. Mr Moyser used the technique of automatic writing, in which the young writers are encouraged to write about whatever comes into their head as the teacher offers prompts, such as "What can you smell?", "If you stuck your hand out right now, what could you touch?". Some students wrote lists, whilst others wrote sentences. After a few minutes of this, Mr Moyser asked us to pause, reflect, and edit, bringing together similar sounds and rhythms, developing our notes into a poem or short piece of prose.

This workshop produced a variety of different styles, which was fascinating to witness. Some students took the task literally, writing something similar to Smith's original but drawing on their own experiences. Others built up their routes, subtly adding in story or character through carefully manufactured hints and implications.

I really enjoyed this workshop - and I think this is partly due to Mr Moyser's beautifully executed and suitably flexible lesson plan. Seeing the direction the lesson was intended to go gave me a different perspective on a writing workshop, and helped me think differently about teaching and learning.

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