Quick Navigation
Social media
Contact information
Address

Crown Buildings, Bancyfelin, Carmarthen, SA33 5ND,
United Kingdom

Email

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Phone

+44 (0) 1267 211345

Fax

+44 (0) 1267 211882

Chris Curtis

Chris Curtis is an English teacher and head of department with over a decade’s experience in education. Chris is forever reflecting on which aspects of his teaching work best for his students and, as an avid reader and blogger, is a big believer in sharing practical ways to tackle difficult problems in the classroom.


Connect with Chris


Publications by Chris Curtis

How to Teach: English

Written by Chris Curtis, How to Teach: English: Novels, non-fiction…

Author Blog

Google me a lesson!

September 15 2019


We live in the age of Google. A time when we can access any knowledge we want, supposedly. We often hear that students need 21stcentury skills as new technology has made the old ones defunct. The problem is, and most adults know this, that whilst the internet is good for finding small bits of knowledge, like what is the most popular name for a kitten, but it is pretty much useless when finding information about large ideas or nuanced thinking. 


Ask any normal teacher and they’ll tell you that they’ve had an eleventh hour search for a lesson or resource and found nothing. You may hit the odd gold seam, but rarely do you find anything of merit. In fact, you often find a PowerPoint with forty billion slides and each one contains lurid colours and the clip art circa 1990. The Internet has a glut of information and it takes time, not 21st century skills, to find the right information. In fact, it often takes hours.

When you have a few hours a week (or in some cases one hour) to get information and knowledge into the heads of students. An hour ‘researching’ in an ICT lab is dead time. You end up getting students to find the first thing they find and copy and paste that on to a Word document. The academic flavour of your studious exploration of academia becomes a sophisticated exploration of fonts. The colour and the size of the font matters more than the quality of ideas. 


As a teacher, my job is about explaining complex ideas. Whatever text I am teaching will have some level of complexity and I am the puppet master who helps convey that complex information to students. I think the Internet gives teachers, parents and students false confidence. It presents the idea that every crumb is accessible, easy and digestible, yet it largely isn’t. Since the increase in technology, I haven’t since an increase in geniuses. A teacher is needed to help with explanation.  


As teachers, we need to think about what, how and when we introduce ideas and concepts. For my department this year, I have been looking at how we impart knowledge and concepts. For each unit, I have provided a PowerPoint. A very simple PowerPoint.

Each PowerPoint contains a list of the concepts / ideas.









And, for every concept there is one page explaining the idea / concept. Just one page. I have thrown some dual coding in for good measure. The main focus is explanation. 









Then, as the teacher is teaching and they feel it is appropriate and relevant for the lesson, they can introduce the concept and idea. The slides contain extracts, pictures, art and text to convey the idea, concept or contextual point.  



The great thing for me is that it so simple and easy to do, but it really helps with planning, pushing to the top and time management. You simply drop the slide into a lesson, when the teacher feels it is relevant and purposeful. This week we explored the use of uncanny in the opening of ‘Rebecca’. I hadn’t planned to explore the uncanny with the text, but it just came to mind, and there was a ready-made PowerPoint slide.


My overall plan is have a huge PowerPoint of all the slides from the various topics, so teachers can call on it when they feel a need arises.  As teachers, we often like planning, but the Google search is often a drain. This way we can cut down time ‘wasted’ hunting for inspiration or a YouTube video that conveys the idea, so the teacher can work on explaining it to the class. 


The great thing for me is that the whole process is organic. I can add slides and concepts as and when they are needed - or thought of. Or, it can build as you are going along. I am currently doing one for Romeo and Juliet and I am on my fifth slide so far. I have even used it for an Ofsted lesson observation last year.  


When reading examiner’s reports, there is a large emphasis on ideas. I think we need to work intelligently on raising the profile of ideas. However, we have to be careful and pick the best moment when to introduce an idea. That’s the problem with readymade schemes of work. They force the points. Ideas are often borne out of something that occurs in a lesson. I feed these through my lessons over a term in no particular order. Some I don’t cover. Some I do. Overall clarity is needed for good explanations. 



Oh, and did I mention how it saves time? 


Thanks for reading, 


Xris 

Here's an example of another unit: 




Read Blog

O Punctuation, Punctuation. Wherefore art thou Punctuation? Romeo and Juliet

September 08 2019


During the writing of my book, I came across an interesting find and it was all to do with punctuation. I came across differences in how the prologue is punctuated in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. When writing the book, I wanted the extracts to be easily accessible for teachers to quickly Google and find. There was an issue with one extract on Project Gutenberg. We couldn’t secure copyright for the material because Shakespeare’s words may not be copyrighted, but the editing is. And it was in this area that I found interesting. There are several differences in how the prologue has been edited in terms in punctuation.



Source:http://shakespeare.mit.edu/romeo_juliet/romeo_juliet.1.0.html






Source: William J. Rolfe (1879)

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona,where we lay our scene,
Fromancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'dlovers take their life,
Dothwith their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours'traffic of our stage,
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

Line 6 – semi colon is now a comma




Source: Wordsworth Classics (1992)

Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
,
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life
:
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which
, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.



Line 2 – additional use of brackets

Line 5 – introduction of a comma

Line 6 – use of a colon rather than comma or semi colon

Line 13 – an insertion of a comma



Now, I don’t have some magical answers for the differences, but I have some possible ideas.

The introduction of brackets makes the parenthesis stronger, given it is an authorial interruption and clarification– ‘we lay our scene’. It also separates the narrative from the performance. The Volta marks the shift between narrative and performance.



Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
,
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life
:
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.



When looking at the structure like this, it does make me wonder if ‘(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene)’ was just Shakespeare struggling with a line and a rhyme.



Then, there is line 6. The use of comma at the end allows for a sense of flow and continuation and consequences of events. Things are listed.  However, when you use a semi colon, there seems to be clear sense of connection. Semi colons link clauses together, so here we have a connection between the end of their life and their parents’ strife. For me, and that’s just me, I view the change to a colon to be an accusation. The colon isn’t just linking or showing the consequence, but instead show us the cause. Colons can be used to introduce an idea and here I view the colon’s usage as introducing the cause. They died; this is the reason why.  



We often use Shakespeare in lessons, but I’d say we rarely look at how the version differs in terms of editing. It is only when we have different page numbers in the book do we explore the different versions of a text. The simple use of a comma or colon can change the meaning of line. These subtle differences add additional layers to the text. It would be ludicrous to explore how every line and page is different, but occasionally it might be nice to see how they are edited differently. The Arden version uses brackets on line 2, but uses a comma at the end of line 6.

Thanks for reading,

Xris

Read Blog