Gary Snapper, Cheney School, Oxford
In this lovingly-crafted and enjoyable-to-read book - designed for primary English teachers but with much to interest and inspire secondary teachers too - Bob Cox (who taught English for 23 years and is now a freelance adviser and consultant) discusses ways of introducing classes to some quite challenging texts from the literary heritage, focusing each chapter on one of 20 poems and prose extracts which he has used in the classroom. Opening Doors is a practical teaching resource with structured lesson ideas and a CD included - but it isn't just a run-through of some nice bits of literature with a few random teaching ideas appended. The book is characterised by a thoughtful and principled approach to teaching English which has at its heart an inspiring philosophy and an associated set of engaging classroom strategies which can be applied to learning about literature generally. Each chapter begins with a section in which Cox describes ways of introducing the text to the class in order to prepare them for learning about it. The point is to get them excited about the text, to intrigue them, to get them asking questions about it, by showing them just a small part of it. This simple strategy - a staple of good literature teaching for decades (at all key stages) but one which is often forgotten about in the rush to establish learning objectives and adhere to linear learning patterns - engages students' creativity, curiosity and critical thinking in ways which it is often much harder to do once the whole text has been revealed. Learning objectives, Cox argues, can and should come later. Crucially, Cox is not just concerned with plot and theme - predicting what will happen in the text and what it might be about (although this of course is an important reading strategy) - but also with helping students to engage with mood and atmosphere, and to explore form and style, getting them to think like writers as well as readers. The chapters go on to suggest activities that will push children's learning on, once the whole text has been revealed, giving detailed advice about how to use questioning and manage discussions in order to allow them to respond openly and imaginatively, working their way to understandings and interpretations of each text. And there is plenty of encouragement for classes to do wider reading and creative writing exercises based on or inspired by the texts, for instance in sections of each chapter called -˜Wings to Fly' and -˜Beyond the Limit'. Indeed, -˜wings to fly, not drills to kill' is one of the key ideas in this book, as, throughout, Cox models and discusses a range of strategies intended to -˜release creativity rather than [to become] a straitjacket'. Highly recommended reading for every teacher of English in both primary and secondary schools.
Guest | 13/02/2015 00:00
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