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At the moment I'm teaching Macbeth to my year 10 class, most of whom are targeted an A at GCSE. They're a bright group.
I really want to spend a whole half term studying the play in depth, looking at all the characters, the different themes, doing various activities (not just reading and discussing quotes) and so on; however I know that, ultimately, they're only going to be doing one controlled assesment task on the play, which is about the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
Thus I'm finding myself going down the route of watching the DVD and doing some short activities about the storyline, securing their knowledge, before selecting key scenes and studiyng these in detail.
It'll help them get As for the controlled assessment - bearing in mind they also have to study poetry (this is the WJEC spec). However I just feel like I'm doing them a disservice because they're not coming away with a thorough knowledge of the play like they would for an exam text.
Thoughts? Is this a reality or should I be doing as much of the play as I can?
A half term to study Macbeth is not that long, since even for the brightest kids, the language can be challenging. We try to do a range of scenes which will prepare them for the CA (we do OCR), from across the text but which don't limit them in terms of their response to the question. For A*, I think they need to write somewhat organically about the text and if it is too formulaic they can't do that, so we try to make sure that they know the scenes they have studied (with sets 1,2 and 3 we did about 5) in good detail, but with lots of discussion of character and theme more broadly.
Even this was pushed for time though, as the planning and structuring of the essay, looking at models, and practice essay marking takes a lot of it away.
I think it is a shame to be too test-focused as they won't enjoy it, and they should!
I also think it's a shame the students don't get to go through the entire (or most of) the play.I must confess, with the pressure of results looming larger than ever this is the first year where I didn't just ignore everyone's advice (including the Welsh Board moderator who insisted we only study a few scenes!) and study the play from start to finish. However, given the time I freed up by not going through the whole play (my method for teaching the play was remarkably similar to what you are doing), I was able to focus far more on pupils' essay technique. The results were excellent.
I guess it's now just the reality of the situation.
As a side moan, I would still love the Welsh Board to explain to us why we are comparing Shakespeare and poetry rather than just doing two completely seperate essays. Or even why my Shakespeare/Poetry scheme of work which I put hours into is going to be made redundant due to them issuing new tasks.
If these are really strong kids then they will probably get the high grades even if you don't just teach to the task.
Go with your instinct and teach them to love Shakespeare. It's nearly 40 years since I did my English Lit GCSE and our teacher inspired us with Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice. This love of literature has stayed with me all this time.
Give these kids a lifetime of education and not just a qualification. They'll thank you for it in the long run and you will all get so much more out of these lessons.
'Macbeth' is one of Shakespeare's shortest plays and has the advantage of having no extant sub plot to consider.
When I'm teaching it to able pupils, I focus on the language between Macbeth and Lady M. It's incredibly illuminating and really gets them thinking. If you'd like detail, PM me.
All pupils are aware that there cultural capital in Shakespeare, and that for them to access and respond to it is (of course) an empowering thing. However, to encourage pupils to do this isn't through force of will (although that isn't being implied in this thread) or even (I think) inherent in all its language. It is in the considered teaching (with all its uncertainties) that benefits from focussing on specific parts of the play.
Of course, with even moderately talented students this is not necessary. I'm talking about the vast swathes of youth with reading ages below 10 who require a pass grade in Shakespeare in order to obtain their English qualifications.
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