A powerful argument for the importance and value of 'real English' Read more
EMC is offering one school a unique opportunity to create its own animated video, using the ideas, words, voices, drawings, music and creativity of their students, planned and taught by professionals.
This is a cross-curricular project that could unite a combination of English, Music, Drama, ICT, Media Studies, Art and Citizenship to create a professional animation in collaboration with a BAFTA award winning animator and a poet who has performed on the BBC.
‘I Come From’ – an animation created at Lammas School, London, by the team – shows what can be created when students have access to artistic professionals and the right equipment. You can watch it on the Poetry Station.
The project will result in a video that the whole school can be proud of. In a time-pressured world, this is an opportunity for your students to make a high-quality creative product that can be shared globally. The video will also be featured on EMC’s Poetry Station website.
Students will work with spoken word educator, Cat Brogan, in their school to write a multi-voice poem. (To involve the maximum number of students, Cat can perform to an assembly and ‘crowd source’ a group poem by asking students to write on post-it notes that are collected at the end.)
She will then work with a selected group of between 10 and 20 students, to create a group poem. These could be pupil premium, EAL, SEN, gifted and talented, at risk or a mix of students. They could be from one year group or several. This project could be an opportunity to showcase great writers, performers and artists at your school, to reward students and/or to engage hard to reach students.
The topic could be of the school’s choosing. It could address an issue that the students feel strongly about, provide a creative response to the school’s vision statement, take a look at their local area or explore what poetry, school or community means to students.
Cat will work with the school to ensure the topic is one that students, staff and parents can engage with.
Students will work at Mosaic Films studios in Dalston to record the poem with Jack Morgan, a trained music therapist and counsellor. They will also work with Eleanora Tozzi and BAFTA award-winning animator Salvador Maldonado to create backgrounds and characters to animate their words. They will have both access to equipment such as green screen, mounted cameras for stop motion and the opportunity to use industry standard techniques. Links could be made with the Art, ICT and Media Studies departments in your school.
At this point a ‘picture lock’ version of the film will be made available, providing a possible opportunity for the music department of the school to get involved, working with students to compose the musical score for the film.
Music would be recorded and post produced by Jack Morgan.
The team will provide the finishing touches and the final animation will be delivered approximately 4 weeks after Cat’s visit to the school.
The total cost of the project is £4000 but the participating school will only be expected to pay £1500 of this. EMC will subsidise the project and pay the remaining costs.
EMC will select one school to work with, on the basis of a short application letter. Our criteria will be as follows:
Here’s a timeline for applying to EMC to be the chosen school:
Email Barbara Bleiman if you have any questions or want to discuss a possible application.
At a twilight session held at the Engllish and Media Centre, Professor Emma Smith (Hertford College, University of Oxford) discussed early editions of Shakespeare and explored ways in which these might be used in the classroom. Here you can download her PowerPoint presentation.
For 6 weeks, from September to the end of October 2018, an English department in outer London was involved in a Year 9 project for EMC’s group work research, ‘It’s Good To Talk.’ The project was designed by Barbara Bleiman (the author of this report) and Lucy Hinchliffe, who works four days a week at the school and one day a week at EMC.
The idea was to re-design a scheme of work on a Year 9 novel – Fabio Geda’s In the Sea There are Crocodiles. It started with the department’s desire to build more group work and dialogic learning into their curriculum but soon became something much more all-encompassing. It led to a significant re-thinking in the department about what KS3 English should be offering to students and what kinds of experiences will best prepare them for GCSE without sacrificing a genuine and deep development of subject knowledge and capability.
English and Humanities graduates sometimes take a while to settle on their career paths, as these stories reveal, but once they have discovered what they want to do, they often go into interesting and challenging roles in a range of different spheres. Their stories reveal what their undergraduate studies in English have contributed to their working lives.
English and Drama, Manchester
I took a long way round to the job I do now – I started out with a year in the student bar, then lived in Ireland for a few years where I worked in more bars, with theatre companies, as a freelance writer and did a Masters in English. After a few years I came back to the UK and joined the Civil Service graduate scheme, the Fast Stream.
After five years in the civil service I left and joined the BBC, where I work as a Senior Adviser in the Corporate HQ. This means I’m constantly dealing with policy issues, correspondence, communications and Board papers – an eye for language, structure, evidence and tone are all essential skills in my job and are all things I can trace back to my time in the library researching papers, building arguments and interpreting classic texts.
English Literature with Creative Writing, University of Surrey
I did a six-month paid internship in the TV & Radio department of The Telegraph – I’m not sure whether the programme is still running, but I’d really recommend it; it was a pretty amazing first professional experience to have. After the internship, I was able to freelance weekly for The Telegraph, writing weekly TV previews while doing another internship in PR.
I soon realised that PR wasn’t for me, and after working as a digital writer for Now Magazine for a year and a half, I came to my current role as the Entertainment and Features Editor of Pride Magazine, the UK’s leading magazine for black women. As well as getting the chance to interview people I’ve looked up to for years (Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Hudson, to name just two!), I’ve been able to travel (covering the St Lucia Jazz Festival) and write features on topics I really care about. Without skills learned on my degree such as an ability to research well, and to use language to tell stories in a meaningful and memorable way, I doubt this all would have been possible!
BA English Language and Linguistics at University of Roehampton; MSc Language Sciences at University of Reading; MSc Speech and Language Sciences (also known as Speech and Language Therapy) at University College London.
I always had my current profession in mind, though I knew this required some work experience and postgraduate study. Following my undergraduate degree I worked as a special needs teaching assistant supporting children with developmental language disorders, including working abroad. I also did voluntary work as a conversation partner with adults recovering from a language disorder called Aphasia following stroke. My studies have enhanced my interpersonal and listening skills and equipped me with the strong oral and written foundations to communicate effectively across my working roles and in everyday life.
I am a newly qualified Speech and Language Therapist, and I work for the NHS on an Acute Stroke Unit. My job involves assessment, diagnosis and treatment/ therapy of difficulties with swallowing (eating and drinking) and communication (voice, speech and language) which come as a result of acquired brain injuries. I work within a multidisciplinary team who treat patients in hospital during the earliest stages of their recovery.
English Language and Linguistics BA, Anglia Ruskin; MLitt Publishing, University of Stirling
After I completed my BA, I knew I was going to be doing a Masters later in the year so I did an internship at Sweet & Maxwell London and worked in a call centre for a short while. I then moved to Scotland to do the postgraduate degree which was a year-long course.
I now work in the Cases department at Thomson Reuters, and have done for about 18 months. I publish judgments from courts to our websites, as well as overseeing many day-to-day projects. I have absolutely no legal background, so my Linguistics and Publishing degrees are what got my foot in the door in the first place. Legal publishing is very interesting niche, but my university background (both transferable skills and subject knowledge) has equipped me for any issues I deal with at work.
English, University of Cambridge
I decided to focus on visual work (rather than writing-focussed work) after graduating, which is more common than you'd think! Weeks after my graduation ceremony, I completed two self-organised, expenses-paid-only internships back to back. The first was for a start-up company that no longer exists but at the time it was a video dictionary service: think YouTube but full of videos of people explaining what words mean to and for them. As someone who loves language, this job was fascinating, allowing me to develop my practical camera skills as well as use the breadth of knowledge I'd gained both from studying literature and being personally interested in slang terms. After that, I worked for the documentary film distribution agency, Journeyman Pictures, and they offered me a job on the back of that work experience. There, researching skills gained from my degree came in handy, and both internships helped me shed an academic way of writing. I was at Journeyman for a while before realising how much I missed writing-focussed work, so I returned home if you like.
I now work for a national Church magazine, where I write a range of material as well as conduct interviews. The skills I learned at degree level (to name a few, research skills, textual analysis, writing to argue, using quotations effectively) are put into practice daily in my current role, and I'm kind of the oracle in my office when it comes to grammar and house style. English certainly wonderfully impacts on what I do now; long may that wonderment continue.
BA English at University of Birmingham
Graduate Teacher Programme at Tuxford Academy, facilitated by Sheffield Hallam University. Then worked as an English teacher and pastoral leader for 4 years there. Then worked at an inner city secondary school in Birmingham as Head of English and Languages for 2 years.
Curriculum Director for English and Communications at UTC Sheffield City Centre
BA English, Hull University; MA Modern and Contemporary Literature, Newcastle University
After graduating, I worked as a researcher for 2 Labour MPs in the House the Commons. This involved research, speech writing, case work and assisting with legislative scrutiny. The skills I learned in my English degrees, namely analysis, presenting considered opinions and use of primary and secondary sources of information were particularly helpful in this role.
I’m presently a Policy and Partnerships Manager for a housing organisation in the North of England leading work sharing best practice across the sector; working to create new relationships within and external to the sector as well as liaising closely with NGOs and Government on matters of housing policy.
English BA, University of Birmingham
I didn't know what to do for a long time after University so I waitressed whilst doing internships to figure it out. I tried an internship at a Publishing house for a couple of months and found it wasn't for me. I then got an internship for a small advertising agency who were looking for someone who was passionate about creativity, and loved it immediately.
Now, I'm a Senior Client Manager at a Brand Design Agency. I've just finished a 5 month stint in our New York office and I've been living and working in Amsterdam for the past 2 years. I love working in design as I get to work with and learn about such diverse businesses (charities, FMCG, arts organizations and big corporates) on so many different types of projects; packaging, brand strategy and environmental work. Working in design feels like an unexpected move for an English graduate, but I find the creativity of the industry really appeals to my storytelling side - after all, every brand needs to tell a story to connect with consumers. And being able to formulate a strong narrative and argument are invaluable skills when you're working in client service.
MA English Literature, University of Edinburgh
(Then MSc Nature, Society and Environmental Governance, University of Oxford)
I moved to Vancouver, Canada for two years where I worked for an outdoor equipment company, travelled around North America, spent a lot of time in the mountains, and did some volunteering and campaigning for local environmental NGOs. I moved back to England and did a Master's degree in environmental politics; it was soon after that that I got my current job.
I work for a start-up that advises governments around the world on artificial intelligence policy. I've travelled a lot with work, including almost a year in the Middle East. I find that I'm continually tested on my ability to clearly summarise lots of complex information: just what I was taught to do in my English degree. I've also learned a lot about quantitative data analysis, realising that it requires the sort of attention to detail needed in close reading. I'm having a fantastic time: every day presents a new challenge, and I'm learning all the time.
English Literature and History of Art, University of Reading, 2013
I started working for a top media agency in London 3 weeks after graduating. I wanted a role that was people facing and also creative. I studied English and History of Art as I have a strong creative flair and enjoy writing - these skills were very relevant to working on client pitches and generating ideas for media campaigns.
I work for a marketing agency in London as an Account Director, managing all brand partnerships with many luxury fashion and beauty companies, helping come up with innovative solutions to complement their marketing goals. I think the skills gained during my English Lit degree have been transferable to a marketing role in order to present my ideas succinctly and structure all client communications in the best way to suit the client needs to win business.
English Literature at The University of Reading
I travelled for a few months then came back and became an Administrator at a GP Surgery. I then went part time, working both at the GP surgery and at Kier Construction as a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and Bid Writer Assistant.
I am now in a permanent role as a Regional CSR Coordinator. I do this for our Southern Region, which comprises of three offices. I really enjoy this role as it is varied, mixing PR, events, marketing and other skills together. My degree gave me great skills in communication and organisation which I have carried into my job. The ability to give presentations, write reports and newsletters has been extremely useful. My persuasive writing module has proved especially useful in understanding what words to use in certain circumstances.
English Literature at Newcastle University
I moved to London to start a Publishing MA and began an internship at Hachette. This then secured my first full time job at Macmillan Publishers where I was a Rights Assistant, licensing book rights to publishers internationally. This job was a lot of fun!
10 years on I’ve made the move from publishing to IT and I’m now working in software sales. I’m currently an Account Manager at Salesforce where I work with Media companies to evaluate the technology they need for their digital transformation. The communication and interpretation skills I learnt at university have been absolutely key to my success in this role!
English Language and Literature, Oxford University
I ‘converted’ to Law, undertaking two years of legal study and two years of on-the-job training with a City firm. I qualified into the Commercial Property department (Real Estate) and, in between routine matters, worked on a number of high-profile transactions. All the while, I continued to read a huge amount of literature and to write. I lived abroad for a while – on returning to the UK, I trained as an English teacher. Much of the work that I have done since graduating has been connected, in some way, with the writing, analytical and research skills that I acquired on my English degree course.
I am an English teacher! I am engaged, on a daily basis, with the authors and poets who inspire me. I teach at a fairly old school and I love going into the depths of the English cupboards and finding books that were signed out (and sometimes defaced) by pupils over fifty years ago! The job is tough at times – convincing a class of Year 11 students that Victorian literature is actually great fun has been a recent challenge. I still love the Law and am glad to have access to two deeply interesting subjects – doing an English degree has given me these options.
English Language and Linguistics, Anglia Ruskin University
When I was in my third year at university I came across Computational Linguistics and I knew I wanted to work in the tech field. After finishing university, I spent a few months looking at jobs such as becoming a technical author, then decided to focus on conversational AI. I got a job as a Temp Data Analyst at Amazon and was lucky enough to be selected to join the linguist team shorty after.
I am currently working as a lead linguist for Amazon Alexa, working on improving her speech. This role mainly focuses on phonetics and phonology but other modules from the course come in handy too. I was lucky enough to find a job in a department I was interested in three months after finishing university. I am now looking at improving my technical skills, with the hope of doing a Masters in Speech and Language Processing, or something similar.
EMC is starting to collect together material to support teachers and careers staff advising students about doing English subjects at university. It is also likely to be really helpful in the recruitment process for A Level English subjects. You might want to share information about these websites, youtube videos and articles not only with A Level students but also with students lower down the school, particularly those doing GCSE, to help shape their thinking about future A Level choices and degree options.
In May 2019, the influential Russell Group of universities created a new website to give accurate information and advice to students wishing to apply to their universities about which A Levels would be most helpful to students. The website makes it very clear whether subjects are either required or desirable. For most degree courses, while a single particular subject may be necessary or desirable, the choice of other subjects is open and flexible. This is a significant change from the idea of ‘facilitating subjects’.
This site is for those students who are choosing a subject to study at degree level. It contains information and advice about preparing for uni, what it’s like to study English, and the opportunities an English degree may create for them.
The site provides: teaching resources, including many video lectures of popular A Level texts; CPD opportunities and teacher visits; engagement with schools and their needs. For students considering either A Level English, or a degree in English Literature or Creative Writing, the videos provide a taste of what it’s like to hear lectures from experts in their field.
Brilliant animations and films about language and communication, covering topics from Shakespeare and swearing to emoji and robotics, and from fake news and filter bubbles to comedy and creativity.
As well as being excellent for use in secondary school classrooms generally, not just A Level, these films and animations give a really good idea of what language study can involve, so would be great to show GCSE students to alert them to the fascinations of doing Language A Level or a degree in English Language or Linguistics.
Reading University English Department have 5 short 8-10 minute videos – on White Teeth, Small Island, Othello, Mrs Dalloway and Fugitive Pieces. They feature lecturers in the department and give a good flavour of what university teaching can be like.
This site has downloadable podcasts on several popular set texts, in a specially-designed series where staff and students from the English Department discuss texts, approaches, and study tips to support learning at A Level and GCSE. The series includes a podcast by the playwright Evan Placey, Creative Writing Fellow at Southampton, whose play 'Girls Like That' is a set text for GCSE drama. There is also a podcast on approaching unseen texts at A Level.
The English Faculty at Oxford University have been responding to debates about the curriculum, not only in schools but also in Higher Education. They have developed a brilliant site offering resources and ideas to support developments in diversifying the English curriculum. This will give A Level students a great idea of what’s happening in English at university level as well as some fantastic resources on a wide range of BAME British writers they might be studying, from poets Daljit Nagra and Moniza Alvi to novelists Andrea Levy or Zadie Smith, as well as ideas for other writers who may be of interest.
The Oxford English faculty has a great series of podcasts in the Great Writers Inspire series. Though aimed primarily at first year undergraduates, they give a very good sense of what university lectures have to offer and may be specially helpful if one of them, by good fortune, happens to be on a text being studied for A Level.
This site gives a map of all the Linguistics and English Language courses in the UK, along with a list giving instant click-throughs to all the individual departments. If you’re thinking of doing a course in this subject and want to browse what’s available looking at the differences between courses, it will save you hours of searching the web!
Dr Michelle Sheehan, Reader in Linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University, suggests three websites that explain what linguistics is, to help inform your decision:
National Poetry Day 2018 is on 4th October. The theme this year is ‘Change’.
We think it can be interpreted loosely and widely, to include:
On the Poetry Station, we’ve made a page of all the poem performances that explore these different kinds of change, so that you can select from them ones to share with your students on National Poetry Day. Each video is a short experience of a poem, mostly read by the poets themselves, bringing the poem off the page and making a performance of it. They’re a great introduction to the rich variety of poems and poetry available, both from past periods and the here and now.
We’ve created a set of teaching ideas to go with it, to allow you to do some great poetry reading and writing activities on the day, with the minimum of fuss or advance preparation. Most of these activities can be done by simply watching Poetry Station videos and then setting students off on one of the suggested tasks.
Poetry is a great way of arguing for change. As a spoken form, it can speak to people directly, and act as a powerful call for action.
Some poems do something so differently that they could be seen as changing the whole way poetry works. One example of this is prose poems, poems that look like prose but have many of the other qualities of poetry. Here are two ways of experimenting with poetry and prose to make new kinds of poetry.
Create a prose poem
Create a poem out of everyday prose
EMC was delighted to write the summaries for the titles featured in Walker Books’ secondary catalogue. There are some brilliant reads here for all secondary level students. Download the catalogue here.
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Here Barbara Bleiman introduces EMC’s exhibition of examples of writing from Let Them Loose! The exhibition gives a flavour of what happened on the day. With 1000s of pieces of writing being tweeted and sent to us for display on Flickr, it’s only been possible to select a few. True to the spirit of the event, Barbara, Simon Wrigley (of the National Writing Project) and playwright, Sarah Hehir, chose pieces that caught our attention and spoke strongly and freshly to us, rather than applying any fixed criteria or being overly concerned about technical accuracy or a highly polished final product. Following on from Barbara’s introduction and the exhibition is a reflective report by Simon about what he took from the day.
Wednesday 21st June was National Writing Day, the first of many, I hope. The English and Media Centre discussed what we could offer on that day and decided to set up an event called ‘Let Them Loose!’ We wanted to encourage English teachers to allow their students to write without the constraints of assessment, to write for its own sake, for pleasure and for themselves, without teacher intervention or marking. We have observed, over the past few years, how a data-driven accountability culture has been transforming the teaching of writing – and not in a good way! When everything is assessed to within an inch of its life, and students are given highly prescriptive (and proscriptive) instructions for everything they write, then students start to write in stilted, formulaic and inauthentic ways. ‘Let Them Loose!’ was an open offer to write unfettered by these strictures. Students were to be given 30-45 minutes to write, on a choice of mystery stimuli provided by EMC on the day. The stimuli included two intriguing photographs, plus a selection of poetry fragments, from which they could select as many or as few as they liked to spark off their imaginations. A fourth option was ‘Write whatever you’d like to!’ The poetry fragments included unusual phrases like ‘I can only half-hear you John’ and ‘The vacuum cleaner sulked’. Teachers were also encouraged to write alongside their pupils. (You can download the stimulus PDF here.)
In the run-up to National Writing Day, we began to realise that we had hit on something big. Hundreds of English teachers were getting in touch by email, or via Twitter, to say that they were going to take part. We encouraged them to do it with whole classes, year groups and even whole schools and one or two started to tell us that not only teachers and pupils would be taking part, but the whole school community. We had clearly touched a nerve.
Why had this event so captured English teachers’ imagination? It tells us something important, and rather sad, about the state of play in schools at the moment. For many of these teachers, the idea of 30-45 minutes of free writing was clearly an exciting opportunity, a chance to break free of some of the shackles. To those outside our pressure cooker world, this might this seem rather strange. It is strange! Creative writing and freedom to express yourself, making choices about what to write and how to write it, have always been at the heart of English lessons. Pupils have loved English for the pleasure of discovering themselves as writers. As most published writers will tell you, writing is only ever partly planned. What is generated often emerges in semi-conscious or even sub-conscious ways and can often take even the writer by surprise. Now, endless rules and regulations, and the fear of risk, playfulness and experimentation, have brought the shutters down and rather than opening up possibilities, avenues for inventiveness and individuality are, all too often, closed off. English was always a favourite subject for pupils. Sadly, this may be changing. Colleagues who teach A Level are reporting that numbers are likely to be significantly down in September because students associate English with boredom, anxiety and lack of pleasure.
On National Writing Day ‘Let Them Loose!’ happened and it was even more vast and magnificent than we had imagined. By mid-morning, our Twitterfeed was full of images of writing and photographs of students engrossed in writing – at desks and under desks, in the playground and on benches, under trees, along with their teachers and alone, in Scotland, London and all over the UK, as well as India, Italy, Pakistan and Shanghai!
Students were writing poems, playscripts, filmscripts, graphic novels, stories, diaries, speeches and personal pieces. Thousands of children wrote. They wrote crime, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, realist stories and ones drawn from experience – in fact anything and everything one could imagine, and more. They were unfettered, unencumbered with concerns about what mark they’d get. The writing was often inspiringly clever, moving, witty and fresh. That sulking vacuum cleaner caught the imagination of more than one student and teacher and produced surprisingly brilliant writing. Some students wrote in Polish, Mandarin or Shona, and then translated their home language pieces for their classmates. In one school, a photo popped up on Twitter of a canteen worker writing to our prompts, and the Headteacher of that same school posted his bit of writing on Twitter (in response to an image of a pair of boots), so that the whole school, and everyone else doing ‘Let Them Loose!’ could read it. Thousands of pieces of writing have now been shared via EMC on Flickr.
If the writing has been stunning, the reactions of staff and students have been equally so. ‘We took our paper and imaginations outside and wrote in the playground’ said one teacher. For some, there were initial nerves. ‘The concept of no rules/success criteria/mark scheme was initially daunting’ but then found to be ‘LIBERATING!’ Freedom was the recurring motif – ‘the girls said they loved writing without restriction’, it was ‘a fabulously freeing afternoon’. It wasn’t just the more able students who took up the baton. ‘Our students have had many barriers to their learning,’ said one teacher. ‘I wasn’t sure how they would react to this challenge, but they rose to it and were very successful!’ Reading their writing, we agreed.
We hope that ‘Let Them Loose!’ will take place again next year. But more importantly, we want the message to ring out up and down the country that this is what should be happening in our schools all of the time, not just once a year, but for every pupil, in every classroom. Giving pupils choice, the chance to experiment, to write for themselves, to write (at least sometimes) without explicit teaching or lists of what to include or avoid, are all vital aspects of learning how to write with confidence and a strong, authentic voice. We saw them do this last Wednesday. Let’s see it happening every day of the week.
Barbara Bleiman, Education Consultant, English and Media Centre
To all the teachers and students who took part – thank you! And an especially big thank you to the following who tweeted during the day or submitted their writing for our Flickr gallery (apologies if we missed you on Twitter):
Acland Burghley (Camden), AESG, All Saints C of E School (Wyke), Anand Niketan Shilaj Campus (Ahmedabad), Angmering School, Astor College (Dover), Avonbourne College, Aylesbury Grammar School, Barnard Castle School, Barton Court School, Bishop Challoner, Bishop Luffa School, The Blandford School, Bishop Challoner, Shadwell, Bishop Challoner School (Tower Hamlets), Bloxham School, Bourne Grammar School, Breadalbane Academy, Aberfeldy, British School of Milan, Bullers Wood, Carr Hill School, Chesham Grammar, Chiswick School, Christopher Whitehead Language College, The City School – Gulshan Campus A (Pakistan), Collingwood College, Cooper’s School, Cotswold School, Darrick Wood School, Dartford Grammar School For Girls, Debden High, Driffield School, Dorothy Stringer School, Durrington High, Eastbourne College, Eastbury School, ECC, Elm Green School, Tulse Hill, Exmouth Community College, Farrington’s School, Furze Platt School, Gosford Hill School, Greenacre Academy, Haberdashers’ Girls School, Haggerston School, Harris Beckenham, Heathfield Community College, Heathside School, Heckmondwike School, Hellesdon High School, High Storrs, Holcombe Grammar, Holmer Green Senior School, Hornsey School for Girls, Horsforth School, Ilkley Grammar School, Isleworth and Syon School for Boys Yr 7, Ivybridge Community College, JCoSS, Kemnay Academy, Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, Kimbolton School, Kimberley School, Kings School (Chester), Kingston Grammar School, Kirkbie Kendal School, Langley School, Solihull, Langley Park Girls School, The Latymer School (Enfield), Lea Valley High School, Liskeard School (Cornwall), Loreto Grammar School, Manchester High School for Girls, Mayfield School, Millfield School (Somerset), Mount School York, Mountbatten School, Moorbridge PRU (Shiremoor), The Norwood School, Newstead Wood School, Notre Dame Roman Catholic Girls School, Southwark, Orleans Park, Ormiston Six Villages Academy, Oxford High School, Parkstone Grammar School, Portobello, QE, QKS Kendal, Pont High, The Priory City of Lincoln Academy, Portland Place School, Raine’s School, Rainham Girls School, Ramsey Academy (Halstead), Reaz Kurimbux, Royal Latin School, Buckingham, Sewell Park Academy, Sharnbrook School, Sittingbourne Community College, St Christopher’s Letchworth, Suffolk One, St Anne's Academy Winchester, St. Anthony's Girls' Catholic Academy, Sunderland, St Bernard's, St Francis’ College, Hertfordshire, St John’s College (Southsea), St Joseph’s (Wokingham), St Michael's, Suffolk One, Surbiton High School, Sutton High, South Wilts Grammar School, Swanwick Hall, Teeside High School, The Burgess Hill Academy, The City School, Gulshan Campus A Pakistan, The Co-operative Academy of Manchester, Thomas Cowley (Donnington), Thomas Tallis School, University of Birmingham School, Uppingham Community College, Uxbridge High School, Wallingford School, Wanstead High, Westonbirt School, Whitgift School – A Curtis Rouse, William Hulmes Grammar School, Wimbledon High School, Wirral Grammar School for Boys, Wren Academy, Writer’s Club Norwood, Wyedean English
And the schools at which the following teachers work: M Harrison, Tiffany Yates, Dawn Yardley, Amika Salter, Sharon Stead, Neil, Miss Bish, Anton Viesel (Northampton)
For the full Let Them Loose! experience, visit our Flickr gallery ...
... search #EMCLetThemLoose and #LetThemLoose on Twitter or scroll through the feed for @EngMediaCentre (scroll down to 21st-24th June).
To view the writing full size, click on the image.
On Thursday 22nd June, while more and more writing was arriving by the hour – from all across the UK and as far away as India and China, I sat alongside Sarah Hehir and Barbara Bleiman and read page after page of pupil writing. It was a privilege and an insight.
Writing on the summer solstice evoked, unsurprisingly, fantastic tales of heat and Gaian matters: ‘fighting a goblin called Morte on the summer solstice’. Many wrote passionately, with a fierce morality about our weak stewardship of the environment:
This is what Earth is doing to us. He is giving up on us. All of us.
There were touching personal pieces about human relations – discord in families, sick relatives, as well as the loss of uncles, parents and siblings:
Unable to sleep, I watched as the dusk began to coop in my great uncle John’s wild and overgrown garden – as it did in him.
Some writers told horrific apocalyptic and dystopian stories – trains were hijacked, killer dolls roamed the streets leaving pools of blood in their wake, and there was even one darkly humorous story which drew on the fears of our times, ending:
... and that is how North Korea became a deserted radio-active country that no-one had ever heard of.
But however far away the young writers travelled, and whichever prompts they responded to, it was wonderful that, for forty-five minutes or so, they had been allowed to unleash their imaginations and reconnect with things that rose in them, rather than struggle with things imposed from outside. Whether they approached this directly or obliquely, it felt healthy – even when they wrote from the ontological heart of teenage angst: ‘No one understands me. I’m going to die.’ Of course contemporary events, film and fiction were ‘re-processed’, and one hoped that it had been cathartic for them to recreate painful pasts and step into possible futures and to listen to oneself without fear of judgement: 'Meandering, aimless, he is the wanderer' wrote one; ‘The window is me,’ wrote another.
‘Let Them Loose’ was a chance for each student to choose their own pathway, assume the mantle of the expert, and discover what might be possible when they followed their own imaginations – rather than obeyed someone else’s requirements.
Writers across many schools wrote with an ease and fluency that implied they were more used to taking responsibility: they ploughed their own furrows with confidence. They seemed quite capable of harnessing what they knew of writing, consciously or unconsciously, and set off straight away, borrowing and extemporising at will. (eg: ‘And so it begins ...’ Gruzorok exclaimed, eyeing the spear-wielding man stood before him’) Some found voices and structures to hold their thoughts about identity crises, fires, orphanages and other monsters. One used the last word of each paragraph to springboard a whole new paragraph in a scintillating leap-frog. Another dived straight into powerful self-reflection, ending unashamedly ‘Because that’s the way I am.’ And yet another projected herself confidently into an orphan’s mind and wrote an electric piece which sparkled with attitude and hybrid patois worthy of Anthony Burgess:
I have the power to read minds and I can see all the pity you wretched creatures have for me. Thoughts flying here and there, some saying ‘Lord, deliver this demonic soul!’ I’ll have you know I’m being delivered right now. I am all packaged up like a present on my way to Cellwick Avenue. The old plonkers needed a squidge buddy, reckons I’m the one. Excuse my English, my first language is Jibberish – after all it’s the only thing I understand. My parents are a lost cause – probably some earl halfway across the world. I couldn’t give a toss about them. When I am a star like Iggle Piggle they come at me like a wrecking ball – the only known knook and crannies. Being an orphan is hard – not being able to have a slave (referred to as mum) and a bachelor (also known as dad). Could life be any easier? Hope Cellwick ain’t that bad – it’s the least an orphan like me could wish for.
After an eternity and a half I am here. I don’t think the grannies can see me. Should’ve gone to Specsavers.
Free writing of this kind should regularly open and extend learning. Writers will also benefit from discussion of personal processes and of the many affordances of writing (not just grades), from listening to what is distinctive rather than conventional in each other’s writing, and from reflection on what may help and hinder. If we can cultivate different writing spaces for students and allow them to take a full part in the cultural conversation about conventions and values, they will become the writers they can be and democracy can be the stronger. ‘Let Them Loose’ was a powerful reminder of what lies inside young people – and how good it is for their confidence, their learning and their emerging agency for them to have opportunities to express themselves independently.
Simon Wrigley, National Writing Project – Opening and Extending Learning
Working with poet and spoken-word educator, Cat Brogan, students at Eastbury Community School created 'Making Sense of Me', a collaboarative animated poem. You can enjoy the poem here on EMC's Poetry Station.
Why not explore this poem, then have a go at creating a group or individual poem?
KS3 students at Eastbury school in London, worked with a spoken word educator and a team of animators to write a group poem with a strong shared message. They then went on to make it into an animated film. Their ‘message’, ‘Making Sense of Me’ was all about developing the confidence to overcome hurdles and achieve your dream.
A: It’s great the way all of the lines start ‘I hate it when…’ but it’s a bit depressing.
B: How about having five or six lines at the end starting ‘But I love it when…’, so it ends more hopefully?
C: Or how about alternating it? One line saying ‘I hate it when…’ followed by one line saying ‘I love it when…’ and so on.
D: Let’s do that! And can we also do it more like the Eastbury poem, with more unusual images? Like, ‘I hate it when you go on and on, like a siren in a traffic jam. I love it when you stop, and all the street is empty and still.’
A self-funded project set up in 2015 by EMC, to investigate group work in English – what it has to offer, what makes it successful (or less so), what it’s good for (and conversely what it isn’t good for).
We wanted to go beyond the broad, sweep of pedagogical comment and research, which is rarely focused on subjects, and most often offers ideas about issues such as group size, composition, rules and etiquette, structures for group activities and so on. Instead, we are looking more closely and analytically at how group work operates in the subject of English. In doing so, we are exploring a range of other issues, with 10 key themes emerging from our early work. (See below).
The project is led by EMC staff, Barbara Bleiman and Kate Oliver. We are currently working with a group of about 10 teachers in secondary schools. New members have joined along the way, having seen presentations about the work at conferences or in CPD. We welcome others interested in taking part.
It is genuinely investigative and open-ended, responsive to the thinking of the teachers involved, and to what we observe. EMC staff give structure to the project, providing a steer and drawing on our own experience and other research to support its development. The data is largely in the form of classroom filming, observation, reflection, discussion, questionnaires and interviews. It is not based on randomised controlled trials or on quantitative data. It does not start out with a hypothesis to prove or disprove, tied closely to proof of ‘impact’. Rather, it is a quest for greater understanding, a collection of evidence that can be shared between teachers, and a form of research firmly rooted in classrooms that evolves as our thinking changes. It is not looking for a single answer but for answers; it is looking for ways of improving our own reflective and analytical skills when it comes to judging what is good group work in English; it is searching for insights that can help us become more skilled users of it as an element of classroom activity.
This project page collects together some of the material we have been sharing with teachers so far, largely in the form of blogposts on the EMC blog but also some separate videoclips and other material from our work in schools. The blogs are mainly written by Barbara Bleiman but also include several guest blogs by Richard Long, one of the teachers we worked with. More blogs will follow.
Barbara Bleiman presented at ResearchEd at Chobham Academy, Stratford on September 9th 2017. Here is her PowerPoint presentation (with the large videoclips omitted but some tasters available on this page). Her handout is also available, offering useful references to research papers, websites and other material about group work and dialogic learning in the classroom.
Email Barbara Bleiman for more information, for details of how to request CPD or a conference presentation on our work, or if you’d like to take part in the project yourself.
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Emma Barker, course leader, introduces the PGCE.
September 2015 saw the start of an exciting new era for the English and Media Centre as we launched our own PGCE course for Secondary English. The course was the first of its kind for EMC. Designed and delivered on the same principles as our CPD courses, it offers students a comprehensive training in all aspects of English teaching, as well as providing specialist workshops in media and drama. Alongside their school-based teaching practice, our students test pedagogical theory and research in practical workshop sessions at the Centre and our university partner, experiencing and reflecting as learners, as they develop as teachers.
The first year has been exhilarating and enjoyable. One of the first intake of teacher trainees shares his experiences mid-way through the course:
It’s the end of what’s been an exciting and absorbing first term of my PGCE. It began three and a half months ago with a flurry of engaging, energising and exhausting days at the EMC and London Met: three very intense but seemingly short weeks saw us doing all sorts of writing exercises, discussing poetry, making adverts. There was a (sometimes daunting, always interesting) steady flow of reading materials provoking new ideas, making us consider new perspectives. There were fantastic focus days on at the EMC with Globe performer Tom Davey and EMC media expert Jenny Grahame, and we spent an afternoon at the British Library. We team-taught our first lessons in a local secondary school.
Our placements began, and it suddenly felt strange not to share a room with my fellow trainees and Emma each day. Soon school life grabbed us all up, but we’d see each other every Friday at lectures and excitedly talk over the week’s events. We’ve now all completed our first placement and are enjoying well-earned rests before it all starts again in January. Here’s to 2016!
Read more about the students' reasons for choosing the course – and why they'd recommend it to others.
We were delighted to be offered the opportunity to be partners with Goldsmiths for a new PGCE for Media Studies with English, which started in September 2015. The first cohort of 13 teachers are now out on their placements, returning to the centre on Fridays for Media sessions here. As many people will know, Media Studies teachers have often tended to be enthusiasts willing to have a go rather than specifically trained in the subject, so for the EMC it is really important that we are able to take the lead in the provision in this area.
We had over 70 applicants for the first course, most of whom had a first degree in Media or a related area, as well as classroom experience, often as a TA or media technician; we are very confident that by the end of the year we will have a group absolutely ready to become the next generation of leading media teachers. In order to ensure that they are all in a position to apply for a range of jobs, as well as undertaking a long placement specialising in media, all the students will do a five week Key Stage 3 English placement at a second school. They also do two days a week at the start of the course at Goldsmiths being taught alongside the PGCE English students and a half day each week throughout the autumn term of professional studies along with PGCE students in all subjects.
At EMC, the top floor has now been transformed into a flexible learning space with part of the area housing eight Macs, each equipped with Adobe Creative Suite; we have DSLR cameras and Zoom mics, giving the students the opportunity to undertake collaborative practical activities of the kind they would do in the classroom with students. We have also been able to run a number of twilight teachmeets up there in association with the Media Education Association, each featuring guest speakers and involving teachers from all over London. The enthusiasm for the whole course amongst the students has been infectious, as you can read for yourself here.
From the very beginning of the course, my colleagues and I were thrown straight in at the deep end, taking on high paced activities that allowed us to explore Media Studies in depth.
We have spent much time at EMC, which has been extremely beneficial. All of the equipment we have used has been top of the range, which we have access to throughout the week. Andrew, and all of the staff at EMC, the publishers of MediaMagazine, have also run sessions, giving invaluable advice as well as resources we could adapt and use in our own teaching. We have met other Media teachers as well as having talks from acclaimed writers and researchers such as: David Buckingham, Julian Sefton-Green, Julian McDougal and Jenny Grahame, media consultant at EMC.
As a mature student, I was slightly hesitant before I decided to register for the course but I can say that signing up for the Media and English course is one of the best decisions I have made. We are privileged that the course is run out of the English and Media Centre in Islington. The facilities include a state of the art suite of iMacs, with all the equipment that one could wish for on a course that combines practical skills with relevant theory.
The course leader is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about media.
The course has been fun and varied, the support has been second to none and I have made some great friends along the way. It's been fantastic working with EMC and they have provided a wealth of resources and tips that will help me with my teaching. We have been given all the advice and inspiration needed to go on to become top Media teachers.
When making the decision to have a career change and to become a teacher, I was rather nervous. However, as soon as I started my PGCE with EMC, all my worries and fears went straight out of the window. We’ve been immersed in the world of media teaching, with practical sessions from the course leader and guest speakers on different aspects of Media Studies.
The Media with English PGCE is one of the most challenging and rewarding academic years you could possibly undertake. Be prepared to work hard – this course isn't easy and you will be forced out of your comfort zone. But don’t worry either – the EMC instruction is well thought out, and the staff will provide a supportive working and learning environment for you (continuing to offer you plenty of support when you are out on placement).
The first term is over and I couldn't have hoped for better support and guidance from my tutor, mentors and peers. It's been a truly enjoyable experience so far, even if the paperwork and teaching has been demanding. Completing the initial section of work has definitely been rewarding (and very satisfying!). Bring on the next term!
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