Teaching is unlike any other profession. Never is this more evident then when returning from the summer holidays. In most workplaces, everything continues as normal while you’re sunning yourself in Tenerife or trekking across the Dales or camping on your couch, binge watching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and wondering if you can show any of it to year 10 for Feminism. You don’t just saunter back into the office after two weeks and carry on.
For most of us, the first week back is a period of adjustment. Adjusting to standing for four or five hours at a time when you’ve developed curvature of the spine from sitting in a garden chair for six weeks. Adjusting to the latest developments in Karen’s love life (poor Karen, when will she ever learn?). Adjusting to the new initiatives that are being put forwards by ‘that’ Assistant Head who watched a TED talk over the summer and has an idea that is going to revolutionise teaching…by giving you more spreadsheets to fill out.
The one constant in teaching is the unpredictability of your students, and having covered the growth of Year 12 into Year 13 in last weeks post, hopefully they will be the calm amidst a storm of changing policies, data capture and telling Karen that she’ll find somebody…eventually.
Lesson 1: 1 hour
Aim: Practise the skill of Application
For the first four weeks, I devote at least one of my lessons to showing students the skills they need to really succeed at A level. Some may argue that these skills should be evident throughout the two year course, but unfortunately after six or seven weeks of students not being engaged (as much as we like to think they are – who are we kidding?) they need a little refresher.
Application is one the harder skills to teach students and many new and non-specialist teachers struggle to define it or get students to show it. There are two ways in which application can be shown:
- Application to the question – How does the answer you have given answer the question. E.g., if you asked about ‘identity’ how does labelling affect an individual’s identity.
- Application of ideas/concepts and theories to a situation or context. This is most evident in the Methods in Context questions and the 10 mark outline and explain questions on paper 2 where students have to make the link between two topic areas that aren’t usually taught together on the specification.
To do this, I give students scenarios like these:
What students have to do is find hooks within the text that offer reasons as to why the student is underachieving etc. Then they have to explain why and how. The full session is attached below:
It is a useful way to revise and get students to practise some of the skills that they are going to need in the exams and the item questions.
Lesson 2: 1.5 Hours
Aim: Introduce Merton’s Strain Theory
Merton’s Strain theory is one of the easier crime and deviance theories to explain to students. I usually begin with a discussion of what students want to achieve in the future. Of course the standard replies are there: money, nice house, family – and this ties in nicely to the American Dream. Then ask students – how are they going to achieve this? This answer is equally clear with A Level students. Go to university, get a job, get promoted etc…
This is the part to play Devil’s Advocate. What if you don’t? What if you fail? What if you leave university with poor grades or drop out because of mental health issues etc. At this point the class usually falls silent. Very few have a plan B, and while the purpose of this exercise is not to scare the life out of them, it’s worth getting them to mind-map or discuss other ways to achieve the goals of society, or even ask them if these goals are really what they want.
A little bit of exposition follows. And by a bit I mean a lot. The presentation below is cobbled together from bits and pieces I have seen over the years, but it’s pretty standard.
Once the exposition is over, I usually get students to compare Merton’s approach and Durkheim’s ideas. Durkheim looks at Society, Merton the individual. Durkheim at Functionality, while Merton focuses on dysfunction. Some students even struggle to place Merton in the Functionalist camp as he sounds like a Marxist in many ways.
As a bit of assessment I may throw in an exam question to get students to do, either in pairs or individually. It could be a short 6 or 10 marker, but a good way to develop essay skills is to start incorporating each of the ideas into a 30 mark plan. I use a simple template which is AEAE
Apply – Identify a theory/concept/idea that answers the specific question
Explain – What does this concept mean? Who suggested it? (Basically AO1)
Analyse – How does it work? What are the stages or processes that an individual might go through?
Evaluate – What are the strengths or weaknesses to this argument? Is there any further research to support this idea.
An example question for this topic could be:
Evaluate the contribution of Functionalists to our understanding of Crime and Deviance (30)
A 30 marker, in my opinion, should be 5 or 6 paragraphs, with a suitable conclusion and a brief introduction. So far, students should be able to plan at least 3 paragraphs from the sessions. Get them to do it and keep hold of the plans, bring the plans out in the next lessons to complete as a form of AfL – what have they learnt today. It’s relatively simple, straightforward, and gets them thinking about the bigger picture early on.
I am trying to limit the scale of these blog posts, so Part 2 will be published midweek.