I mentioned at the beginning of my daughter’s Year 9 that we have chosen a few KS3 English units off the Twinkl website which we were planning on working through. We have just completed their English Literary Heritage unit which I must admit was a bit longer than the other English units that we have worked through but it was really interesting and I felt like it laid down some good groundwork for next year. So I thought it would be a good unit to write a post on.
The aim of the unit is to give learners a foundation on pre-1914 authors and some of their famous works. Clearly this is a massive task (there are so many incredible authors and works from this time) but I feel like they did a good job in selecting 8 incredible authors and they highlighted one of their works and found an interesting angle to focus on. The writers they selected were – Sir Author Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, Mary Shelley, Johnathan Swift, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Shakespeare, Walter de la Mare and Emily Bronte.
Straight away let me say this was one unit that I did only with my daughter. Some units I do with both kids but I did feel like this one was a bit more challenging and would have been out of my youngest current range (he is Year 6). The unit is split into 20 lessons and at the very beginning I decided that one lesson at a time was sufficient (with some units I feel like you can combine some of the lessons together and make them a bit shorter but with this unit I felt like every lesson had something valuable to look at and spend time working through). So I roughly planned on doing 3 or 4 lessons each week – just because we always have other activities and subjects on in our weeks so I know that planning on doing 5 lessons a week would just not be practical.
The lessons are all a bit different as every lesson focuses on something unique. But in each lesson you get a basic lesson plan, a PowerPoint which sets out the lesson, an activity sheet of some sort and if needed the extract from the famous work that is being discussed. So really you do not need to do extra prep work. And the whole unit is accompanied by an independent home work project. We liked the idea of the homework assignment so we also completed this – you select one author and then over 6 weeks you do one assignment on that author each week. I must admit I thought this was a great way of really getting to know a famous author and we might actually continue with this even though we have finished the unit (what I mean is we are probably going to select another famous author and then my daughter will work through the assignments over another 6 weeks as a way of really getting to understand another author).
I felt like the unit highlighted the fact that if you understand the context of when a work is created you have a better understanding of why the author is creating the characters and events in their work (This came through very clearly when we looked at Frankenstein and at Gulliver’s Travels). It is something I have talked about before but I felt like when my daughter read about the scientific thoughts of the time and then read about how Frankenstein created his monster is just clicked. There was a Scientist at the time who was passing electric current through dead animals to bring them back to life and that is how Frankenstein created his monster and brought him to life. Likewise with Gulliver’s Travels a story my daughter already knew, her opinions changed once she started reading about the social and historical context. It added an extra layer to the story and a much deeper understanding of the characters and events. I actually feel if that was the only take-away from this unit it would have been worth it.
The inclusion of poetry, I really LOVED the way these lessons were structured. I can not stress how helpful I found these lessons. Taking a poem which the kids have not worked through before, something that can be intimidating and then helping the kids to break it down and formulate a way to read and understand the “scary” poem. And I loved the idea that the kids should try and rewrite the poem in modern English – that really is such a simple concept but it does help. It helps because the kids realize they don’t need to understand every single word and they can understand the basic concept of a poem without getting it word for word.
Even though this unit is long and covers a lot I honestly wish there were more examples of old English Poetry and how to analysis and understand it like they did in these lessons (possibly another whole unit?). Because old poems are something that can be very intimidating to read and try and understand but learning how to break it down, how to to think about the context, what the authors intentions are and then to try and reread it, just makes it less intimidating. So please if you look at this unit and see lots of Poetry included and are put off by that, please don’t be, that is reason to try the unit and work through it with the kids, it will help. In fact my daughter and I are going to tackle the Poisonous Poetry unit next just because we feel like we are finally starting to get to grips with Poetry and how to face it and we want to keep that momentum going.
I know I am missing out a whole lot but if I try and write about everything in this unit it will be a really LONG post. The unit is about learning a bit about famous authors, it is learning to take some time to understand the context of what was happening when the authors wrote their famous works, it is about not getting bogged down panicking about every small thing you don’t understand but trying to get a broad view on a work and then try and figure out the detail. It takes famous works that might seem intimidating and makes then normal and understandable.
It is a harder unit than some of the others that we have worked through and I did sit and go through it with my daughter and we discussed each work together. I don’t think I could have given her the entire unit to complete without my input. I feel like it is a good one to do together so you can really discuss why you think words were chosen or authors wrote certain things. I think it does open up a door of insight into pre-1914 works.
I was really impressed with this unit and I am really glad that we took our time and worked through each lesson together.