Silent Debate to Explore Character

It’s been a while, but I do enjoy a spot of silent debate. I’m currently reading An Inspector Calls with Year 9 and we are exploring the character of Sheila in preparation for an assessment.

My classroom tables are grouped, which makes things like this fairly straightforward to do, so with a few group tweaks, I introduced the task and the ground rules.

Each pupil was given a different coloured pen and created a key so that I could see exactly who and what they had contributed. They were then asked to use the extract provided to share their ideas on the character at this point in the play. A basic example was offered and then developed through questioning, how does this present the power dynamic in the sibling relationship? How does this link to the roles of men and women during this time period?

I find that often pupils struggle to reach the depth of analysis that I’m really looking for when exploring character. Having pre-taught the contextual factors of the play and explored dramatic irony through the character of Mr Birling in the early stages; this focus enabled pupils to delve a little deeper and make links. Ultimately, this will inform their thinking and subsequently their writing when responding to the question, enabling them to reference context more effectively.

Largely though, i find that using tasks like this enable all pupils to feel that they can and must contribute. Everyone has to take part, or I will know! It is a comfortable way for all to challenge the views and opinions of others and share, which informs their thinking. I am also able to visit each group, offering immediate, silent feedback via post-it notes, have you considered … ? to develop their thinking, or correct any misconceptions before they develop their discussions in to a structured response.

This is only the initial stage, we will allocate time to adding points, exchanging and improving between the groups and feeding back too, before the real writing begins of course.