A Collection of Similes

I like Similes.

So much so that I wrote about them here.

I’ve decided to record my favourite here. Feel free to add your own in the comments section:

  • …the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them. (Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian)

  • the snow-covered hills rippled away into the distance ‘like muscle’. (Lawrence, cited by Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier)

  • The woman let out an expansive laugh that resounded through the house like a spray of broken glass. (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude)

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Rugby vs. Football: A Class Issue

With the Six Nations tournament underway, it is time, once again, for some rugby fans to openly express their disdain for those of us whose experience and enjoyment of ball games does not stretch beyond the realms of the spherical. Once again, it’s time for football fans to endure Guinness-fuelled rants against the ‘girly’ footballers who don’t match up to the hyper-masculine ideal so perfectly preserved in the hulking bodies of those who play rugby. Once again, we must listen patiently as members of the red chino brigade bang out the old cliché about hooligans and gentlemen. Once again, it is time to be shamed.

Increasingly, as I’ve got older and moved up the social ladder, I occasionally find myself in drinking establishments frequented by those of the oval-ball persuasion. It’s what comes from living within a stone’s throw of places like Twickenham, Richmond, and Guildford. I enjoy rugby. I largely don’t have a clue what’s going on, but it’s a great game and one I wish I’d pursued as a youngster. But there is something that increasingly nags at me: it’s the fact that for some rugby fans, their preference for rugby above football, is worn as a huge flashing badge of superiority. And this badge, it isn’t pinned purely to a love for the game, but upon a toxic resentment for the working class.

Although codified and organised by the upper classes (football’s first rules were drawn up by Cambridge University), football quickly became a working class sport. The men working in the industrial towns of the North, where conditions and geography were optimal for the development of the textile trade, formed football teams as an alternative to their weekly dealings with cotton, steel, and coal. As more men started playing football, more men started watching it. Stadiums such as Hampden Park in Glasgow, made to hold 180,000 standing men, sprung up around the country to cater for those for whom, going to watch the football quickly became an integral and essential part of working class male life.

The nostalgic romance for the world of flat caps and rattle clackers was destroyed by the hooliganism of the 1980s. For the university-educated people who run the mainstream media, this world of tribalism and violence was one that they were rightfully prepared to condemn. However, there was never an attempt to understand the root cause of the reason so many young men turned to violence. As Anthony Ellis explains in his book, Men, Masculinities and Violence: An Ethnographic Study, ‘many of the historical sources of working class masculinity-heavy industry, manual work and unionised politics – have become increasingly less relevant for young men,’ and as a result, ‘personal reputation remains a “surviving facet of masculine credibility…”’For many disaffected young working-class men, football hooliganism provided a means of ensuring a reputation: an indicator of masculine power that was becoming increasingly hard to find in every day working lives. The impact on football generally, was disastrous. As Andrew Hussey states in an article for The New Statesmen, ‘By the end of the Thatcherite 1980s …. To be working class, to be a football fan, to be unemployed…was to be scum.’

Rugby league, a sport largely played by working class families in the North is a different matter entirely, but in the south, where the Union code dominates, it’s hard not to feel that for some rugby fans, their contempt for football is masked contempt for the working class. Many football fans will have observed rugby fans mocking with glee the ostentatious displays of wealth, (in the forms of chrome-plated Bentleys and gold watches that could anchor the QE2), displayed by working class boys for whom such wealth was once inconceivable. They’ll be familiar with the mocking of players such as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney as stupid, purely because of how they speak. They’ll be familiar with the way the tattooed names and birthdates of beloved children, inked across a forearm m or neck, are talked about as branded indicators of the footballer’s place on the lower rungs of the social ladder.

What these critics of football need to remember is that for many working class boys, football is the only sport available to them. Rugby is the province of the public school. Public schools with the funds to provide fitness suites that can help in building the rugby-ready body needed to perform on the rugby field. It’s not just about access either. It’s about desirability. As is perfectly rational, many boys don’t want to be smashed to pieces every time they commit themselves to the sports field.This idea that rugby is somehow noble, just because it involves enduring a battering is another example of a toxic expectation that men should be physically strong in order to be, well…men. Sceptical too, am I, of the belief that rugby players are somehow paragons of virtue to which all young boys should look to for guidance on how to live their lives. In his article criticising Rugby for the hypocrisy of the ‘superior tone’ it takes with football, Robert Kitson references players dishing out homophobic abuse, death threats and punches at referees. Hardly the behaviour of gentlemen, and that’s before we even begin to discuss the appalling antics of England rugby teams of previous trips abroad. Which I won’t discuss, by the way.

I think it’s time that some rugby fans think about who they’re really criticising when they launch into their diatribes against football. After all, sport is a leveller. It can propel people, whatever their background, to moments of glory. On the rugby pitch and on the football pitch, where you’re from doesn’t matter. It’s how you conduct yourself. The sooner fans realise this, the better.

Vocabulary: How we Undulate

Unfortunately, many of our students do not read at home.

When it comes to vocabulary, reading is hugely important. As many other bloggers have previously stated, students who read on a regular basis are likely to be exposed to up to 1.8 million words over the course of the year, compared to approximately only 8,000 words for those who don’t.

Whilst as a school we are making a concerted effort to promote reading for pleasure, as an English department, supported by the rest of the school, we are making an effort to widen student vocabulary through the use of direct instruction. This is how we do it.

Once a week, students are taught four Tier 2 Vocabulary words. This is aided by a PowerPoint slide which provides:

Slide 1: The Word (and its word class).

Slide 2: A student friendly explanation (not definition) of the word.

Slide 3: A range of example sentences in which the word is used.

Slide 4: A number of questions , which use the word, to be used in class discussion.

It looks like this:

Slide 1: NAÏVE (adjective)

Slide 2: If you describe someone as naive, you think they lack experience and so expect things to be easy or people to be honest or kind.

Slide 3:

The student naively believed that sitting the exam would be easy.

He naively believed that they would win the football match, even though they hadn’t practiced.

If you believe life is always going to be happy, you are naïve.

Slide 4:

1. Can you think of a time when it would be good to be naïve?

2. Who is more naïve? Someone who believes that you don’t need to do homework to succeed, or someone who thinks the weather will be sunny tomorrow?

3. Are old or young people more likely to be naïve? Why?

A few notes

Dictionary definitions aren’t suitable for helping students to understand the meanings of words. Dictionary definitions often rely on pre-existing knowledge of other words which students do not know. Rather, it’s best to provide an explanation of the word. I find the very best source for student friendly explanations of words is the Collins Online Dictionary as it contains a ‘Learner’- friendly results setting.

When it comes to answering the questions, we ask students to include the word in their answer, in order to familiarise themselves with how the word sounds. For example, if I ask, “Who is more likely to be naïve-older or younger people?”, I ask students to include the word ‘naïve’ in their answer: “I think older people are more likely to be naïve because…”

Each lesson is succeeded by the completion of a homework sheet in which the students complete 4 activities that ask the student to explore the words in different contexts. This may involve elements of dual-coding, but also looking at the words and their synonyms and antonyms.

Exposure

Research states that a person needs to be exposed to a new word, in a variety of contexts, in order to embed it within their vocabulary. We planned our vocabulary programme to allow multiple exposures:

  • Exposure 1: The lesson in which the words are taught.
  • Exposure 2: Homework sheet, to be completed for next lesson.
  • Exposure 3: Recap vocabulary homework from last week, in next vocabulary lesson.

This system allowed for three exposures. But we needed more. Here’s what we’ve done about it:

  1. Every week, in staff briefing, all teaching staff are told the four words of the week. They are encouraged to use them with students in the context of their own lessons, or in form time
  2. All English teachers aim to use the words in lessons which aren’t ‘vocabulary lessons.’ For example, use of the word ‘rowdy’ in a Romeo and Juliet lesson, or the use of the word ‘naïve’ in a lesson on Of Mice and Men. However, we found that, understandably, as the number of words taught rose, it became increasingly difficult to keep track of what words had been learnt and when. To ensure the words of any given week are at the forefront of teachers’ minds, every week each teacher receives a laminated piece of A4 paper with the 4 words on. This is stuck on the whiteboard, as a reminder prompt for the teacher and pupils. It’s a nudge. When a new word begins, these words are then stuck at a wall on the side of the classroom and replaced with the next four words.
  3. To increase exposure, we have started incorporating previously learnt words into the example sentences. For example, an example sentence for the word ‘brutish’ reads, ‘This brutish monster seemed to violate all laws of nature.’
  4. @Tallbrun, the man who oversees our vocabulary programme has also produced a number of one slide vocabulary recap Power Points. These are available for all staff, across the school, to use and in English; all key stage 3 pupils will see one of these slides, once per week.
  5. I have also spoken to the Head and asked that, where possible, words are used by Senior Leaders in whole-school assemblies, if possible.

All resources are available here:

Homework Sheets: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wvafxxbnxgwre80/Vocab%20Homework%20Sheets.pptx?dl=0

Lessons: https://www.dropbox.com/s/07q3fn0rgsv0a25/Tier%202%20Word%20Powerpoint.pptx?dl=0

Recap Slides: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zr02tscmmt40aes/Re%20cap%20slides.pptx?dl=0

Special thanks to @tallbrun and @mariarosevogler, who have been invaluable in getting this up and running.

Do let me-or them-know if you have any questions.

Simply the Best?

Yesterday, TeacherTapp asked the question, ‘Do you know who the best teachers are in your school?’ 38% of respondents said that yes, they definitely did know. 45% said they had a good idea of who the best teachers at their school were.

This prompted me to run a poll on Twitter: ‘Are you one of the best teachers at your school?’ 49% said ‘Yes’. The rest said ‘No’.

People are happy to identify the strengths of others, but loathe to do so in themselves.

There was no underlying motive behind this poll. I was not attempting to perpetuate a toxic culture of competition in the profession. Nor was I trying to be provocative for the sake of it. I have always been interested in teachers’ perceptions of themselves and so the poll was conducted purely out of interest and nothing more.

Whilst the results of the poll are interesting, the comments that the poll induced were more so. Mainly, comments came from people who were cynical about teachers identifying themselves as ‘one of the best’. Comments revealed that many people feel that a belief that you are one of the best in your profession is synonymous with arrogance, not being a team player, and not wanting what’s best for students: If you think you are the best,you are not a team player, and you are damaging to the profession.

This negative attitude to ‘being the best’ is surprising given the fact that It’s something we strive for everyday. We want ‘the best’ for our students. We want ‘the best’ for our school. We want ‘the best’ for our departments. Of course, we can be pedantic and ask, “Yes, but what is ‘best’?”and feel really clever because we have done so, but come on – we know what ‘best’ is: It’s being better than the majority at a given task or skill based on a set of criteria determined by yourself, or others.

As teachers, a huge part of our job requires having a tacit awareness of ‘best’. What’s the best question to ask right now? What’s the best way to explain this? Whose essay is the best? And yet, It seems that whilst it’s okay to want the best, and to know what best looks like, it’s certainly not okay to recognise that you might be the best at what you do.

The assumption that any teacher who thinks they are one of the best teachers at their school must be an odious creature, continually boasting about the resources they’ve made, the books they’ve marked, and the kids they’ve inspired from a soap box in the centre of the staff room is a dangerous one. Couldn’t it just be that, after years and years of teaching, and studying, and teaching some more, one simply gets better? Couldn’t greater immersion in teaching as a practice, and actually becoming an expert (rather than a novice) at teaching, actually just mean that, well…erm… you just know you’re one of the best?

It seems that there are two types of teachers in this world: those who think they’re one of the best, and those who don’t. Both of these sets of teachers need to ask themselves the questions.

Those who think they are the best need to consider:

  • On what criteria have I based my assertion?
  • Am I wrong?
  • If I’m right, what am I doing to help others in my school to be as good as me?
  • Does my headteacher know I’m one of the best? Why? Why not?
  • Why do I think I’m one of the best? Is this positive self perception of myself as a teacher impacting my students and colleagues and school?
  • How can I be better?

Those who do not think they are the best need to consider:

  • On what criteria have I based my assertion?
  • Am I wrong?
  • If I’m right, what are others doing to help me be a better teacher?
  • Does my headteacher know I’m feel this way? Why? Why not?
  • Why do I think I’m one of the worst? Is this negative self perception of myself as a teacher impacting my students and colleagues and school?
  • How can I be better?

A few people got in touch via DM to tell me that judging yourself as a good or bad is damaging to the profession. I hate the idea that there are crap teachers out there, naively thinking that they are brilliant educators. Similarly, it pains me deeply, and sincerely, that there are many great teachers out there who simply can’t recognise that they are so. But I’m not buying this idea that as teachers we should all acquire the impossible skill of not judging ourselves as teachers against the skill or ability of others. People love banging on about observing colleagues (which I hate by the way- always makes me feel dreadfully inadequate), but what’s the point of lesson observation, if not to make a judgement on yourself in light of what you’ve seen in others?

It should also be pointed out that thinking you are one of the best doesn’t mean that a) you think you are the best, b) that you feel you can’t improve or c) that you think everyone else is rubbish. That’s a straw man.

For what it’s worth, my own view is that the whole thing relies on context. If somebody’s identifying as ‘one of the best’ in an anonymous Twitter poll, that’s fine. If somebody is identifying as ‘one of the best’ in a meeting with the head about their own performance, then that’s fine. If somebody’s shouting off in the staff room about it, then that’s out of order.

I don’t think I’m one of the best. In fact, for the majority of the time I feel woefully useless. That doesn’t mean I am though. But, were I to say that for the majority of the time I feel gleefully superior, that wouldn’t mean I’m woefully useless either.

The Bechdel Test and the Curriculum.

The Bechdel Test has long been used as a means to assess the extent to which a film either consolidates or combats the patriarchy.

After watching this excellent Ted Talk from Colin Stokes, I believe that as educators it is our duty to assess the literature texts we study with our students, to see to what extent they too either pass or fail the Bechdel Test. 

I’ve written before about my belief that the disproportionate amount of Male-focused texts (either featuring mainly male characters, or written by male authors) mustn’t automatically be assumed to be all rainbows and roses for the boys we teach. After all, most of the males we study in literature are pricks. I believe this is as damaging for males as the lack of female characters and authors is for women. 

And yet.

Recent statistics that show 59% of females aged 13-21 have faced some sort of sexual harassment at school in the past year, have led me to worry. Seriously worry. 

Afterall, a book that fails the Bechdel Tests implicitly tells our boys that women:

  • Do not have friends to go to
  • Will not speak out

All of the texts I teach- of Mice and Men, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, A Christmas Carol, A Midsummer Night’s Dream- fail the Bechdel test.

Of course, changing the canon takes time. Many, many years in fact and menu of the texts that fail the Bechdel test must remain in our curriculum because they deserve to be there on literary merit alone.

But we need to do something. 

We can alter our KS3 curriculums to include more Bechdel-friendly texts, in the hope that exposing kids to these sort of books will ensure their place in the literary canon of the future.

Also, we can talk. We can tell kids about the Bechdel test and the possible implications of a studying a world in which women do not speak out. 

Pace: A Discussion 

Right, let’s sort this word ‘pace’ out shall we? It’s a word that’s chucked about more frequently than swimming pool vending machines chuck out Lion bars, particularly during Lesson Observation Feedback.

At the risk of sounding condescending, before I talk about what I think people mean when they say ‘pace’, I’d like to explain, to those who don’t know what it means, what it means: ‘Pace’ refers to a rate of movement. That is, when teachers are told ‘You need more pace’, they are being told ‘You need more rate of movement.’ It’s meaningless. It literally means nothing that can ever plausibly be held to be meaningful in any context. Telling a teacher that their lesson ‘needs more pace’ is no more helpful than telling them their lesson needs more oxygen. It’s rubbish.

Here’s what I think people mean when they say “You need more pace.” Either: 

  1. You need to be quicker
  2. Your lesson needs to be broken down into small chunks

Allow me to expose both of these, in turn, for the utter testicular matter that they are.

Firstly, let’s address feedback that is given as “You need more pace”, but actually means, “You need to be quicker.” If that’s the case, why not just say: “You need to be quicker. Your explanation of the intricacies and complexities  of the abolition act needs to be delivered more quickly.” 

“As for you, you’re spending too much time explaining how to multiply fractions. Next week, I want to see if you can get your explanation down to just 5 seconds per pupil. At the moment you’re at 10. Or, actually, you’re spending too long saying ‘seven’. I know it’s two syllables and all, but do you think you could get that down to a quarter of a second. Look, try with me now. Seven. Seven. Better…seven.”

Why don’t people just say, “You need to be quicker?” I expect it’s because, deep down, they know there’s something inherently wrong about it. It’s wrong because:

  •  assessing speed of delivery inherently implies that learning can be divided into units completely distinct from one another. 
  • It implies that learning is a modular process. Which, it ain’t. Learning latches onto prior learning.
  • It puts classroom teachers in this ridiculous position of being required to literally achieve the impossible: that is, to bend all laws of physics to ensure that full understanding of a task can be completed at a given speed. This completely ignores everything we know about learning. That is, that different people learn things at different speeds.

So what’s the solution?

The solution is, if you’re giving someone feedback and you want an element of their practice to ‘be quicker’, you need to say that, and not ‘pace.’ Also, given the efficacy of SMART targets, it may be useful to stipulate exactly how fast you want them to get. 

Now, onto the second meaning of ‘Use more pace’: “Your lesson needs to be broken down into small chunks.” 

Generally, people impart this advice after viewing lessons in which some students display distracted behaviours, or behaviour that can’t be categorised as ‘engaged’.

Kids become disengaged if they a) find something difficult or b) are bored. Neither of these two things can be remedied by breaking things down into smaller chunks. Actually, the issue here is quality of explanation or task rather than the ‘length’ of tasks within a lesson. 

If kids find things hard, that’s okay. It generally means they’re learning.

And if a task is boring- SO WHAT? Sometimes things that are vital to our wellbeing- tax returns, signing autographs, brushing our teeth- are just boring. And long too. Turning lessons into an educational pic n’ mix ain’t doing anyone any favours. 

We need to develop kids’ ability to persevere at stuff-like life- that’s ‘ard work. Their exams aren’t going to be five minutes long and made up of video clips, play-doh, and interpretative dance. It’s gonna be 2 or 3 hours of writing stuff which one may find boring. We need to prepare them for this. Breaking lessons into ‘smaller chunks’ isn’t always the way to achieve this.

So what’s the answer? Well, if you want to tell someone to break their lessons into smaller chunks, tell them that- don’t say they need more pace. And may I suggest you explain your advice with some bloody good research evidence with which to support your request.

How I Teach…Iambic Pentameter

I want to let you know how I teach Iambic Pentameter, in the hope that:

  1. You can tell me how to improve my teaching of Iambic Pentameter
  2. It provides you with some ideas as to how you might want to teach Iambic Pentameter

 

Before I explain how I teach Iambic Pentameter, it’s first useful to explain what iambic pentameter is, and why I teach it.

What?

Iambic Pentameter is a line of poetry made up of 5 iambs. An iamb is a metrical foot made up of two syllables of which the first is unstressed and the second is stressed. Therefore, a line of iambic pentameter is a line of poetry consisting of 10 syllables following the pattern:

Unstressed (u) Stressed (/) Unstressed Stressed Unstressed Stressed Unstressed Stressed Unstressed Stressed

As in:

 U       \      U        \      U    \    U     \        U   \

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Why do I teach it?

I teach iambic pentameter for two reasons. Primarily, I think an understanding of iambic pentameter enables students to better analyse Shakespeare. Secondly, I think an understanding of iambic pentameter can lead to a greater appreciation of the poetry or verse as a construct- something thought about and built, rather than something that magically appears.

How do I teach it

I begin by explaining to students that what we’re about to learn is difficult. And that, finding this difficult is not only natural, but an indicator that they’re learning something. I also tell them that it is my responsibility, as much as theirs, to revisit this throughout the weeks that follow, so as to ensure full understanding.

I begin by explaining the concept of syllables. I will use phrases such as , ‘The English Language is syllabic. This means that its words are made up of syllables.’ The definition of ‘syllable’ is a tricky one and I don’t get too hung up on this. I go for a student-friendly definition which is a little abstract, but works with examples: ‘A syllable is  a beat in a word. “Matthew” for example, has two beats: “Math” and “Hew”. At this point I’ll ask students to work out how many syllables are in their full names. I’ll also ask them to work out the number of syllables in words such as ‘Universal’, ‘Swimming’, and ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’.

Once students know what syllables are, I write the following word on the board:

Rebel.

I’ll ask students to pronounce it, and they’ll generally all pronounce the noun version of the word (REB-el). Then, I’ll ask students what rebels do, and point at the word on the board as I do so. They’ll then give me the verb version of the word (re-BEL). I’ll repeat this process for the word ‘Present’ (gift) and ‘Present’ (show, provide). Once I’ve done this, I’ll explain that although the words are the same, the thing that changes the meaning, is the stress we put on syllables: ‘In the noun version of the word “Rebel”, we put greater stress on the first syllable. “Reb”-“El”.’ As I do this, I’ll raise my hand for the stressed first syllable, and lower it as I pronounce the second. I’ll reverse the process for the verb version, and do the same again for ‘Present’.

I’ll then pick a student with a two-syllable first name in the class and I’ll ask the whole class where the stress falls. Generally, in western names, the stressed syllable is always the initial one. I’ll explain that if it wasn’t, we’d start to sound like French. I’d do a mock French accent as I explain the differences between ‘Amy’ and ‘Ai-MEE’.

At this stage, the kids should know a) that the English language is syllabic and b) that syllables are either stressed or unstressed.

Next, I tell kids what an iamb is. I’ll explain that an iamb is what’s known as a foot. I’ll explain that  an iamb has two points (like the pad and heel of a foot). Normally, I stand on a table at this point and watch everybody see my the soft tread of my heel hitting the table’s surface, followed by the rest of my weight following through as my pad (?) hits the table. I’m careful to make the second hit more forceful than the first. I then tell kids that an iamb is:

  • A unit of two syllables…
  • Of which the first syllable is unstressed and the second is stressed.

I’ll provide examples of iambic words such as:

BeWARE

ComPARE

DeSERVE

Then, I’ll say these words with the reversed stress pattern. It helps the kids get it, I find.

Then, I’ll write the beginnings of a famous line of Shakespeare and explain that it is iambic:

To be or not to be? That is the question.

I’ll say this aloud, emphasising the unstressed and stressed beats as I do so, by adjusting the volume of my voice: louder for stressed beats; quieter for unstressed. I will then explain that many actors, because they don’t have a grasp of iambic pentameter. They’ll deliver the line thusly:

To be or not to be? That is the question.

I’ll explain that actually iambic pentameter means that it should be pronounced like this:

To be or not to be? That is the question?

I’ll also show them this clip to help further explain the importance of stressed and unstressed beats:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEs8rK5Cqt8

I’ll ask students to tell me who they think has it pronounced most correctly, according to the ‘rules’ of iambic pentameter (I think it’s Prince Charles).

Right, now, I’ll ask students to look at the phrase IAMBIC PENTAMETER. We’ll analyse it and I’ll break it down into:

  • IAMBIC (containing iambs)
  • PENT (5)
  • METER (Rhythm)

That is, a rhythm containing 5 iambs. I’ll ask them how many syllables there are then, in one line of iambic pentameter. This is the stage at which you realise who has got it and who hasn’t. Most won’t have it. So repeat some stuff.

I’ll explain that iambic pentameter is a type of poetry. It’s poetry, even if it doesn’t rhyme, because it follows a metrical structure.

Now, it’s the time to explain why Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter. I discuss a number of theories:

  • It mimics ordinary human speech
  • It resonates with us because it mimics the beat of life – our heartbeats

I explain that I think these explanations are rubbish, even though I might be wrong. I explain that lines of iambic pentameter are just nice to listen to. The fact that they begin with a nice soft, unstressed beat, is soothing and less aggressive than if someone spoke to us (or the audience, or a loved one) beginning always with stressed beats.

Then I explain the most important thing about iambic pentameter:

Iambic Pentameter isn’t interesting when it’s there. It’s more interesting when it’s not there.

Allow me to explain: generally, it’s characters of high status or power who speak in iambic pentameter. Lady Macbeth, for example, speaks in iambic pentameter. Characters of low status or power, such as servants, nurses and porters, speak in prose.

At this point I’ll illustrate the differences between prose and verse by asking students to look at the differences themselves. I’ll normally direct them to the Porter’s speech in Macbeth, and ask them to compare it with verse spoken by the Macbeths in the previous scene.

Once students know what prose is, I’ll direct them to the sleepwalking scene. Lady Macbeth, now insane with guilt over her part in Duncan’s’ death, now speaks in prose. I’ll ask students why they think that is: it’s because Lady Macbeth has fallen from grace. Shakespeare now deprives her of the eloquence her power used to grant her. It’s his way of showing us that Lady Macbeth is now powerless. She can no longer boast of ‘the valour of [her] tongue’; instead she must be content with monosyllabic splutterings of ‘O! O! O!’

Finally, one more thing. I like this from Macbeth:

Stars hide your fires. Let not light see my black and deep desires.

I like the emphasis. I like the fact that black is stressed and light isn’t. I’ll encourage students to see the same.

Thanks for reading.