You learn a lot from trying something for the first time with a class. An idea that was so clear in your head seems to create confusion or uncertainty in those of your pupils. Or something that you planned to fill just a couple of lessons takes three times as long to complete. This was one such assignment, one that has many good aspects to it, but when I experimented with it for the first time two years ago, I knew afterwards refinements had to be made.
The project is a really nice blend of language and imagery that comes together to produce a final piece of work that has considerable space for the pupil’s own ideas, has strong compositional challenges and can be completed with figurative and/or abstract elements. A full description of the working process can be found here.
The problem I had with the results last time was the language element. I remember at the time perhaps being in a little bit of a hurry to get onto the practical work. As a result, the language part (that comes first) didn’t get enough time and, dare I say it, a not critical enough push from me. The results were in the end reasonable, but the language output simply wasn’t as poetic, imaginative or grammatically fine-tuned as I had hoped. So this time, these were the areas for focus.
It’s an interesting challenge for my groups of fifteen year olds learning in English (their second language). I delivered them each a page of Wuthering Heights ask them to create something new with a selection of the words that are on the page that they have been given and obliterate the rest, or at least cover them over with their design work. It could result in a new and very concise new narrative, it could be a collection of phrases that read like a poem or the lyrics of a song, it could even result in a series of profound statements. But whichever direction they choose the text should be clear, make sense and be grammatically correct.
I did hammer on a bit about the grammatical criteria, but it did pay off. The results this year are definitely stronger in this area. Emily Brontë’s pages have been turned into something really quite different. The visual design is eye-catching, but the textual puzzle of sentence creation using limited means has produced some intriguing results.
I used to love him I cried heartbroken.
I guess he would rather have her arms round his neck.
I know he will never like me.
Will I miss him? I asked myself half angrily.
She, a woman, our mistress had said, it was nothing less than murder in her eyes, she kept aloof, and avoided any alliance with him.
Three years subsequent to my inclination, I was persuaded to leave, but tears were more powerful when I refused to go.
He wanted no women he said, no mistress.
I kissed good bye and, since then a stranger I’ve no doubt.
Those you term weak shall fight to the death.
Have faith I advised her, value him more, melting into tears and delighted she replied.
I wondered what he had been doing, how he had been living.
He is too reckless, doesn’t trouble himself to reflect on the causes.
Enough complaining, look at the evenings spent.
See the good.
Talk about anything, amuse me.
Talk is agitation.
Express feelings beautiful and sweet.
Pronounce words softer.
The accursed boy’d never know a dark absence would lavish the whole place in words of silence.
As it persisted he cried, oh friends run away from me.