Teacher Talk: Understanding Literature

This week’s Teacher Talk is from our English teachers. Literature is an important aspect of studying English, but for many students reading something written almost 100 years ago can be a little off-putting. Our teachers share some of their ideas for bringing great novels to life in tuition.


Why do we study literature at Spark?


Literature isn’t just important because it’s on the GCSE curriculum. Reading is a way of thinking about the world in a different way. This can be especially important when thinking about history. Many of the novels studied in schools are chosen because of their important place within history and Animal Farm is no exception.


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Why Animal Farm?


Most of our Year 9 students had never heard of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. That is, until we started studying it at the beginning of January. Now they not only know what happens during the novella, but they’ve also started to understand the difference between communism, socialism and capitalism. They’ve explored the impact of propaganda and thought critically about their own political ideas. And of course they’ve sharpened their analytical and writing skills!


How does studying a novel work at Spark?


As we teach our students once a week for English, we aren’t able to read through the whole text in class. What we can do though, is look at important extracts that demonstrate the key themes and characters.

We started our study of Animal Farm by exploring the key themes and how they are presented in the text.


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We looked at context and the main characters involved in the novel.


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Students did their own research into some of the key terms at home before we looked at more detailed context together.


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It was important for the students to understand how the characters in Animal Farm parallel the real-life politicians during the Russian Revolution.

Most recently we looked at the use of propaganda in the novel. We used this as an opportunity to consider how each of us would run a farm. Our student wrote a speech and created a poster campaign to showcase their ideas.

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Students peer-marked each others speeches to think about their use of persuasive techniques. They also check spelling, punctuation and grammar.


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Some tables worked as a group to share ideas on their slogan and logo, before creating their own poster.


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Slogans and main campaign points definitely stand out here!


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Lots of colour helps the campaign points stand out on this poster. You can see where another student has peer-marked this speech in purple pen.


We try to make our lessons engaging and interactive for our students. By introducing creativity and asking our students to question their own ideas, we encourage them not only to explore the text we’re studying but to examine it place in their lives. Showcasing your plan for running ‘Animal Farm’ is a good way of understanding how the themes and characters in the novel realistically relate to your own life.


Are you interested in reading Animal Farm? You can read it online here.