September of Superheroes
This September I’m going to be leading a strong department of specialist teachers, under a new head teacher, in a four form entry 9-13 middle school. Last year was difficult: we had a horrible OFSTED, a lot of staff absence, and by the end of the spring term, an awful lot of stressed and tired teachers and students. Towards the end of April I started thinking about what we could do differently in September, to get all students engaged in English, straight away. My partner @seanismax gave me the idea for the theme of superheroes and I knew that the whole team would be excited at the thought of planning, adapting and delivering the project to the entire school. We immediately set about planning different schemes for key stages 2 and 3 and differentiated tasks and objectives within each scheme.
Our scheme for KS2 includes many ideas prompted by @InspiredMind5, who delivered a great course last term using materials from his publication ‘Developing Writing through Comics’. (I had been looking forward to this course for months but when the day arrived I had to send a colleague in my place and stay to be interviewed by HMI instead. Imagine my annoyance!)
Here is a brief summary of our initial planning ideas.
We’ll start with thorough immersion in the genre. Students will enjoy a range of Marvel comics, original cartoons and age-appropriate film clips. We will analyse the structure and language features and evaluate the purpose and audience for each medium. Students will use these as a stimulus for writing different sentence structures. (Alan Peat sentence structures have become integral to the planning of our new KS2 curriculum- see @alanpeat). We will teach a range of SPaG objectives via narrative and comic texts, analysing language and punctuation effects. We will use blank comics where students have to add in text, forming every word for impact. Genre features will be agreed. Students will take classic superheroes and villains from different stories and put them together in a new context to create exciting new scenarios. What will happen when Spiderman meets The Joker on Planet Krypton? They will devise their own heroes and villains, combining the skills of known characters and adding in twists and modern, technological attributes. They will write character reports, narratives, comics and newspaper reports. (We have booked the author @GuyBassBooks, to share his passion for superheroes and comics with all of KS2, as new-term treat).
Again, there will be total immersion in the genre at the start, but with a greater focus on analysis. Students will study visual film posters and focus on the connotations of images and words. They will compare the same stories told via different media. For example, the opening of Captain America (Film) will be shown and studied alongside the narrative opening of the book of the film. (The book of the film lacks impact – it basically reports the events of the film without any creative description). There lies an opportunity. How can we create the impact of the film through narrative? How can take what the film does so well and apply that into our own narrative version of the story? There is lots of scope for slow writing here, and for teaching those different sentence constructions, exploring and experimenting with impact. In addition, we will investigate ideologies behind superheroes. Explore the American Dream; consider the values promoted through these characters, the complexities. Discuss what makes them so endearing, so interesting and appealing. We will argue to what extent these superheroes present positive role models, and whether they encourage violence among young children.
We have prepared a plethora of competitions and whole school activities, along with a dressing up day to finish the project. Superheroes are pretty popular at the moment so I’ve spent much of this summer gathering cheap merchandise to offer up as prizes for beautiful work. We are still thinking of opportunities for students to share their work but along the way, we will be extracting the best examples and peer assessing, presenting them as models of what to aim for. The fact that it is a whole school project means that we can use the best work from upper school to set the bar high for ks2. We can utilise assemblies and form periods and bring in other subjects. The French and Art department are excited to contribute; I am hoping that the rest of the school will join in and add their input too. We want to start this new academic year with real gusto. I can safely say that the English team have the requisite enthusiasm; now to motivate the kids. I’m hoping that won’t prove too difficult!