Literary Anniversaries: 28 November

Blake was not only a talented poet, but an accomplished illustrator, too.

Blake was not only a talented poet, but an accomplished illustrator, too.

Today we celebrate a birth and commemorate two deaths.

Let’s start with the deaths – of two beloved children’s writers:

  • Ian Serraillier died in 1994.  You can find out more about his life and works by clicking here, where we wished him happy birthday;
  • Enid Blyton also died today in 1968.  We celebrated her birthday back in August, so click here to see what we had to say about her then

But I’d like to focus on William Blake, one of our most highly influential Romantic poets, who was born in 1757.

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Posted in Children's Books, Enrichment, GCSE English Literature, KS4, Literary Anniversaries, November, Poetry Tagged with: , , ,

Poem of the Week: 28 November



Many of you will know that this coming Wednesday is St. Andrew’s Day, so I wanted – for the second week running – to use a poem by a Scottish poet.  And then, given last week’s Y11 Sixth Form Evening, I also decided to use one of the poems our Y13 students are currently studying.

The Glaswegian Carol Ann Duffy is the current and first woman Poet Laureate.  As part of our A Level, we are currently looking at her wonderful collection, ‘The World’s Wife’.  In this suite of poems, Duffy tells the story of women who have been forgotten by history because they were associated with famous men, including Darwin, Elvis, and King Midas.  The poems are often caustically funny, occasionally angry, but always absolutely fascinating.

Mrs. Icarus riffs on the ancient myth of Icarus and Daedulus.  The latter, a skilled craftsman and engineer built the Minotaur’s Lair for King Minos, but was later imprisoned.  They built wings to fly away from imprisonment, and Daedulus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, or too low, avoiding the sea spray. The youth, as is often the case, ignored his father’s advice – the wax in his wings melted, and he fell to drown in the Aegean sea.  For centuries, the myth has served as a warning against pride and recklessness.

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Posted in A Level, A Level Literature, Enrichment, Fictional Characters, KS5, Poem Of The Week, Poetry Tagged with: , ,

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: FREE audio and more


drjekyllmrhyde3241_01“All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”

Whilst Y11 draw towards the end of their Victorian Literature studies, it’s not too early, as I said at Parents’ Evening, to start your revision.  Some of our Y13 students could also do a lot worse than being familiar with the text.

And if you haven’t been studying Stevenson’s wonderful Gothic tale, it’s about time you became familiar with the story!  The BBC has a couple of interesting resources for you …

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Posted in A Level, A Level Literature, Audio Books, Enrichment, GCSE English Literature, KS4, KS5, Parents, Revision Resources Tagged with: , , ,

And the ‘Word of the Year’ for 2016 is … ?



Once again, Oxford Dictionaries have announced their words of the year.

Last year, you might know that the title was won by an emoji – a sign of the times?

Can you guess which words made it into the top 10?

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Posted in A Level, A Level Creative Writing, A Level Language, KS5 Tagged with:

10 women who changed Science Fiction

Ursula K Le Guin is -almost - as cool as Margaret Atwood ...

Ursula K Le Guin is -almost – as cool as Margaret Atwood …

It’s no secret that I am an avid Science Fiction reader, or that I really admire Margaret Atwood.  But she’s not by any means the only important woman writing in the field – SF is as much for, and by, girls as it is boys.

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Posted in A Level Language, A Level Literature Tagged with: , , , , ,

Quiz Time: How ‘replicant’ are you?

cover-do-androidsReplicant, I hear you ask?  How about replacing that word with ANDROID, or ROBOT (a word, incidentally, that is less than 100 years old and comes from another word meaning ‘slave’)?

But the word ‘replicant’ can only really refer to one work, or rather to a pair of them.  Philip K Dick’sDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?‘ (1968), and Ridley Scott’s film, ‘Bladerunner’ (1982).

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Posted in Enrichment, Fun and Games, KS4 Tagged with: ,

Poem of the Week: 21 November

the-book-of-highland-verseI’ve chosen this week’s poem for its autumnal sense of longing – it’s a Scottish poem, but fits the ‘untranslatable’ Welsh concept of ‘hiraeth’ – nostalgia, homesickness, grief or sadness for things which you are exiled from, through time and/or distance.  So, a very Celtic poem.

‘Tell how their lost child fares’

This one, like Walter de la Mare’s a couple of weeks ago, has a story behind it …

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Posted in Enrichment, Poem Of The Week, Poetry Tagged with: , , ,

New English GCSEs: a guide for Parents and Carers

parents-evening-memeI genuinely enjoy Parents’ Evenings, and the Year 11 event held earlier this week was no exception:  well attended, and happily, with plenty of positives to report to the families of my class.

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Posted in GCSE, GCSE English Language, GCSE English Literature, KS4, News, Parents

Student Excellence: Lexi Brockbank (Y11) 2

Woman Looking at Reflection --- Image by © Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis

Woman Looking at Reflection — Image by © Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis

On 05 November I offered you one of Lexi’s poems, the poignant and yet inspiring ‘Trapped‘.  Here’s another of her works, entitled ‘Ghost Girl‘.

Thematically it reminds me a little of Trapped, but there is a less urgent, more reflective pace and rhythm to the piece.  That reflection, perhaps tinged with a little confusion, is supported by the number of questions the speaker asks and a less structured rhyme scheme, supporting the idea of these memories coming back. Like Trapped, this is very much a poem of ‘then and now’ with a less positive past being discarded for the hope of the present and future.  We go from a ghostly, indistinct past tense to a far more positive now.

I’ve also been privileged to see some of Lexi’s annotations and commentaries on her own work.  They’re fascinating glimpses into how the poems came into being, and absolutely prove that the best writing is deliberate and conscious.

Great work, Lexi, thanks so much for sharing with us!

(as ever, any typos are mine, as is my choice of accompanying image)

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Posted in A Level Creative Writing, Creative Writing, Enrichment, KS4, KS5, Poetry, Student Excellence, Young Adult

Literary Anniversaries: 13 November

treasure-islandCasting back to my dim and distant childhood, I’m not sure if I can remember anyone who had more influence on me until I made the transition to reading ‘adult’ books than today’s birthday boy …

Robert Louis Stevenson, sometimes described as the first ‘superstar’ author, was born today in 1850.

If sailor tales to sailor tunes,

Storm and adventure, heat and cold,

If schooners, islands, and maroons,

And buccaneers, and buried gold,

And all the old romance, retold

Exactly in the ancient way,

Can please, as me they pleased of old,

The wiser youngsters of today:

— So be it, and fall on! If not,

If studious youth no longer crave,

His ancient appetites forgot,

Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave,

Or Cooper of the wood and wave:

So be it, also! And may I

And all my pirates share the grave

Where these and their creations lie! (‘To the hesitant purchaser’, RL Stevenson)

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Posted in Children's Books, Classic Literature, Enrichment, GCSE English Literature, KS4, Literary Anniversaries, November Tagged with: ,