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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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: ,

Literary Anniversaries: 10 November


The cast of the film of the book – missing Jack Nicholson as McMurphy.

“He Who Marches Out Of Step Hears Another Drum”

Back in September we celebrated the birth of Ken Kesey, author of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest‘.  Today, we commemorate his death in 2001.

But we also have an important birth to celebrate today …

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Posted in A Level, A Level Literature, Enrichment, Literary Anniversaries, November Tagged with: , , , ,

Literary Anniversaries: 09 November


The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then

We have two literary anniversaries to explore today, both of them poets.

Firstly, 09 November marks the death of Dylan Thomas in 1953.  You can find out more about Thomas’ life by clicking here to see my entry celebrating his birthday.  You might also enjoy this BBC Radio documentary with rare interviews with friends and family of the poet.  As the presenter, Cerys Matthews, says:  “Listening to these tapes I started to understand the strange contradictions at the heart of Dylan Thomas. The boozer with the self-discipline to write verse, the child with a visionary voice, the buffoon who took life so seriously”.

Next up is a a note about the birth in 1937 of the poet Roger McGough.  Along with, maybe, Dr. Seuss, McGough is the earliest poet I can remember reading.  Some of you will be familiar with ‘First Day At School’, reproduced below, but I also like the Roald Dahl-like exaggerated violence of ‘The Lesson‘, so look that one up!

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Posted in Children's Books, Enrichment, KS3, Literary Anniversaries, November, Poetry Tagged with: , , ,

Literary Anniversaries: 08 November

Is it any coincidence that Satan has bat wings, and Dracula can turn into a bat? I think we should be told ...

Is it any coincidence that Satan has bat wings, and Dracula can turn into a bat? I think we should be told …

“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”

You can probably tell from this Literary Anniversaries series that this is something I’ve been interested in for a while.  It’ll come as no surprise that we know, in my family, who we share a birthday with.

So, I’ve known about today’s literary anniversaries for ages because they coincide with my eldest son’s birthday – many happy returns, Cameron, by the way!  They’ve also been a source of frustration and grinding of teeth, because these anniversaries are so much cooler than mine.

Here’s today’s roll of honour, in order :

John Milton (died 1674)

Bram Stoker (born 1847)

Margaret Mitchell (born 1900)

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Posted in A Level, A Level Literature, Classic Literature, KS5, Literary Anniversaries, November, Poetry Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Poem Of The Week: 07 November 2016

armistice-day-770x434We rightly look back on the beginnings of wars, and celebrate the ends of them. What might we think about in terms of 1916? This week’s poem was chosen to match the Remembrance Day commemorations later this week.  I’ve already featured poems by wonderful writers like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon this year, so I also wanted to choose something a little different.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It strikes me that perhaps the middle of a conflict – with the experience of heavy losses already felt, and an uncertain end, not yet in sight – is a time to look at themes of endurance, what Rudyard Kipling might call the voice inside us that when nothing is left cries: ‘Hold on!’, in the nation’s favourite poem, ‘If‘.

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

Literary Anniversaries: 06 November

magorian-back-homeI wonder if it’s frustrating to be an accomplished author of a series of books, but to only really be well known for your very first novel?

Today, we celebrate the birth of Michelle Magorian, born in 1947.

OK, so what else has she written apart from the reasonably famous ‘Goodnight Mr. Tom‘ (1981) … ?

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Posted in Children's Books, Literary Anniversaries, November Tagged with: