Looking for some inspiration for your English classes or need some new ways to engage uninterested students? English is a wonderfully varied subject to teach and whether it’s language or literature, there are plenty of inventive ways to get your class engaged with texts.
Here’s our top 10 English lesson ideas to inspire your class. Most of these ideas apply specifically to teaching literature texts but some are more general and could be adapted for different subject matter. Comment and tell us your favourite English lesson ideas!
Get students to create social media profiles for each of the characters from a text. What platform would they use? What would be in their bio? What would they post? Who are their friends or followers? What would they post in response to events in the text? This is a fun way of getting students to think deeply about characters and their motives and can also result in some wonderful classroom displays!
Court Room Role Play
Get your students to plan and carry out a court room trial using the characters within a text and responding to a conflict. Allocate who will play the characters, the defendant, the plaintiff, witnesses, the judge and jury. Students can spend one lesson preparing their speeches and a second lesson carrying out the court trial itself. This activity works well for texts like An Inspector Calls and Romeo and Juliet where a number of characters are entwined in the conflict and where blame is not straightforward.
Letters to the Author
Get students to write a letter to the author of the text explaining their opinion on the text and questions they would like to ask the author. One simple way of getting students to think about context is to get them to consider how the opinions in their letters might differ from someone reading the text at the time it was written.
English Escape Rooms
This is a less straightforward lesson idea that takes a significant amount of preparation. It can be a nice end of topic game that gets students to recap the subject by having to answer questions relating to the text in order to work out riddles. There are plenty of online kits and resources to make your own escape room lesson plan but the general idea is to get students to complete a series of tasks or puzzles to reach the central objective. Escape rooms can work well when teaching poetry in which students will need to work out the poetic devices used in specific extracts in order to reveal the central meaning of the poem.
Who am I?
This is a fun game that can be very useful in familiarising students with texts that may have lots of characters like Shakespearean plays. In one example, students take turns placing a post-it note on their head with the name of a character on and they then have a set number of tries to ask yes/ no questions and work out who they are. Alternatively, you can reveal one by one statements about an undisclosed character to the whole class and the first team to guess the character it relates to wins the round. This way can work particularly well as it encourages competition. A prize can really incentivise students to engage with questions.
The Nando’s Menu
This lesson idea is popular in many different subjects but can work particularly well when trying to get students in to the habit of including all assessment objectives in their answers. Students are presented with a ‘menu’ in which they must pick one ‘main’ and three ‘sides’ (each pertaining to a particular AO) and then can pick a level of ‘heat’ signifying the difficulty of the question. Alternatively, you can put a ‘menu’ of homework questions together and students have the choice to answer a selection of ‘mild’ to ‘hot’ questions over the course of a term. The Nando’s menu idea encourages students to push themselves to answer ‘hotter’ questions as they gain more chilli points for each one they do.
This is an activity that helps students to consider the different characters and their relationship to themes within a text. Students work independently or in small groups to put together their own set of top trump cards with a card for each character. Cards must include an image, a bio and a set of scores according to a number of set criteria. For example, if the text was A Christmas Carol, your criteria might be: greed, kindness, generosity, compassion and wealth. This is also a deceptively effective way to encourage student debate and discussion- How brave is Macbeth? How intelligent is Mr Birling? And why? Students will have to prove their point and provide evidence if they think a character should be scored higher or lower on particular criteria. And the best thing is that students can play the game afterwards!
Get your students to create movie trailers for the text you are studying. This activity gets students to think about the overarching themes within a text as well as plot and tone. If you don’t have the time or resources for students to make their own trailers, then you could alternatively get them to simply storyboard a trailer as if they were making one. Another fun addition is getting students to decide what famous actors would play the characters in the text and why.
Graffiti Spelling Wall
This activity helps students to keep track of new and unfamiliar vocabulary in a way that is a bit more creative than simply keeping a list at the back of their books. Give each of your students a sheet of paper with a brick wall background and as the term goes on, get them to add any new or unfamiliar words to it using colours and designs of their choice.
This activity used by many Drama teachers also works well for English lessons. A student sits in the ‘hot seat’ at the front of the class acting as a character, poet or author while the rest of the class takes turns asking them questions. This role playing exercise gets students to think about character motives and feelings with often hilarious results!
Comment to tell us your favourite English lesson ideas that have inspired your class to engage with literary texts or go to the RealiseMe Forum for more lesson resources and ideas!
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