Year 12 Poetry Escape Room?

The best lessons are often those that originate at interesting and unexpected moments- unsurprisingly not the ones that you agonise over for hours. This idea for a lesson came around 20 minutes before the lesson began(!), but I had some very happy customers at the end of the lesson and a clear sense that students had made some very pleasing progress.

For the last few weeks, my school have been offering some excellent CPD on Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction. I have found the sessions really useful and they have given me time and space to consider whether systems and procedures I have been using I my classroom for almost 10 years have had their desired impact. Throughout the training, the staff leading the CPD have taken some time to unpick some of the principles in greater detail. I came away from the last session reconsidering the way I structure and scaffold activities and the point at which I remove some of those supportive measures.

ve a small group of Year 12 students who are currently studying the A Level Comedy collection as part of AQA Literature Specification B (7717BB). I’ve been really keen to encourage independent thought when viewing texts through the comedic lens, but this remains something we need to work on. The students have nearly finished studying all of the poems in the collection. They have a sharp understanding of aspects of comedy and can discuss how these have been ‘treated within and across comedy texts. I was interested to know whether they would be able to do this without guided questioning/ my vocal nudges in the right direction.

In this lesson, it would have been too easy to give them some slides of contextual information , some information on John Donne but I thought that there would be more effective ways to deliver the key information they needed whilst allocating some deliberate practice to skills they had learnt previously.

At the start of the lesson- the students were asked to read ‘The Flea’ by John Donne and generate 5 questions based on the poem on a post-it. They read the poem independently.

We then sat together as a team (a Socratic circle of sorts). I explained that this was now a Poetry Escape Room and that they were tasked to unlock the meanings of this poem. I explained that I would not be speaking during the session but I will be watching and a summary of my findings will be appearing on the whiteboard at some point during the lesson .

In 9 envelopes, there were snippets of context and further information that could be useful to them as a team but i explained that they needed to use these judiciously and only gather that information when they felt the time was right. The other rule was that they needed to find the answers for everybody’s questions and that everybody needed to be party to the same information- it was their responsibility to ensure nobody was left behind.

The initial moments were very interesting. One or two students naturally took on a leadership role, identifying the direction of the investigation.

I watched from afar, listening and observing. I typed my Escape Room-esque advice. I didn’t display this at first- I was concerned that they would depend on it a little too much and I was interested to see which direction they were going to take this. When the time felt right, I displayed it. They found some of their responses amusing but were able to recognise when ideas warranted further investigation.

What was fascinating was what was happening in front of me was similar to what I saw in their writing- they were habitually posing ideas with little to support their thinking/ posing really interesting readings but then not giving themselves time or space to explore them fully. It was interesting to see ‘thinking’ playing out right in front of me. Some of it was hilarious, some of it poignant- watching students discard ideas and refine others was fascinating and gave me more information on what they knew/ didn’t know than any teacher-led classroom discussion could have.

After around 30 minutes, the students had collectively unlocked some interesting meanings from the poem. They will hand in their musings on the poem next week.

I’ll update with how they worked out!

Thanks for reading!

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