Evidence into Practice – Embedding the Improving Literacy at KS2 in the classroom – a Shakespearian Journey!

29 June 2018

Using Shakespeare in year 6 By Jo Munro (Victoria Road Primary School)

This year, in year 6, we have used the Shakespeare text Romeo and Juliet, by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross, trying to ensure we develop all the strands within the Improving Literacy at KS2 Guidance report. We began the process by actually reading the text aloud (Recommendation 2 – model fluent reading) to our class during our normal literacy lessons; unpicking it as we read, asking questions, using our think bubbles to say what we were thinking, wondering and pondering as well as really gaining an understanding of the main character traits by using our inference and deduction skills.  Because of this in depth session – just simply reading the text – the children were able to grasp the plot and successfully create a story map of the 9 main scenes independently in collaborative working group (summarising using graphic organisers – Recommendation 3; collaborative learning – Recommendation 1).

From here, we discussed the scene where Friar Lawrence provided Juliet with the sleeping potion, again just simply discussing and exploring our characters much more closely – drawing up our ideas and really thinking about how, or even why, it had come to this; a Friar assisting a young girl in deception (inferring meaning from context– Recommendation 3)

The next day we continued with this scene by holding a ‘memorable experience’ in our normal classroom setting. The room was transformed into a courtroom complete with a judge, as our ‘purpose’ was to hold a court hearing. The children were expected to behave as they would in a real-life court and were positioned in two distinctive groups, those defending Friar Lawrence in his attempts to help Juliet; and those opposing and against his actions. They had time to discuss their arguments to put forward to the judge but not before a 10-15mins session on the language features and speaking techniques needed when addressing a judge – as this was going to be our ‘audience’ so it had to meet this correctly (Recommendation 1 – verbally articulating ideas before writing).

Finally, they spent 15-20 quality mins really unpicking their case by using their inference and deduction skills with the text, and what they had learnt over the past 2 days prior about the story plot and characters.  From here the court went into hearing and the children were expected to listen to the judge, and the case being heard, before being asked for their statements. Children were called from either side to give their opinions in order for the judge to make their final decision on the case.

The children were extremely thorough in their statements, using the text to justify and reason; challenging them in their thinking and understanding of the Shakespeare plot.

The use of this memorable experience then enabled the children to plan a discussion text using a box-up method, again thinking about language for the audience and purpose.  They were able to independently think about their reasons for and against based on the court hearing the day before – small steps (planning – generating ideas and setting goals before writing– Recommendation 4).

Once they had planned their discussion, the children then started to draft then edit their written pieces; again small steps and really thinking about how the language and structure would make an impact on the audience ‘the judge’ (Recommendation 4 – drafting).

The evaluating and revising was key; it wasn’t necessarily about using alternative words (synonyms), but essential to get the sentence structure right. I needed to ensure that their discussions were actually answering their initial questions, and the language and features were meeting their audience and purpose. (evaluating and revising– Recommendation 4)   The children conducted lots of peer/self assessing along the way – reading each others really strengthened their understanding of the Shakespeare plot, they were guiding and supporting each other independently to really up-level their own writing; teacher support was minimal and we became more of a facilitator to the learning process (Recommendation 5 – supported by effective feedback).

Once the children felt secure and confident with their drafting and revising they began publishing. The children enjoy this part of the writing process as it gives them the chance to display their pieces to their audience. In this case, we displayed them on our writing wall for the judge to consider. (Recommendation 4 – explicit purpose and audience)

After this scaffolding process, the children were then able to use transfer their knowledge, skills and understanding to later in a different discussion pieces – they remembered the key features of a discussion text, the importance of the language for their chosen audience and purpose and most importantly they had been independent writers.



Posted on 29 June 2018
Posted in: Latest Research Evidence