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How do you keep a group of 16 year olds interested in topics, which most first year undergraduates would find challenging? Variety is the key.  So in a one week cycle of six lessons, I would typically arrange the following activities:

  1. Historical discussion of a chapter from the textbook, which pupils have read in the previous week.  There might also be a test to check that they have understood what they have read.
  2. Literature: analysis of the work being studied
  3. Presentation by pupils. Pupils this term will be asked to give presentations on medieval architecture and on Viking heritage (more of that anon under “International links”). Each pupil will give one presentation to the whole class on each topic, so basically one presentation each half term.
  4. ICT/Music: I book the digital language laboratory once a week so that pupils can hone their ICT skills, keep up with partner schools (see next post) and enjoy listening to music compilations which their peers have compiled. Each member of the class chooses their 8 favourite tracks (a la Desert Island Discs) and they explain the reasons for their choice.  It is important to give pupils the opportunity to explore different ways of presenting their work, so this term I shall teach them how to use “Prezi”, “Sliderocket”, “Wikispaces”, “Podcasting”, “Digital Photo Stories”, “eTwinning Twinspace”, taking about two weeks for each application.
  5. Art/art history: We shall explore developments in medieval architecture with reference to our text.  We shall also visit sites of architectural interest on a regular basis, since our school is located a 5 minute walk from the Cathedral.
  6. Current affairs/films: One lesson a week is used to review what we have covered, to discuss matters of current interests in the media and to watch films which extend our understanding of the themes tackled in our other lessons.  This term I have selected three films which relate to the themes of the wars of religion. Two of these films are in French and will be shown in the original version, with subtitles, so that pupils, who think they have abandoned French for ever, have a chance to reacquaint themselves with this language!

La Reine Margot

Henri of Navarre

The Mill and the Cross

The last film deals with the genesis of Bruegel’s 1564 painting “The Procession to Calvary” and prepares us for next term when my provisional topics will be Bruegel and the Van Eyck brothers, the writings of Michel de Montaigne (following on from Ferry’s introduction to humanism and our study of the Wars of Religion) and Mme de Lafayette’s courtly romance.

Michel de Montaigne

Princess of Cleves

The work asked of pupils each week outside the classroom is to keep up with their historical reading (50-60 pages a week), to read and note one chapter of medieval architecture each week and to keep up with the literature (50 pages a week).  They also have to practise the software skills, which we have covered and every two weeks they write a 1000 word essay on a topic given in advance: and this is all in the context of learning for learning’s sake, since they take no public exam in this subjects at all!