Jo Carrington’s poem ‘Let the learning begin’ strikes the keynote for the summer issue of English in Education. The poem parodies the insistent interventions of a teacher who tries to improve a student’s performance as a writer of poetry. The student is desperate to speak their voice against the directed ‘improvements’ that will gain marks. The emphasis is on instruction rather than dialogue.
Performativity is the zeitgeist. Owing to the assessment imperative that overhangs virtually all teaching and learning acts, the contemporary classroom has become a crucible of performativity. This educational paradigm differs fundamentally from that of fifty years ago, as recorded in the early issues of the journal. Simon Gibbons’ English and its Teachers, reviewed in this issue by Sue Dymoke, charts the history of English teaching over the last half-century.
Valerie Coultas reflects on those pioneering days and their assertion of the importance of classroom talk and of the ‘power of the personal’ in teaching English. She demonstrates ways in which learners’ experience and expression have been valued for themselves as well as for their value as preparation for literary and academic writing.
Furzeen Ahmed’s linguistic ethnographic study shows how students in an ethnically diverse East Midlands (UK) school used classroom talk and short story writing to interpret a literary text (Romeo and Juliet) that came from what was for many a different cultural and temporal space.
Linda Enow and Andy Goodwyn’s paper confronts the difficulty of analysing the expertise of the English teacher. What appears as the spontaneous performance of the expert teacher depends on a long and continuous process of reflective development that can be understood and used to share and develop expertise.
Clare Chambers considers the teaching of ‘comprehension’ and ‘knowledge of the world’. Learning about the world, she argues, is a social process, and teachers could develop learning opportunities from children’s everyday literacies, reframing ‘comprehension’ to connect their students with multiple texts and diverse forms of knowledge.
Rebecca Lefroy took year seven (aged 11-12) students to an art museum in order to develop their understanding of symbolism, narrative perspective and style. They enjoyed the opportunity to develop their interpretations: in the words of one, ‘We weren’t just told things like in the classroom’.
Gail Loane’s Developing Young Writers in the Classroom: I’ve got something to say argues that the writing of non-fiction, principally the personal and the immediate, is the foundation for all writing. Jeni Smith’s review suggests how children can develop as writers beyond the performativity of the classroom.
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