Theme mats

Teaching within a fixed timetable, we inevitably have to deliver information in manageable chunks.  Given that this is the case, how do we help pupils to see the bigger picture?  Do we try to gradually build this up as we go, or do we wait until all the information is in place, then take a step back from it?  I am most acutely aware of this problem when teaching literature, and I have tried all sorts of different approaches.  The one I’m about to outline is a recent addition to the repertoire, and I was pleased with how well it got the students to start talking about the whole text, rather than just specific episodes within it …

We read the play Antigone fairly quickly, pausing only to confirm basic understanding or to clarify important background information.  Once we had finished, I asked the pupils to get into groups of three or four and discuss the images below.  Their aim was to discuss what ideas the image seemed to convey, and then think of a way of linking these ideas to the play.  I had chosen some of the images in the hope of eliciting certain points from the class, and others at random, just to see where they took the students.

As with all new ideas, I was worried this might be a total flop, and was reassured to see the students become quite animated in their discussions of the images, and of how they might relate to the play.  Before long, they were talking about key themes such as death, relationships, power, pride and pain and realising for themselves just how complex Sophocles’ exploration of these was.

I will certainly be repeating this idea.  Perhaps the next step will be to get the pupils creating “theme mats” of their own …

theme map

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