Identify key ideas, skills or essential questions from syllabus content

Identify key ideas, skills or essential questions from syllabus content (What do I want my students to learn?)

Narrow the focus

After identifying the concept and outcomes, narrow the focus of the unit further to ensure deep understanding using one of these methods:

In Understanding by Design Guide, G. Wiggins and J. McTighe (2011) explain that questions are ‘essential’ when they:

  • refer directly to the concept

  • provoke deep thought; and

  • help all students to make sense of important ideas in English.

Good essential questions direct the learning to the core aspects of the concept, stimulate connections and promote transfer of ideas from one context to another.

Example:

Ask yourself: What do I want the students to learn?

Answer: I want my Stage 3 students to learn how to discern quality and value in an extensive range of complex texts and visual images (concept of appreciation).

The essential question for the concept of appreciation may be: What do I appreciate in texts and images and how does this influence my own personal choice in reading?

Use the four questions from the Quality Teaching model in order to complete the statement: By the end of this unit of learning, I want the students to know, understand and be able to…

  1. What do I want the students to learn? (Know and understand)

  2. Why does the learning matter?

  3. What do I want the students to do or produce? (Be able to do)

  4. How well do I expect them to do it?

Example:

In Stage 3, students discern quality and value in an extensive range of complex texts and visual images (concept appreciation). After applying the Quality Teaching model this becomes:

By the end of this unit, I want the students to:

  • know that people can appreciate texts in a variety of ways

  • understand that personal perspectives influence responses to reading

  • be able to create a variety of texts demonstrating their understanding of language features and visual style to enhance enjoyment.

Consider what questions you would like the students to be able to answer at the end of the unit.

Example:
  • How do texts encourage people to believe in and take action in support of an important issue?

  • How is ideology represented? (Concept: persuasion/advocacy)

Girl holding booksmaking two statements. For text version see below image.

This graphic shows a secondary school girl holding books making the two statements:

Statement 1:

'By the end of the persuasion unit I learned that language is powerful and the internet can be used ethically to raise awareness of issues important to the whole of humankind'

Statement 2:

'I learned how to communicate my beliefs and how to sustain people’s interest in them.'

‘Characterisation’ example

    The examples here demonstrate how the Quality Teaching questions can be applied to focus the learning around the key concept of characterisation.

    Consider what students will need to know and be able to do by the end of the unit.

    If characterisation is the central concept of your unit, then what is important for students to learn about characterisation at each stage? The examples below help to define and narrow these aims.

    Stage 5 students might consider the idea how and why composers construct characters.

    By the end of this Stage 5 unit of learning, I want the students to:

    • Know how authors construct characters; know how these characters function in the text and in the culture

    • Understand how language forms and features shape the characterisation and the type of character created

    • Be able to analyse and evaluate the characterisation of one central character in a text; be able to create an adaptation which recontextualises the characterisation for a different audience and purpose.

    If you were considering a Shakespearean play then the answer would be more specific.

    By the end of this Stage 5 unit of learning, I want the students to:

    • Know how Shakespeare constructs characters and how these characters function as dramatic devices.

    • Understand the language forms and features that shape characterisation in Shakespeare’s plays.

    • Be able to analyse and evaluate the characterisation of one central character in a Shakespearean play; be able to create a modern day adaptation of a Shakespearean play which recontextualises the characterisation for dramatic effect.

    Stage 4 students might consider the idea how and why composers construct characters.

    By the end of this Stage 4 unit of learning, I want the students to:

    • Know how authors construct characters and how these characters function in the text.

    • Understand how language forms and features shape the characterisation and the types of character created.

    • Be able to analyse and evaluate the characterisation of one central character in a text and to create a rounded character in their own composing.

    If you were considering a novel or short stories then the answer would be more specific:

    By the end of this Stage 4 unit of learning, I want the students to:

    • Know how characters are constructed in narratives – novels and short stories.

    • Understand the language forms and features that shape characterisation.

    • Be able to analyse and evaluate the characterisation of one central character in a novel or short story and create effective characterisation in their own imaginative composition.

    In Stage 1 students need to know that characters are represented in texts by language and images.

    By the end of this Stage 1 unit of learning, I want the students to:

    • Know that language is used to represent characters in different ways.

    • Understand characters are created in different ways.

    • Be able to create characters using different media.

    This depth of knowledge of characterisation requires students to experience a wide variety of characters in texts to explore how they have been represented.

    Other content will need to be applied to develop deep understanding of the concept and the ways of thinking in English. Content choices will depend on what your students need to know and learn to do, or the particular alignment of outcomes and assessment that you think is appropriate.

    Character is a central concept in traditional approaches to narrative, especially novels, plays and film. Our experience of the text and the story is often through a character’s perspective. For example, we feel empathy or antagonism towards them depending on the author’s purpose.

    If students understand characterisation then other concepts like voice, point-of-view, narration, the representation of values and beliefs can be taught as part of their understanding. These concepts could also be the focus of other units which can then refer back to and connect with what they have learned about characterisation.

    Mindmap of the concept 'Characterisation', including the terms: representation of values and beliefs, context, narrative function in text, point-of-view / focalisation / narration,  voice, function in culture, adaptation / form.

    A ‘characterisation’ continuum

    In:

    • Early Stage 1 – students need to identify characters and understand that characters can be represented by words and/or pictures.

    • Stage 1 – students begin to understand that the language the composer uses to represent the character shapes its identity and relationship with the audience.

    • Stage 2 - students need to understand that the language and visuals an author uses to create a character relates to the message the author is trying to express

    • Stage 3 – students need to be able to creatively adapt characters to create new texts.

    Example tasks

    Stage 5

    • A critical analysis of the chacterisation of one central character in a text.

    • A creative adaptation which recontextualises the characterisation for a different audience and purpose.

    Stage 1

    • Express an understanding of how language can be used as a technique to create a character by rehearsing and delivering a short presentation

    • Create a character using different media, including use of language techniques.

    Students need to know exactly what is required, and how well they are expected to demonstrate learning. Peer- and self-assessment, and the co-construction of criteria for a marking rubric for the responding and composing provide students with clarification of what the achievement of an outcome may look like.

    Activity 2: How well does the concept draw the content together?

    Activity icon

    Examine how the concept of characterisation has been embedded in content statements throughout the English K–10 Syllabus as an example of how a key concept can be thought of as a thread which links learning across outcomes.

    1. View the Characterisation content (.pdf 193kB) document which captures syllabus outcomes and content related to characterisation from Early Stage 1 to Stage 5.

    2. Complete Activity 2: How well does the concept draw the content together? (.pdf 104kB)