This is a great FREE desktop app for teachers. It includes all sorts of whizzy things you can use on your whiteboard e.g. group score boards, image spinners and student selector. See my blogroll for a link or click below, download it and give it a go! I’m not sure it’ll be free for long so hurry up…


Collapsing text the easy way!

I went to a fantastic AQA course on using the AQA Digital Anthology recently. The course was run by Chris Warren and I discovered that the collapsing a poem technique was his idea! You can see my previous post about the purpose of collapsing a poem but it is a technique I have used many times in the classroom.

Here’s a link to Chris Warren’s collapser which is a much quicker way of collapsing a poem. It can also be used in other ways e.g. reconstruction exercises, exploring a section of prose etc.

I’ll also add the collapser to my blogroll. I hope you find it useful!

Exploring Poetry: Wiki Wars

I’ve been sent a link to a video demonstrating a FANTASTIC idea for using ICT in the English classroom whilst also encouraging/developing independent interpretations. It’s called: Wiki Wars.

Please follow the link and it’s shown on the second video. This was filmed for Teacher’s TV as part of the NATE Hard to Teach project. The idea is the brainchild of Carol Weale and she said that it had a dramatic impact on the students’ grades. Why not give it a go? I know I will!

Preparing for writing a film review: What to include in a film review


I asked students to mindmap what they thought needed to be included in a film review. Most came up with a synopsis and opinion but some key ingredients were missing so after discussion I showed them the slide with the kind of information they might want to include.



I gave students an Alex Zane film review (The Sun) and modelled how I wanted them to annotate it (see slide with purple annotations). for the key ingredients. Zane’s reviews are usually short, accessible and humorous but contain a surprising amount of the key ingredients. Students then annotated their review and answered the questions about what they thought of the review and whether or not it made them want to watch the film and why/why not.


I asked them to think about what they thought were the 3 key ingredients. Get students to imagine that they had to write a review using ONLY 3 of the ingredients.

What to include in a film review

Alex Zane Reviews



Preparing for writing a film review: Shot types and angles


I gave students a card sort with a few basic shot types and agles. They had to match the description to the picture (I found the pictures online). I’ve attached the card sort below. The images are OK but the high/low angle aren’t that easy to decipher. After the students had completed the card sort I asked them to make notes on the effect of the different shot types/angles.


I showed the students the ‘shoot out’ scene in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ (youtube link on the PowerPoint) and asked them to make notes on the camera shots/angles used. I modelled how I wanted them to write about the effect of the choices made by the director and then gave them three scenes from the scene to analyse/comment on.


The students were given a list of scenarios and asked to decide what shot type or angle they would use e.g. to show a terrifying giant. The discussion about this was quite interesting where students had made unusual choices but were able to justify them.

Shot types and angles

Card Sort: Jumbled shot types and angles

Preparing for writing a film review: Genre


I asked students what they thought ‘genre’ meant and then gave them the basic definition: a type of film e.g. romance. In pairs I then asked to list as many genres as they could come up. We then discussed why genres exist – successful formulas are repeated to appeal to particular audiences.

Main activities

We did a quick Character/Film/Genre quiz which I have borrowed from somewhere and will need to give credit for. Basically you show them a slide with a few famous characters and students identify the character name, which film they are from and the genre of the film.

We then discussed how you identify the genre of a film – which they would probably want to identify for the film they review. Genres have typical settings, characters, scenes, story-lines and plots. As an example we looked at the police/crime genre and what they would expect to see in each of those categories. I then asked them to complete the table for another genre (or more).


I showed them the slide with six images and asked them to identify the genre.

Film Genre

Preparing for writing a film review: Sound in films

I’ve been working with a class in preparation for writing a film review. What will follow is a series of posts with PowerPoints focusing on developing skills needed to write a film review.

The first one is a lesson on the use of sound in films:


I began by asking students to mind map ideas about sound in films – could they think of any memorable sounds (think Darth Vader’s breathing)? How important did they think sound was in films? Could they categorize what sounds were used in films? This led on to a discussion about sound in films and the 3 soundtrack elements: dialogue, sound effects and music.


I played the audio of the short film ‘Double Take’ by director Toa Stappard. At 4 minutes it’s perfect for this kind of activity and, interestingly, there’s no music or dialogue. When it was first played, students were asked to just write down any sounds they could hear e.g. a zip being closed/opened. They then discussed what they could hear with a partner and what these sounds made them think of. With this short film, be prepared for some interesting responses… Based on this discussion, students had to come up with their own storyline to match the sounds they could hear. Finally, we watched the film and compared their versions with what was in the film.


I asked studnets to think about/discuss how important sound is in films and then list 3 things they’d learnt about sound in films from the lesson.

For a bit of fun – and to illustrate the effect of sound – I showed them the Youtube clip of ‘Mary Poppins’ set to horror music. There’s a link to this in the PowerPoint.

You can find ‘Double Take’ and other short films on the EMC DVD ‘Double take and other films: moving image study 11-16’.

Sound in Films