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English PGCE Student, commencing September - your help would be appreciated!

Discussion in 'English' started by eannie, Jun 15, 2011.

  1. Hi everyone
    I'm commencing an English PGCE this September.
    I was wondering whether there are some common areas (if any) that PGCE students seem to be lacking on - or areas where they seem to struggle during their PGCE year?
    Your help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. venicequeen

    venicequeen New commenter

    Personally for me it was the planning and structuring of lessons. I had never did this before and didn't really understand what it entailed. I would start by looking on here and The Grid for schemes of work and getting to grips with what a good lesson needs. You still have time to contact a school and see if you can observe some English lessons, it's quite late in the term but it's worth a try.
    Also, think about what element of education you may focus on for an assessment. Are you intersted in underachieving boys/girls or students on free school meals? Something like that then start researching it so that you have a head start as time is precious in September. Something more broader may be better as obviously you don't know where your placements will be or the type of school (obviously focusing on FSM in a leafy grammar school might be limited)

    Hope this helps
  3. It would be well worth getting hold of some GCSE textbooks (CPG publish some good ones), which will give you an idea of the skills students are expected to master, and the levels at which they will be working. Spend a good deal of time breaking down your own understanding of what writing is, the processes involved and the demands it places on the writer. Go back to some good quality children's writing and refresh your memory of the level of difficulty it is pitched at. Start putting together good ideas for things for kids to read and write; build up as many ideas as you can across lots of different topics, so you can get them to write about things other than plans to build a new playground in their local park, or an analysis of Lennie in 'Of Mice and Men'.
  4. ga8g08

    ga8g08 New commenter

    Hi eannie, I'm in my 2nd year of qualified secondary English teaching and found that the ins and outs of grammar and the structures of sentences were a significant gap in my knowledge when I was training. It wasn't something I was taught at school, yet the nuts and bolts of National Curriculum level descriptors for writing refer to them repeatedly, so it's worth picking up early on.
    Additionally, I would say that from my experience, teachers tend to see a trainee who is taking their class as a welcome break from one of the many things on their overloaded plate, which means it can be difficult to get the level of advice and feedback you are entitled to and will need; don't be afraid to keep asking for it, and let your course convenor know if it's not forthcoming. Any school which signs an agreement with a training centre to take you on has a contractual responsibility to support you in your learning.
    Lesson planning is tough going and will take you a long time to start off with, but you will notice the decrease in planning time as you grow in confidence. I wish you all the best!
  5. Hi everyone
    Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond - I really appreciate it.
    Like venicequeen, I had very little experience of planning lessons, but in my favour, I have already spent 2 weeks lesson observing, where I was given the chance to prepare and deliver two lessons of my own. I am particularly interested in assisting underachieving pupils, so I will take your advice venicequeen and undertake some research in this area.
    There's so much to think of. My "to do" list is mounting! Fortunately, I'm married to a teacher (and former OU mentor) so I have some additional home help!
    Thanks again

  6. First of all, good luck. You won't need it though, because it's no substitute for hard work - you'll need to do lots of that!
    I'd seriously consider getting sh*t-hot on grammar as soon as you can - I was part of the grammar gap; it just wasn't taught at school, and it made very little difference to me getting my Lit degree, but it did leave me a little behind when I started my PGCE. It's not good to be asking your lecturer what a subordinate clause is.
    Get a good repertoire of Shakespeare plays behind you - I'd suggest R&J, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Much Ado and a few more. Chaucer is useful too.
    Get familiar with modern poetry too - you may know your Blake, Donne and Keats, but how's your Duffy, Armitage, Heaney and co? WWI poetry is immensely useful too.
    After that, just be prepared to work ridiculous hours for a couple of years, then merely silly ones for the rest of your life after that.
  7. Hi mrvonnegut
    Firstly, thanks for your good wishes!
    My situation is a somewhat odd one - my degree is almost entirely grammar based, so I have very little literature experience (sounds odd for an English teacher doesn't it), so the grammar bit doesn't worry me. Like you, I wasn't taught it at school either. I know this is a real problem, as my University are stipulating that all PGCE English students attend a pre-grammar course. I guess I'm a bit of a Linguistics nut! However, I'm severely lacking in children's lit and Shakespeare, so already have plans in place to address that. I'm just awaiting a delivery of about 10 children's books (the first of many, I'm sure) - (Curious Incident, Goodnight Mister Tom, Refugee Boy, Face, Millions, etc etc) with a view to reviewing at least 5 of them prior to commencement of my PGCE (this is a pre-course requirement).
    I've noted your comments about which Shakespear plays to tackle, so thanks for that. I've already done the Tempest (during my 2 week school visit) but I have a more indepth analysis/study planned.
    I'd heard the hours were long - and my tutor is adamant I'll still have time to study for my MA as soon as I qualify....she's bonkers!
    Thanks again

  8. You sound like me last year, I did a degree that was mainly language/iinguistics based (one of only 2 people on my PGCE course) and felt that literature was a big gap for me.
    Key children's literature round here tends to be Holes, Skellig, Private Peaceful and anything by Robert Swindell so they're worth a read - and I'd also recommend reading Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and Frankenstein as these are often used at KS4.
    I was really worried abut my literature knowledge but with a strong language base you can approach most things through that.
    Stock up on plastic wallets (you will get through literally hundreds of these) and try to think of a few activities that you can have ready to use at a moments notice.
    It's not English specific but Getting the B-u-ggers to behave by Susan Cowley is amazing!

    You will most likely be in the minority with a good language base and as courses cater to the majority expect several university sessions refreshing on 'what is a modal verb' and having to fill the gaps in your literature knowledge yourself. As a language specialist you'll be in big demand from others on your course looking to brush up on their knowledge and you can use them to get an overview of your weak areas
    Media Studies is an area that seems to be on the up and up and seems to be being taught more and more by English teachers so this might be an area to brush up on

  9. Hi Princess
    Thanks for taking the time to respond - I appreciate it! My University is doing a top up grammar course which my tutor has asked if I can attend, to help the others get through. No doubt I'll have a bit of brushing up to do as well!
    I work in Corporate Finance at the moment, but in the marketing department, so my eyes popped out of my head when you mentioned about Media Studies. I knew there was some in the national curriculum (like designing magazine covers etc) but hadn't appreciated how embedded it had become, so thanks for that. I have loads of material at home that I've written over the years, including mock up magazine covers and all kinds of stuff, so I'm going up into the loft tonight to start sifting through it.
    Thank you to all of you who have responded with your kind words of support and advice. I'm taking all comments on board (and I'll definitely stock up on the plastic wallets!!)
    Kind regards
  10. To be honest, I think a Language background is possibly more useful for KS3/4. The Lit stuff is pretty straightforward until KS5 and the Language A level is becoming more and more popular. I'm teaching it now, despite being a Lit graduate, and it's helped my teaching of lower and middle school immensely.
    It seems like you have the knowledge, and the nouse to fill in the gaps so I'm sure you're better placed than most. Now it's just about the work...
  11. Hi Mrvonnegut
    I am thinking about how I'm going to be able to teach Lit to KS5 but my tutor doesn't seem to think there will be an issue, so I'm going to worry about that one later! I feel more comfortable knowing that A level Lang is becoming popular. When I went on school experience the tutors were keen to plug me for all kinds of information for their sixth form pupils - now I know why!
    Right, I'm off to find a nice bottle of vino.....

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