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Help needed-English teaching at a PRU

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by SAKYMINA, Dec 29, 2019.


    SAKYMINA New commenter

    Hi there,
    I have recently started teaching English to a group of disengaged KS3/4 boys. My experience being challenging is an understatement! They are so out of control and difficult to teach! I have managed to teach a few literary devices and unsuccessfully tried to get them to write using metaphors etc. I would appreciate any ideas on what I could teach next and/or what has worked in a similar setting. Thank you.
  2. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    I worked in a PRU many, many years ago as a TA before I qualified. After qualifying, I taught in my Academy's off-site provision (basically, a pre-PRU). My initial response to your post was - you're aiming too high.

    Think about what these children will need English for in their lives. I'm stereotyping here, but will they really need to know the difference between metaphors, similes and personification? Or will they need to know how to write a letter and read the reply? I suspect the latter. Language skills are going to be far more useful for these students in the long term than Literature.

    I had some success engaging a very disaffected young man in an English lesson, by helping him to write a letter to his Probation Officer, laying out his issues with his curfew. Along the way I managed to get him to use some rhetorical questions and rules of three, as well as gently correcting his punctuation. (Another kid in the class wrote something similar to his foster mother.) A couple of weeks later he brought in the reply and (with his permission) we read it in class, made sure we understood the meaning, and wrote a further reply.

    Is there scope for you to do something similar? Ask them what they would like to change about their lives, and show them how English can play a role in advancing their case. Perhaps an e mail to the Head of the PRU about rules they'd like to change, or to the Council, asking for increasing funding.

    If you feel you must do literature with them, why not do literature they like - song lyrics, film scripts, rap battles. I once spent a whole lesson battling the students, getting them to come up with metaphors and similes to insult me with. We didn't write down a thing: but it did show them the usefulness of those terms.

    I hope that helps a bit. Good luck!
  3. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    I'm not sure I'd say "aiming too high", but I'd agree with @tb9605 that you're perhaps aiming slightly off target. Aim high, but on something that matters to them.
    Likewise, I generally find that persuasive writing grabs the attention of many disengaged students. They nearly all have opinions that they think everyone else should agree with. Start with reading, rather than writing, which most find more difficult. And don't insist on them reading for themselves (if they're very weak, they'll use diversion tactics to avoid showing it, or just say they can't do it) - read aloud to them or play audio/videos of some speeches. Maybe start with something funny like Smithy's Sports Personality of the Year speech (the context is a bit dated now, but the humour is still appropriate). Get them to identify persuasive techniques, such as repetition, rule of 3, alliteration. (Don't necessarily 'teach' them that these are intentional techniques to begin with - you could just get them to count how many times a key word is repeated, for instance, and give a small prize for the person who counts most accurately!) Websites like TeachIt have some good free resources. From there you can move on to creating their own persuasive writing. But don't be disheartened - it can take some time to find what gets them hooked.
    As far as 'literature' is concerned, as @tb9605 says, firstly, is it necessary for their course? If so, if funding / resources allow, do you have the flexibility to choose texts that might engage the group? I'd try to start with short extracts, or a short novella (perhaps a Barrington Stoke title, or a 'quick read').
    Hope this helps...
    tb9605 likes this.

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