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What's it like teaching GCSE English?

Discussion in 'English' started by Spy2015, Jul 7, 2015.

  1. I just wanted information as to how the workload is and what are the pros and cons.

    What advice would you give to someone who is applying for their PGCE? Books to read etc.
  2. defenceagainstthedarkarts

    defenceagainstthedarkarts Occasional commenter

    It's brilliant! You'll love it!

    Slightly more detailed response: the curriculum is currently changing. I would start by reading the specifications of the main examination boards - go to www.aqa.org.uk/.../english-language-8700 for English Language and www.aqa.org.uk/.../english-literature-8702

    It is rather confusing, because the syllabus is changing. Next year's Year 11 will be doing something different to the links I've given you but I wouldn't imagine you will have a Year 11 class as a PGCE student.

    In terms of reading, there is a lot of emphasis on more "challenging" texts - 19th century novels and Shakespeare plays in particular. For AQA, the choices for Lit are Macbeth, R & J, The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Julius Caesar or Much Ado About Nothing. I think most of us have a "favourite" but it's wise to be familiar with them all; I'm not a huge fan of The Tempest myself but I think that's memories of my own A level English Lit coming back to haunt me!

    For the nineteenth century novel, there's a choice of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - GREAT text and there's a fabulous audiobook of it if you like listening to books in the car - it whiled away many a journey between Shropshire and Cheshire for me! - Pride & Prejudice (Mr Darcy!); Great Expectations, which is pretty meaty - I think that's a "top set" text, Frankenstein (love it!) A Christmas Carol, which just seems WRONG to me in July, and The Sign of Four (Doyle - haven't read that yet.)

    English Language is a bit more complex but also involves some responses to studied texts.

    I will write more later but welcome to the mad and wonderful world of English teaching!
  3. CarolineEm

    CarolineEm New commenter

    Totally agree with everything Defence has said.

    Would add that the very best thing you can do is go and observe as many different English teachers teaching as many different lessons as possible. When you are filling out your application form, and certainly when interviewed, you'll be asked questions about lessons you've observed that you thought were successful and why, etc. etc. But it will also give you a good idea of the pros and cons. Most of us are very happy to have prospective teachers in our classrooms, and you can then ask / observe what the workload is like etc.

    Re: workload - there are some serious 'pinch points' in the year. Obviously moving towards summer exams, when you'll probably be setting a timed-response/essay per week; mocks (some schools have them just before Christmas and you then reporting back on them in January; others even earlier and report back before Christmas, others in Jan - March.) Whenever they are, they take over your life for a little while - a full GCSE English paper takes time to mark; a Literature paper can take even longer. And of course, you are still setting and marking work for all of your other classes.

    But it is an amazing job - you get to introduce fabulous literature to the children, the challenge being getting them to see how fabulous it is, and how relevant it still is to their own lives. (Macbeth has a choice; he makes the wrong one, having listened to the persuasive arguments of someone else, and ignored his own conscience. Then, having done the morally wrong deed, he has to keep on lying and doing unspeakable actions to avoid being found out - teens can absolutely relate to that one - etc. etc.)

    Do post any other questions, and if you are in the Buckinghamshire area, happy to have you observe (and talk to our PGCE English students!)

    I hope this helps.

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