We looked at various elements of the novel: themes, characters, pivotal moments, motifs, social and historical context, settings/places. Students like to engage with the ideas of others and using poster paper enables large scale interaction. Each element was placed on a table around the room and pupils had to move around adding to the work as they went along. I’ve seen this done equally successfully as a ‘silent discussion’ with pupils adding pictograms and other drawings to reinforce their comments.
Also, the term pivotal moments I feel is more apt than key events. The students seem to ‘get’ this better.
Here are some examples of the finished product:
What helped me to make this even more effective was the plenary. Once we’d finished with the posters, I asked students to make connections between the elements. So, for example, could they connect social historical context with setting or characters? What links could they make between recurring motifs and themes? They were surprisingly good at this and suggested that the plight of the Cratchits echoed the social problems of the mid eighteenth century; or that the setting linked with the recurring motif of fog and misery.
After this, we worked on extracts and this work on elements has given the group more confidence to look beyond the words on the page.