I am going to put it out there: I was never a big fan of the old speaking and listening assessment. In fact, I hated it. I loathed it. I did it though, because the exam boards expected me to do it. I just detested it with my mind, body and soul. Why did I dislike it so much? Well, when you have seen twenty billion talks about football and forty billion presentations on horse-riding and/or fishing you question the point of life. I have hobbies, but I share them with likeminded people. And, that doesn’t mean my family or loved ones. I don’t thrust my hobbies on other people. I don’t react a scene from ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and pin people’s eyeballs open so they understand my joy of ‘Blake 7’ and various kitsch science-fiction from the 70s and 80s.
So, what have I done instead? I have suffered them. I have endured them, but I have smiled. I have listened to stamp collecting, ferret upkeep, trainspotting, flag signally, interpretative dance, tap dancing, knitting and many more. To keep me from nodding off, I have had to ask questions. So what are the dangers of knitting? Do you have to insure your feet for tap dancing? Can you get poisoned by licking too many stamps? The class always kindly attempt to join in and they ask harmless questions and often pointless questions. What made you start liking ferrets? Do your family dance? When did you start like dancing?
Now, don’t think me mean and cruel; I am just realistic. I have yet to have the ‘Kes’ moment of poignant and profound meaning as a child holds up a mealworm and explains how you put it on a hook. When I write things like this, you always get someone informing me of how one child made the whole school tear up with their solo rendition of Celine Dion’s ‘My heart will go on’ at the end of a fifteen minute talk on how their rabbit means everything to them. The relationships we build with students are built through our daily interactions with students and not built and created in one moment. I could give a talk of how the use of CSO (blue screen) developed over the 1970s in Doctor Who, but you’d not get one iota of my personality from that talk or build a relationship with me. You’d probably go: he knows quite a bit about special effects and Doctor Who.
This year, I am changing the speaking and listening talks and making it meaningful and relevant to the course. We are focusing on ideas and, in particular, idea related to the core texts studied. Take the following:
1: The duty a child has to live up to their parents’ expectations
2: The responsibility the rich have to support the poor
3: The role and responsibilities of parents in society
4: The gap between rich and poor in society
5: The changing role of women in society
6: How daughters are treated differently to sons
Each idea links to the set texts and that’s on purpose. We want to develop ideas and extend those ideas. We have forty different ideas and students are going to pick one and then prepare their talk around it. They will structure it around this format:
Engage with the audience – relate topic to them
A brief history of the idea
Explore key points
Relate to texts studied
Concluding point with further questions to consider
Questions from the audience and suggestions for connections to the text
Yes, we are removing the freedom to select ideas for themselves, but as my experience goes, that isn’t always a bad thing. We are instead getting them to focus on the ideas and developing their knowledge of an idea and extending and exploring it further. We might mirror Question 5 on Paper 2, but the key thing is picking the right points. English is about ideas. Reading other people’s ideas. Writing their own ideas down. A focus on ideas for Speaking and Listening assessments cannot be a bad thing.
This way the talks are meaningful for all involved. The student and audience develop a greater level of understanding of an idea. A student’s exploration of a how boys battle conflicting levels of responsibility to parents and friends will only help to develop an understanding of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
A talk on Judo will just be a talk on Judo. A talk on the benefits of recycling will just be a talk on recycling. A talk on the changing role of women in society is revision for ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’.
Now, time for my talk on the reason why ‘Sapphire and Steel’ is the best series ITV has ever produced…
A hobby is a personal thing and when it is shared with non-likeminded people it becomes a form torture.
Thanks for reading,