This article reports on an exciting project between English teachers and curriculum development officers working at the South West CLC in Sheffield on a 'South Yorkshire E-Learning Project'. Information about how to find out more about the project's progress is appended at the end of this article.
Basically, we set out to answer three key questions:
1. How do you teach 'mood' as a literary term at Key Stage 3 in an engaging way which is respectful of a poem's integrity?
2. How do you enable children to articulate their responses to a text so that they move beyond the 'It were crap' stage?
3. How do you embed the use of ICT and multimedia applications in English so that pupils move beyond using it to write up assignments, google or watch DVDs?
Our approach is to teach children some of the vocabulary of 'mood' through explorations of easily-found sounds and images and then to apply this learning to poems through text-marking. The next stage is to train readers in image and sound editing applications so that they can make Quicktime films of poems which communicate their moods.
Mood and image
We defined 'mood' as being the feelings which an artefact (music, visual image, text) communicated to a reader. It is a kind of naive application of T. S. Eliot's term: 'objective correlative'. This describes a poet's attempt to find a concrete or specific situation/location/ thing which evokes a particular emotion in the reader (as opposed to attempting to describe the emotion itself.) In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot writes:
'Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells ...'
This could be taken as an objective correlative signifying the loneliness and desolation of modern urban life. We decided that mood and image are closely linked and that their study opened a poem to a constructive close reading. Pupils need to annotate poems in order to be able to identify images which communicate essential moods.
We begin by providing pupils with a Mood Sheet (Figure 2) which lists useful words to describe different moods and allows them space to write down the meanings of any unfamiliar vocabulary. Pupils 'traffic light' the words in terms of negative or positive connotations and they can also rank them in terms of power. They can also add words of their own.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Making judgements about 'mood'
Readers begin this stage by viewing images and being asked to ascribe mood words to what they see. Such images can be quickly downloaded from 'Google'. Just be careful of copyright. I don't think you will have any problems about displaying pictures you have found on the web--but you should be cautious about reproducing them in worksheets and so on. I suggest you seek guidance from your head teacher. A great picture to start with is Augustus Egg's triptych of paintings portraying the fall of a married woman. Go to: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/ tateresearch/tatepapers/07spring/images/rutherford_fig1large.jpg. Anthony Browne de-constructs the first painting of the series in his brilliant picture book, The Shape Game (Corgi, 2004).
We encourage viewers to orientate their judgements about a picture by giving them a simple viewing frame (Figure 3). This simple device helps pupils read a picture and select evidence; it also prepares them for thinking about how they will guide the viewer's eye when they make films of their poems. A simple recording/analysis grid enables responses and judgements to be captured for discussion later (Figure 4).
The same process is repeated with musical clips of different pieces of music (each lasting about 20 seconds). iTunes is available free to download and you can then upload music tracks from CDs to it very easily. …