Introducing the Concepts: an activity
The concepts - an introductory activity
It is important to introduce students to the seven concepts early on in the course so that they become familiar with them and begin the process of exploring, discussing and connecting them in the context of specific texts. The activity below is designed to do just this and uses short poems as a relatively quick and accessible means of getting students to apply the concepts to literary works. Alongside the poems, students work with three questions for each concept, designed to provoke thought and discussion; these are available to download as a handout below.
This activity could work with many different texts and of course you can choose your own preferred poems, or any other literary extracts as it does not have to be an activity that focuses just on poetry. However, we have chosen short poems for the activity as there is a benefit to having the students work with complete texts rather than worrying about what they may be missing from extracts. The poems suggested below have been chosen because they are short enough for the activity to work within a lesson (or possibly two), while they all also clearly connect to one or more of the core concepts. We also think they are all great poems that should provoke plenty of thought and rich discussion!
There are different ways you could approach this activity, with variations in terms of how much variety, choice and independence you give to students. The central aims, however, will be the same: students will look at a range of literary texts through different conceptual lenses, asking, discussing and answering big literary questions in the context of these specific texts. In doing so, students will become familiar with the seven course concepts and start to see how they can apply to different texts, as well as how they overlap and connect with each other. While the activity starts with a clear connection between a concept and text, the aim is also to get students to see how all concepts can apply to all texts, even if such connections are not immediately obvious.
The handout is shown as a screenshot and available to download below. Depending on your preference, this could be projected, given to students as is, or cut into seven concept cards for use in the classroom.
Introducing the concepts: an activity
Create seven 'stations' around the room, with a different poem at each station. The poems should be big enough for a group to read and work on together. At each station there should also be a large piece of poster paper/whiteboard, pens and a concept card with 3 questions (see handout above). There are poem and concept combinations suggested below: the aim with these is to start the activity off with poems and concepts that clearly connect; as the activity develops, students will look for less obvious connections between concepts and poems.
Put students into seven groups (ideally with two or three students per group) and assign each group to one of the stations.
Give groups 3 - 5 minutes with each poem and concept, asking them to record their thinking in response to one or more of the questions on the paper/whiteboard.
In round one the aim is for each group to look at each poem and concept: you can decide how much time to give but given these are short poems, 5 minutes should be enough time, meaning that round one will last about 30 - 35 minutes.
When they rotate, they should begin to respond directly to other students’ thinking / answers, as well as the questions.
Each group should end up back at their original starting point. Ask them to look at all that has been written in response to that poem and concept.
In this round, groups stay where they are but ask them to rotate the concept cards so that they now look at their original poem through a different conceptual lens.
Depending on how much time you have, this can be repeated with variations (e.g. students rotate and rotate concept cards, students roam and are free to choose which concept to apply to which poem etc.). The aim in round 2 is to get students looking at different poems through different conceptual lenses, adding their thinking and making connections to the ideas already on the paper/whiteboard.
Make sure you leave time for follow up reflection and discussion, even if that is in the next lesson. The questions below could be used for reflection, exit cards, homework and/or discussion.
- What did you learn about literature from the activity?
- Which concepts do you think are most important or interesting in the context of studying literature?
- Which concepts and/or questions did you find most challenging? Why do you think this was?
- Were there any concepts and poems you struggled to connect? If so, why was this?
- Which concepts stand out for you in terms of how they connect or overlap with each other?
- How do you think these concepts will help your learning as we move forward on the IB Literature course?