Sunday 3 May 2009

High hopes

This week I discovered how good my new Yr 10s can be. After my last fast pace group, my lovely yr 11s from last year, they have big shoes to fill. But over the last week or so, I have high hopes for them.

I've been trying to get them to improve their speaking and listening skills, in particular, their persuasive techniques. They're already pretty good, but they need to understand that an emotional argument needs power behind it. And this comes from knowing exactly what you're doing.

Of late I've been introduced to a totally addictive TV programme: Boston Legal. I initially watched it out of curiosity and after only one episode, I was totally hooked. Now the reason for this is not what you might imagine - that I wanted to know what had become of William Shatner so many years after abandoning the legendary James Tiberius Kirk...I'm actually hooked on the script. It's absolutely brilliant, - articulate and witty. And the courtroom speeches are spectacularly good, particularly those articulated by the wonderful Alan Shore (played by James Spader).

Anyway, the point of this bit of information is that I decided to use one of Alan Shore's speeches to show the class how persuasive language works. I showed them an extract from a particular episode in which Shore is at his articulate best, then gave them a transcript of the speech and asked them to highlight any techniques they could spot (pattern of three, rhetoric etc). I was really surprised how many they spotted. But this was only the beginning. This was a gentle way in to another speech I wanted them to analyse, - the closing speech of the Defence in the film "A Time to Kill". It's a truly wonderful example of persuasive language and a profoundly moving speech.

I observed their faces as they watched this part of the film and was pleased to see that not only were they engrossed in the speech, but they were clearly deeply moved. And when I gave them the transcript of the speech, they were only too keen to see how it worked, the language of the speech as well as the body language of the lawyer. The ideas they came out with were really good and again I was surprised how much they spotted. They clearly found the speech very powerful and their comments were surprisingly insightful and mature.

As I mentioned before, I now have high hopes for these kids - they're showing signs of originality and imagination. This can only be good.

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