- Last but not least is the feature of my work which the Chairman of my GCSE Star Chamber ‘couldn’t possibly allow’. This is the ‘Silly Facts’. Here is an example from the first of my IB dialogues:
- The most important of these ‘Marxists’ was George Plekhanov, the son of a noble
- The most important of these ‘Marxists’ was George Plekhanov, the son of a Smurf
You can be pretty sure that 17 year old pupils know what a Smurf is, and will instantly choose ‘noble’. Here’s another, from a dialogue for seven year olds on the Tower of Babel
- The people learned to build houses with bricks
- The people learned to build houses with Lego
Even Year 3 had no trouble in rejecting ‘Lego’.
The Chairman of the Star Chamber was under instructions to cull as many special schemes as possible, so I don’t know whether he was really a humourless and unimaginative person, but what are the actual merits of this ploy? First of all it makes the children laugh. (Endorphins are not mentioned anywhere in the literature). A ripple of laughter does wonders for a lesson. The first one is precious, because it tells the rest of the class that there’s something to look forward to. I am always careful to include the same number of howlers of this type in each Version. It proves beyond doubt that neither of the Versions is ‘Right’, a feature which featured in feedback from my sister’s class of mental nursing assistant trainees. They had lumped along the bottom streams of their schools and were used to being wrong. They were delighted to find their colleague’s Version no better than theirs! Thirdly it enables the post-mortem to get philosophical. How dare they presume to know which is right? Answer because we have moved on from the 18th Century: they are not tabula rasa when they get into your lesson, not even the littlies in Year 3. They don’t yet know the word ‘anachronism’ but they know what Lego is and is not. Suddenly, I point out, two sources have become three, with their combined life experience providing the third. They like it when I say ‘You were too smart for me to fool’.
So there it is: by writing my own stuff I can pack all the delights in the literature of ‘Interpretations’ into every lesson without taking my foot off the narrative pedal. At the end of each lesson I give them the original ‘answer’ from which I made the ‘Versions’, which is the ‘notes’ from which they will revise. I think I am paid to say what happened. Not even my brilliant Indians ever said to me ‘But that’s just another Version!’, and if I’d stayed another year I would have had to make them say it. By marinating them in Interpretations in every lesson I reach the Holy Grail of Metacognition. ‘Look! There’s a deliberate omission!’ ‘Well that’s obviously a modern picture, so how did the artist know?’ ‘He’s only using that emotive word because he doesn’t like him!’ ‘That’s a Level 4 question!’
A Level 4 question?
That’s for next time…
Concludes on next page…