How can teachers ensure that there is appropriate challenge for G&T pupils in every lesson? In the first of a series of lessons plans, Caroline Coxon provides some ideas

The most difficult aspect of making good provision for gifted and talented pupils can be planning appropriate learning opportunities within a whole-class context. It is one thing to plan a ‘one off’ event for a group of able pupils, but quite another to ensure that there is appropriate challenge built into each and every lesson, every day, every week of every term. Some teachers are experts at this of course, knowing instinctively how to pose a probing question, encourage pupils to see things from a different angle, or tailor a task in a way that makes it more exacting.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: For more exciting gifted and talented enrichment activities that will inspire your pupils to enjoy learning and raise their levels of achievement, see Primary Enrichment.

Making additional challenge explicit in lesson planning can be useful however, in helping teachers to personalise learning for their pupils – and allow colleagues to share their ideas and good practice. In this and subsequent articles, we offer examples of how planning can support good G&T provision. This first outline is designed for a KS2 class but many of the ideas are equally appropriate for KS3.

Pirates Ahoy!
Pirates Ahoy! is an example of a literacy lesson for Year 5 that could be used as a stand-alone, or incorporated into a series of lessons about creating and shaping text. It overcomes two common pitfalls in classroom practice:

  • Adding on extra activities for G&T pupils who finish tasks more quickly, so that they do twice as much work as the rest of the class. This simply isn’t fair. It doesn’t stretch pupils, it just keeps them occupied, and can result in them ‘slowing down’ in order to avoid additional work.
  • Spending time with children who struggle with the simplest tasks, and leaving the G&T group to its own devices, with work that seems to need no supervision at all. G&T pupils like (and benefit from) adult attention as much as any children.

Key to the lesson plan Opportunities for achieving ECM outcomes are marked within the text in brackets (S Safe; H Healthy; Ea Enjoying and Achieving; E Economic well-being; P Positive contribution). G&T extension activities are marked with the * icon.

The lesson

  • Starter: you’ll see I’ve posed a challenge to be carried out while watching the footage. It’s an exercise in concise thinking. Many pupils will be able to talk about pirates but find it a challenge to finish the sentence in only six words. This involves more advanced thinking, and is a device that can be used on other occasions; G&T pupils must refine their thoughts to meet set parameters.
  • Introduction: ask the class in general ‘What is a character?’ then extend the question to challenge the G&T group, eg ‘How might I change the word, so that it means “the way in which the writer describes a character?”’ These two questions together give pupils a chance to contribute at different levels.
  • Development:
    • The Name Game is a cutting and pasting activity that the class in general should be able to get on with independently: this will give you the opportunity to join with your G&T group for *Task 1.
    • While you’re reading the description of Captain Hook to the class, the G&T group could be provided with their own copies and set *Task 2.
    • Showing not telling – while you’d expect most pupils to say that the short description is ‘boring,’ for example, this is a perfect opportunity to encourage a G&T pupil to expand upon their answer.
    • The dialogue section offers the chance for role play, which allows imagination a free rein. It’s the sort of activity that is ‘self-differentiating’ by outcome, but where a child’s writing and/or spelling skills are less well developed than his imagination and vocabulary, consider how to avoid the necessity for writing.
    • All pupils may assemble a pirate profile. G&T pupils may work independently and need less coaching, and you will expect all the elements discussed to be incorporated. You could use *Task 3 and 4.

Plenary: while the class share their profiles, your G&T pupils could address the question ‘What makes a good characterisation?’ and be prepared to identify good examples from their peers’ work – with reasons, (P) as well as performing their own.

Lesson plan

Lesson: Pirates Ahoy! Length: 1 hour Subject: Literacy Key Stage 2, Year 5

Context and curriculum links:

Narrative – Creating and shaping text – an introduction to characterisation.

  • Reflect independently and critically on their own writing and edit and improve it.   

Teaching objectives: To investigate character development through describing how characters look, talk or behave.

Learning outcomes:

Pupils will be able to:

  • identify the features that make characters in stories come alive for the reader
  • go on to use these features imaginatively in their own writing.

Resources: IWB or projector – DVDs/soundtracks of pirate films – Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (12A) Peter Pan (PG) National Maritime Museum – pirate pictures/facts A4 sheets with character names; scissors (R and L-Handed); extra paper; glue; extract from Peter Pan

Extract from Peter Pan, for use within the development section of the lesson

Captain Hook

‘He had two most evil-looking black eyes, his face was seamed with lines which seemed to express his wicked thoughts, his hideous chin, all unshaven, was as black as ink and as prickly as a furze-bush, his hair was long and black and it hung round his face in greasy curls. He was singing a horrible song about himself, keeping time by swinging in the air the gruesome stump of his right arm, on which a double-pronged hook was fixed instead of a hand.’

From The Story of Peter Pan Retold from the fairy play by JM Barrie by Daniel O’Connor. Pub: G Bell and Sons Ltd, 1914.

Starter – whole class – five minutes

  • * Pose the question ‘What is a pirate?’ Sentence ‘A pirate is…’ to be completed in six words only by the end of the pictures/footage (eg ‘A pirate is a robber who travels by water’).
  • Project pictures/footage of pirates on to IWB/screen and/or listen to music.

Introduction – whole class – five minutes

  • Write the word ‘character’ on the board. Discuss. Add the suffix ‘-isation’.
  • Introduce characterisation by discussing the intended learning outcomes.

Development – small groups, or * to work independently – 35 minutes (P)

  • The name game – 10 names, some piratical, some not. Pupils to cut up and sort out by sticking onto paper divided into two columns. Remind children of rules when using scissors (S). Make up own names to add to columns. Each group to choose the most evil-sounding! Or *Task 1.
  • Read description of Captain Hook – Do we know he’s a baddie from this? Each group member to write down one descriptive feature to build up picture of their pirate. Or *Task 2.
  • Showing not telling! Discuss the differences between: ‘He was an evil pirate’ and ‘With one swing of his cutlass he sliced off the trembling sailor’s ear.’ Each group member to write one action.
  • Imagine a pirate wants to steal all your money. What would he say? How would he say it? Each group member to write a sentence of pirate-like dialogue.
  • Groups to assemble a pirate profile, using one contribution from each member. Or *Task 3 or 4.

Plenary – small groups/whole class – 15 minutes (Ea, P)

  • Groups to share pirate profiles with the whole class, as dramatically as possible.
  • Class to recall the four different features of characterisation – name, description, action, dialogue.

*Tasks for extension 1. Listen to ‘Jack Sparrow’ (the theme music to Pirates of the Caribbean 2). Consider its success in evoking character. 2. Analyse description of Captain Hook, picking out features, that evoke character including imagery. 3. Write a dull character profile using NONE of the features as discussed. Then write an exciting one!

4. Identify stereotypical characteristics of pirates. Add details to your characterisation that are NOT.

  • Research pirates on the National Maritime Museum website. Use details in creative writing.
  • Draw or paint a portrait of a pirate based on your description, or someone else’s.

Assessment Through an extended piece of writing. Help pupils to develop criteria that they can use to judge their own work (Ea, P), for example, noting the features of characterisation that are present. What’s missing? Produce a second draft noting additions and improvements. Peer reviews, if sensitively handled, can provide valuable feedback.

What next? You could:

  • concentrate in detail on one aspect of characterisation at a time
  • go through the same process with a ‘goodie’ instead of a ‘baddie’
  • work on an extended piece of writing that will allow pupils to put characterisation skills into practice.