Saturday, July 25, 2020

Ottobah Cugoano extracts now on our VLE

One of the great things about running your own VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) is that you are not stuck with a set list of authors on a curriculum.  Although we do restrict our authors to those who are out of copyright it also means that we can stretch these boundaries a little, too.  So the GCSE syllabus dictates that texts are taken from 1800 to the present day.  Well, so be it.  However, for us is something amazing from 1787 comes up, 23 years is not going to make a difference to us.

Perhaps overshadowed by his more famour peer, Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cugoano is somewhat neglected.  However, having read his autobiography recently (yes, the "something amazing" from 1787) I felt that his experiences had to be shared with students subscribed to the Pass GCSE English VLE.  As such he will feature as one of our "Paper 2" authors.

If you have not heard of him, Ottobah Cugoano was born in what is present-day Ghana around 1757.  As a youth he was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and taken to Grenada.  Here he was worked on a plantation but was bought by an English merchant a year later and taken to the UK.  He was taught to read and write and given his freedom at the age of fifteen. He worked for the artists Richard and Maria Cosway who introduced him to British cultural and political figures.  He joined “The Sons of Africa” – a group of London-based African abolitionists (those committed to ending slavery). Cugoano published his autobiography – “Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species” in 1787.  In this extract he and some friends are kidnapped by traffickers.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

How Playing Games Can Help You Pass GCSE English

“You’ll never pass GCSE English if you keep playing games,” is something that many a student has heard. It’s spoken by parents, teachers, and a variety of adults with varying levels of responsibility for the well-being of young people.

So, we’re happy to announce today that, yes, playing games can help you pass GCSE English. Why would we say something that… moronic? It’s because we have just introduced the first game on to our VLE. It’s based on the old favourite space invaders arcade game and it is, we hope, the first of many to make an appearance on Pass GCSE English.

The first game is about language features. As the spaceships descend, they are labelled with them – simile, metaphor, rule of three – you get the idea.

A sentence at the top contains the language feature and you have to shoot down the spaceship that matches it before they get you. The game gets faster as it goes along. It’s fun. It’s also quite addictive.

Will it help you get that grade 9? We’re not going to pretend that it will, but it will certainly sharpen up your ability to quickly recognize one language feature from another.

Plus, if you do well on the game you will earn yourself the Indifferent Lemon badge (left, among some of the other badges learners can gain on the course for finishing various activities). Indifferent Lemon may be unimpressed with your achievement but gives you an adjective you don’t use that often to chew over.

In case you are a responsible adult reading this, the games are being incorporated in to the VLE to – firstly – add an element of fun to the subject. However, there is a Wikipedia entry you may like to look at about gamification - Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts – in this case education.

So, there is a serious side to it, too..!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

O Douglas extracts now on our VLE

We’ve recently developed a number of materials using extracts from the works of O. Douglas. “Who he?” you might ask. Well, to begin with this author, very popular in the 1920s and 30s is a she… You can see above her entry in the “Authors” section of the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment).

O. Douglas (aka Anna Buchan) was very popular during her lifetime but is now a very underrated author; writing predominantly between the wars, during a time of great political and social upheaval, Douglas determinedly kept what we would call “issues” out of her novels, instead focusing on the domestic mores of the white middle classes. I have heard her described as Enid Blyton for grownups which is grossly unfair. Her imagined world may be cosy but it’s never cruel, as Blyton’s often was. However, I think it is probably the lack of issues in her stories that have contributed to her disappearance from our bookshelves – and any curriculum too!

That’s a great shame. Dialogue is something that many writers will tell you is difficult to pull off successfully – sometimes it can be a writer’s greatest challenge. Douglas is wonderful with her dialogue – using it to both further the action and enable us to learn more about her characters – and with some lovely humour in there too. I think in life she must have been as much of a people-listener as a watcher.

Here’s a line from her obituary in The Scotsman newspaper: “It has been objected that the people of her books are too "pleasant," but, at a time when fiction was passing through an ultra-realistic phase, this pleasantness was a relief to many readers.”