Using Teachit’s Anagram and Word Whiz

Using Anagram and Word Whiz in her lessons has helped PGCE trainee Anna unlock Shakespeare’s language.

My very high ability year 10 class have been reading ‘Macbeth’. They are in a school where a love of fine literature is regarded as the most important aspect of their English lessons. The lessons are often spent reading and discussing the text with little variety. I decided that as they were coming to the end of the play, I would liven things up for them and finally use the (rarely used) interactive whiteboard.

I began the lesson straight away with Teachit’s anagram tool to get their brains working. Their engagement was palpable - all that could be heard was the frantic ticking of the timer as they battled to work out the words. Each time someone thought they knew the answer, they would come to the board and move the letters around which they obviously really enjoyed.

After this, we read through Act V where Macbeth shouts insults at the servant. As they read through it they began laughing and I knew they would enjoy the Insult Whiz. We read to the end of the scene and discussed what had happened. I then asked for a volunteer to come to the front and ‘insult’ us. Obviously hands flew into the air! I modelled what the Insult Whiz does before letting the volunteers find their favourite one and use it on the class.

The success of this activity was in getting the pupils to enjoy the language. Unusually perhaps, most of them understand it, which I know can be half of the battle in a mainstream school. I had the underlying feeling that they didn’t ‘enjoy’ reading it and saw Shakespeare as a different language and as something they had to ‘translate’. This activity showed them that although they may not understand or use all of the words, insults in Shakespearian English still retain a lot of similarities with modern English – and more importantly, they can be funny.

After the light heartedness of this activity, we moved on to look at one of Macbeth’s soliloquies. The Weird Whiz (a sentence builder tool) meant we could look in detail at his soliloquy and discuss the correct order of the lines and why they should be in particular places. Rather than asking them to re- read the text on their own, they were subconsciously reading it more times than they would have normally as they were discussing and playing around with the order of the lines. Pupils came to the front to move the lines around until we decided it made sense. We looked at it in so much detail; it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them could recite at least the first half of it now!

By the end of the lesson I was confident that they had looked in depth at the scene, and after a class discussion, understood its importance and relevance to the play (well more than they would have normally!). Using interactive tools in this way shows that in a tragic play, such as Macbeth, there can always be some way of lightening the mood. Now Year 10 don’t just understand it, they enjoy it and at least a few of them think they can ‘speak’ Shakespeare too!

© 2008