The 7a to Hillsborough
The first lesson of a new scheme of work. A shiny new Year 7 Scheme of Work and new topic, Narrative Poetry. We had organised a few students transfers and it was on with the work. Incidentally, as a result of the transfers, (2 girls moving up to 7a2, with 1 girl moving down to 7a4 and 2 boys coming down from 7a2) the groups was now gender balanced 12M /13F but with the brightest girls moving up, and boys joining us, the dynamic change was already noticeable.
It was very clear from the introduction that the class were not
keen excited by the thought of poetry. The banausic groan gave it away when I introduced the topic. How could I take these students on a learning journey when they didnt even want to leave the comfort of their own know-how?
Not to digress, before moving on, I asked the students why they didn’t like poetry, getting the students to physically write their complaints on the board; to give my attention more sincerity and their views greater importance. The finished mural was saddening. Their experiences of reading, writing and having to sing ‘nerdy, geeky, rubbish, boring and complicated,’ poetry left me with a wall to scale. I needed
a spark to ignite their interest.
Luckily, having presented the tragic events of Hillsborough ’89 as a seminar task at University (PE and Sports Science Degree) and as a Health and Safety case study at Key Stage 5 (BTEC National in Sport) I had selected the powerful ‘The Ballad of Hillsborough’ as my first narrative poem. However, was it ever going to be enough to merely share and enjoy this poem with an uninspired class.
Introduction Task: Explain what happened at the Hillsborough Disaster using the Powerpoint provided?
Where is the discovery? The arrrha moment?
I looked at their disappointed faces and at that moment I abandoned the traditional / obvious ‘What happened at Hillsborough Stadium….., how does this poem share the feelings….., ‘what is narrative poetry,’ lesson plan and went with emotion, mine and theirs.
"Who, what, where or why – Hillsborough? Anyone?"
I had expected at least one student in the group may have heard about it, or know where it is, possibly one of the football fans, I don’t know why I did, they weren’t even born, their parents may have not even met, but I did. Spurious answers showed willing, but nothing concrete. Abandon the abandonment. Where now?
"What clues can you unravel from the poem?"I asked trying to be mysterious.
With as much sincerity as I could muster, I read the poem and the questions flooded in. Again, the students showed willing but they needed some concrete to grasp and that’s when I noticed that the natural layout of the class created a penned –in area at the back of the class (picture a back row of chairs with minimal space between them and the back wall). With minimal manipulation, I created a funnel that lead towards this space with a few chairs acting as the turnstile. 25 students quickly became a crowd and I became Jack, Sheffield Wednesdays longest serving turnstile operator, albeit more amiable.
We quickly gave the students their own roles, fans, fathers and sons, whilst holding back 5
students enthusiastic but late die-hards. Jack proceeded to recreated and narrate the events leading up to kick off and at the same time operated the turnstile.
Excited, vocal, the
class crowd hustled and bustled towards the entrance. They walked down through the turnstiles, with one or two turned away for being too enthusiastic (merry). Those who got in were pretty tightly packed, watching the match, facing the pitch wall, cheering at the game.
As the final fans arrived, late, (including the enthusiastic die-hards who had managed to slip in), they were told,
"Remember, its a Cup Semi-Final, you wouldn’t want to miss anything."
As the late comers jostled forward it was getting uncomfortable. Space was tight, and I admit the ‘die-hards’ were perhaps a touch enthusiastic, when one of the girls squealed / screamed.
"STOP!….. STAND STILL!" I affirmatively commanded. Thinking, got it about right….. "Listen."
I n a soft voice I requested "Slowly move back, back towards the front of the class. Take your time."
Whispering in the ear of two of students "Hold on. Wait here."
When back at the front I asked the group if we had everyone. Of course we didn’t. The students pointed the students at the back of the class.
"I am sorry. They didn’t make it."
"What do ya mean they didn’t………. oh."
We put the classroom back together and took the opportunity to re-read the poem. Students applied what they had just experienced to the narrative of the ballad and then the questions reined in. Which lead to more questions, which showed me just how keen these students were to learn about what they no longer saw as poetry. (Chocolate covered broccoli? I hope not).
With time running out fast, I told them that ‘we’ still had a lot to uncover and that we would be collaboratively building a wiki resource on the Hillsborough Disaster on the VLE next week. That is all set up and we are ready for round 2.
One reason to abandon a lesson plan is when the preface on which it is written, is inaccurate. These students did not come to class wanting to learn about narrative poetry, any poetry for that matter, but they were open to being inspired. Once inspired they challenged me! 20 questions in 4 minutes, that was tough going and I didnt know all the answers.
When you next plan a SoW or lesson, rather than focusing on what has to be learnt, think how can students experience ‘what is to be taught’ and inspire them.
The Hillsborough Ballad
The Liverpool supporters
Were given the smaller end;
Crammed behind the goal mouth,
The fans were tightly penned.
Penned, penned in their thousands,
Penned in under the sky
No one there had reckoned,
That ninety-six would die.
The barriers all buckled,
They couldn’t take the strain.
The cheers of jubilation,
Turned into cries of pain.
And when at last they noticed,
The police unlocked a gate,
But the exit was too narrow,
And they’d opened it too late.
The nation watched in horror,
Stunned with disbelief
As the shadows from the goal mouth
Stained a football pitch with grief.
An inquiry has been opened
To find out who’s to blame.
But for those who lost their dear ones,
Nothing will be the same.
For nothing brings the dead back,
Post mortems, flowers or prayers,
It’s like reaching the top of the stairwell
And finding there’s no stairs
That drop down into darkness,
Goes down and down and down
And grief’s black water well there,
Inviting you to drown.
Never to see your loved ones,
Or hear them on the phone,
It’s hard to believe when it happened,
That you’ll never walk alone.
But down at the Kop at Anfield,
The goalmouth shows it’s true,
The scarves around the crossbar,
Are knotted red and blue.
Despite divided loyalties,
Liverpool loves it’s own,
And every tribute there proclaims,
You’ll never walk alone.
Not by the banks of the Mersey
Nor down the terraced streets,
Beneath the great cathedrals,
A city’s warm heart beats.
And now in the cold spring sunset,
The liver birds aflame,
The phoenix rose from the ashes,
A city can do the same.