Christmas at the Cratchits!

1. Who is Martha?

2. Which child is Bob Cratchit carrying?

3. What is wrong with this child?

4. What do three of the children do to help prepare the Christmas dinner?

5. What is the atmosphere like as the family anticipate and then eat Christmas dinner? Choose words and phrases to support your views.

6. What two similes does Dickens use to describe the pudding? Look at the paragraph beginning ‘Hallo! A great deal of steam!’ (p. 72 or 50.) Explain what Dickens meant by using these similes. (Remember: a simile is when you compare two things, using the words ‘like’ or ‘as…. as…’

7. What was put on the fire?

8. Where did the family sit after dinner?

9. What does the ghost see will happen to Tiny Tim in the future?

10. How does Scrooge feel about this? How do you know?

Extension Activity

Imagine you are one of the children. It is bedtime – write your thoughts on the day. Remember to say who you are!


Much Ado About Nothing: And They All Lived Happily Ever After

In many ways, the ending of Much Ado may well feel rather rushed, and hence unsatisfactory. There are a number of reasons for the this:

* the conflict between Claudio and Benedick comes to an abrupt end when Benedick claims that he was going to punch Claudio’s lights out, but thought better of it when he realised that they were going to be relatives. Claudio’s response to this is hardly contrite. He replies that Beatrice will have to watch Benedick like a hawk if she wants him to remain faithful. This is his response to Benedick’s command: ‘Love my cousin.’

* the resolution of the relationship between Claudio and Hero may feel equally unsatisfactory: the verse that describes her as ‘dying defiled’ does very little (i.e. nothing) to vindicate her as blameless from the start, and even less to bring justice to Claudio, who ‘loved’, and whose ‘slander’ of her is detached from its origin: him. (You would do well to compare the reunion of Claudio and Hero with that of Leones and Hermione in The Winter’s Tale; he is made to do penance for a whole 16 years, which makes Claudio’s 16 hours seem pretty pathetic.)

* the audience are denied a denouement when Friar Francis postpones ‘testify[ing] to the ‘amazement’ until after the wedding. In the mentime, he claims, ‘Let wonder seem familiar’. He seems to suggest that they hould suspend their disbelief until the ‘holy rites are ended’. Thus the wedding itself seems part if the play’s illusion, not its reality.

* we may well look to Beatrice and Benedick for a dose of reality (and the return to their plain-spoken banter is indeed welcome) but even Benedick concludes that ‘man is a giddy thing’, and not to be ‘beaten with brains’. Intellect is disregarded in favour of ‘humour’.

* the business of bringing Don John to justice is postponed in favour of dancing; Benedick (in outright disregard of Claudio’s wishes) declares that they will ‘think not on him till tomorrow’, and his answer to Don Pedro’s ‘sad’ state is equally trite: ‘Get thee a wife’.

BUT… of course this is exactly what the end of a Shakespearean comedy tends to be. Contrived, magical, and rather … unsatisfctory. Read this article to find out more.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Re-read the summary you wrote for your homework. Then answer the questions below. Use full sentences and include short quotations from the book.

1. Write down three things that happen in this part of the story.
2. How would you describe Scrooge in this part? Write down three adjectives to describe him, giving an explanation for each one.
3. Why do you think the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge this particular moment from his past?
4. Describe Scrooge’s reaction as he watches the events unfold. What effect do they have on him?
5. The Ghost of Christmas Past has a bright light shining from its head. Why do you think this is?
6. Write down three other things about the Ghost of Christmas Past. Add your thoughts on what they might mean.

How to Write a Brilliant Paragraph

Judge Taylor considered his double chin one of his greatest assests.

Here is the Brilliant Paragraph that we wrote this morning:

On the outside, Judge Taylor seems rather informal in Court. He has certain habits that suggest this, such as ‘[propping] his feet up’, ‘[cleaning] his fingernails’ and chewing cigars. From such actions we can infer that Judge Taylor is very relaxed in the Courthouse – treating it almost like a second home. In particular, cleaning his fingernails may be regarded as something very private. It might also suggest that he is distracted, or not listening. Furthermore, he gives the ‘impression of dozing’, which leads us to question if he is even awake! Finally, Harper Lee uses an interesting simile to describe him: ‘looking like a sleepy old shark’. The adjectives ‘sleepy’ and ‘old’ make him appear almost senile, hardly the kind of person who should be in charge of a court of law.

Why it is Brilliant:

1. The opening sentence makes a clear, concise point. Judge Taylor appears to be pretty informal.
2. It uses evidence from the text to back up this point.
3. Some of this evidence is grouped – such as the actions of Judge Taylor. This shows that the writer has thought about how to structure not just the paragraph, but the textual evidence within the paragraph. This is Brilliant.
4. There is some exploration of the evidence – specific words are repeated – ‘old’ and ‘sleepy’ – and commented upon.
5. Connectives are used within the paragraph to develop the point that is being made – ‘furthermore’ and ‘finally’.
6. Where necessary, the writer has changed the tense or the wording of the quotations, so that they can be embedded into the writing. Punctuation is used to clarify this – square brackets and quotation marks, for example.
7. Everything in the paragraph is directly related to the opening point. The writer could easily have been distracted by other ideas, such as the ‘shark’ image, that suggests that Judge Taylor is anything but senile. A sharp focus is maintained.

Write the next Brilliant Paragraph of this assignment on Judge Taylor. Focus on the other side of his personality. You could begin: ‘However…’  Use the paragraph above as a model.

Add your thoughts here… (optional)

English and Things

Dear Upper Sixth,

I was thinking that if you wanted to make your life a little easier, it would be a sensible and brilliant idea to write about a poem for your Further and Independent Reading coursework, as opposed to Dombey and Son.



Lord Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib

Robert Burns, To a Mouse

Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market

Philip Larkin, Toads


William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience

War Poetry – Anything, really, but I was thinking in particular of WW1 poets and the use of natural metaphors, particularly, in poems such as The Falling Leaves (Margaret Postgate-Cole); Spring Offensive (Wilfred Owen); In Flanders Fields (John McCrae) and Spring in War-Time (Edith Nesbitt).

W. S. Merwin, The Last One

Ted Hughes, The Thought Fox

John Donne, To his Coy Mistress

Feminism/Gender Studies

John Keats – any of the narrative poems: Isabella and the Pot…

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Add your thoughts here… (optional)

English and Things

Keep checking this post, as I’ll update it (or not) according to inspiration.

Also, feel free to post your own ideas in a comment below.

Here’s the first one:

This week, Julian Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for the first time with his 11th novel, The Sense of an Ending.

Explore this text with close reference to the material in Section C of the Critical Anthology.

Or, explore one if the ones he wrote that didn’t win, but was nominated, such as Arthur and George.

Or, explore one of the novels that was nominated for this year’s prize, but didn’t win.

Nb. If you choose this, don’t be tempted to write an essay on why it should / shouldn’t have won. That is beside the point. The idea is simply to explore the text, using the ideas in Section C.

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