Opening Doors to Famous Poetry and Prose – Ideas and resources for accessing literary heritage works.

Bob Cox

Crown House Publishing Limited, 2014, £19.99

open Doors

Review by Martin Galway, English  Teaching and Learning Adviser for HfL

Opening Doors …Accessing literary heritage. It shouldn’t prove too difficult to ascertain the intention of this highly practical, richly-resourced book: how to enable our pupils to explore and learn from classic texts that provide a high level of challenge.  In simpler terms, how we might design literature-based lessons with high challenge/low threat and a great deal of interest and intrigue.  Featured poets  include Charlotte Mew, Edward Thomas, and Emily Dickinson.  Authors include Dickens, H.G.Wells, Bram Stoker and Charlotte Bronte.

Bob Cox acknowledges in his introduction that primary schools “have never lacked enthusiasm for projects featuring Shakespeare or whole days with a Dicken’s focus”[pg.1] but also takes on board that it can be challenging to move beyond the well-established favourites (I’m thinking here of Dickens, Shakespeare and The Highwayman in particular) in order to extend the range of prose and poetry that our pupils are exposed to and how to deepen their knowledge in the process. It is these challenges that inform the 20 units of learning contained within. Twenty carefully selected poems and prose extracts drive the units.  Each unit follows the same essential structure that serves to engage and excite, provide opportunities for a deep exploration of the text that then lead into a range of writing opportunities.  Extensions (genuine extensions) are also offered together with further suggested reading.  This further reading in turn seeks to help pupils make links with other titles/writers, so that their knowledge base deepens, and their frames of reference widens. Only connect – to borrow from another figure of our literary heritage.

What I really hope to get across more than anything else is just how safe a set of hands you are in when reading this book. From the book’s dedication onwards, it is clear that Cox is a teacher’s teacher. His guidance is clear, practical and, free from jargon. No use of “robust” and “rigorous” here – yet the book speaks more clearly of those over-used terms than any of the other resources I have seen prepared for this area of the new curriculum.  Aiming high but with a flight path for all, his opening quote from Dickens’ Hunted Down gets right to the heart of the approaches of this invaluable text:

                      “A very little key will open a very heavy door.”

Note: all texts and resources shared in the book are supplied on an accompanying CDRom.

Coming very soon – Opening Doors for 6-9 and 10 – 13 year olds.