A week in the life of Book Club School

I do a lot of reading to prepare for the lessons in Book Club School - it's a good thing that I like books and stories!  This week I have four classes to prepare for.

On Monday I have the third lesson in the Bronte Sisters course in which we are reading first Wuthering Heights and then Jane Eyre.  Some students are reading the Upper Intermediate graded reader, while others are reading the original text.  The students will summarise the last few chapters we have read, so I re-read both texts, looking at the interesting quotes and descriptions that I expect the students will have identified.  In the lesson the students re-tell the Wuthering Heights story and discuss aspects of the narrative, including the descriptions of the setting on the wild moors (see image above).  There's a lot to say about the main characters of Catherine and Heathcliff.  If you think it is just a romantic love story, think again!  It shocked the early reviewers who had never read a story with such violence and cruelty.  We discuss how Emily Bronte's story tells what feels like a story rooted in reality, and yet the supernatural is never far away.

Tuesday brings the finale of The Great Gatsby.  Over 6 weeks the students, Maria, Corinne and Martine have read several chapters each week and now it is time to discuss what happens at the end of the book.  This is a beautifully written novel, poetically crafted and imaginatively structured with a non-chronological timescale and a narrator that we do not entirely trust.  Information about the hero/villan title character is released, and not released, along with misinformation and rumours.  Previously I had created short articles on aspects of the writing - the tone, the style and the literary device of foreshadowing - and now the students have prepared mini-presentations using these.  This helps us to see the book as a whole and to analyse its constituent parts.  Next week we will contrast it with some American poetry from a similar period, which I have found and plan to give them for homework to discuss next time.  I find time to research short stories by Ernest Hemingway and Edith Wharton to see if this will be suitable to use in a few weeks' time.  

It's now Wednesday, and so it's Frankenstein and the Gothic Novel with an Advanced group.  We have already looked at the author Mary Shelley's famous parents and what inspired her to write such a creative new type of story - Frankenstein is said to be the first science fiction novel.  The students describe the struggle to create the monster and its coming into being, noting the classical and biblical references. Chapter 4 is particularly good!  Then we turn our attention to an extract of the very first Gothic novel - The Castle of Otranto - which the students have read for homework.  We look at the distinctive features of the Gothic novel, which we will use to compare and contrast with those found in Frankenstein.  We watch 90 seconds from a short video that describes how the castle is one of the characters of the novel.

On Thursday I have an individual lesson with a business person from the Ukraine.  In the lessons we focus on the language of meetings and specific vocabulary for her sector.  However, as she loves reading, we also use a Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  It's an Intermediate book and provides a great way to reinforce the rhythms and patterns of English grammar and syntax so that the student's spoken English becomes naturalistic. Later, she sends me an image of a beautiful painting showing the Hound of the Baskervilles in the wild countryside where the story is set (see image by Pavel Nazim).    

On Friday I have some Zoom calls with people who are interested in joining the next set of courses.  I find it helpful to say hello before the course starts and so I find out a little about what the students would like to get from the course.  They have often done my test and may be between two levels, so we discuss which might be most appropriate for them. Anna from Sardinia loves reading and wanted to see which course would be best for her.  I email her to follow up the call so that she can decide.  

My mind is full of characters and plots, different genres and narrative styles.  I feel lucky to be engaging with some of the great works of English literature.  Each week the plots move on and there is more to discuss and explore.  It is said that we should enjoy our work - and I am certainly enjoying mine.

Geoff Hardy-Gould