Act One Review
Lesson

Act One Review

Students consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of characters in both drama tasks and written tasks.

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This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — UK

Grade

6–12

Duration

Two 50-min class periods
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

Overview

About this Lesson

In previous lessons, students explored the characters of Mr Birling and Sheila, considering the impact that their identities had on their choices and actions, and the role that power played in their interactions with others. This exploration built the foundation for students to examine the complex interplay between individuals, society and power – the ways in which who we are is both influenced by and influences our choices, whilst the impact that our choices have is linked to the amount of power we possess. Students also finished reading the first Act of the play, analysing the role Sheila and Mr Birling played in Eva Smith’s death, and began to develop the necessary analytical writing skills to craft clear, well-developed essays.  

In this lesson, students will consider the lessons that we can learn from the first Act of the play, selecting evidence from the play to support their claims and discussing their ideas with their classmates. Such consideration will not only enable students to explore the play’s content in further depth and to examine the author’s craft, it will also encourage them to reflect on the play’s relevance to their own lives and to think about what lessons they can learn from the characters. 

Students will then have the opportunity to adopt the perspectives of different characters in both drama tasks and written tasks. Such perspective-adopting exercises not only help students to familiarise themselves with the content of the play, but also help to boost student empathy as they put themselves in another’s shoes, as it were. This process can also assist students in making reflections on their own lives and their own behaviour, and in building links between the learning in the classroom and the world beyond school.

The activities in this lesson refer to pages 1–26 of the Heinemann edition of An Inspector Calls.

  • Creative Writing (Lang-AO5, Lang-AO6)
  • Critical Reading (Lit-AO1/AO3, Lang-AO1/AO4)
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Knowledge of Content (Lit-AO1/AO3)
  • Spoken Language Skills (Lang-AO8, Lang-AO9)
  • Writing for Impact (form, audience, purpose) (Lang-AO5)

Students discuss the content of the first Act of the play, considering what lessons can be learnt and using evidence-based reasoning to justify their claims. This boosts their knowledge of the content of the play and their ability to interpret and evaluate the text critically. Students then develop their spoken language skills through the fishbowl and hot-seating activities. The hot-seating exercise, the rapid-fire writing task, and the creative writing task, require students to adopt the perspective of a character and then write for impact, selecting a form, audience and purpose. This helps students personally engage with the text and supports the development of their creative writing skills. Additionally, the use of discussion and writing throughout gives students the opportunity to verbalise their thoughts and practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs.

What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

  • What lessons can we learn from Act One of An Inspector Calls that we can take into our own lives?
  • How can adopting a character’s perspective help us better understand and empathise with the characters and others in our community?
  • Students will review the first Act of the play, identifying lessons that we can learn from Act One and sharing their ideas in a fishbowl discussion. 
  • Students will adopt the perspective of a character and complete a creative piece of writing.

This lesson is designed to fit into two 50-min class periods and includes:

  • 8 activities
  • 4 teaching strategies
  • 1 PowerPoint
  • 1 handout
  • 1 extension activity
  • 1 homework suggestion

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

In a Fishbowl discussion, students seated inside the ‘fishbowl’ actively participate in a discussion by asking questions and sharing their opinions, while students standing outside listen carefully to the ideas presented. Students take turns in these roles, so that they practise being both contributors and listeners in a group discussion. This strategy is especially useful when you want to make sure all students participate in a discussion, when you want to help students reflect on what a good discussion looks like, and when you need a structure for discussing controversial or difficult topics. If your students are not used to participating in larger discussions, it can be useful to have an object that the speaker holds and to pass this around to avoid students interrupting each other.

  • A great way to encourage students to better understand a character is to give them the opportunity to act as if they are that character, responding to questions and imagining what they might say or feel about certain ideas and situations. It is a great way to boost empathy in the classroom as students practise adopting viewpoints different from their own. 
  • To hot seat in the classroom, invite one student up to the front of the class and begin to ask them a series of questions to which they must respond in character. These questions can be connected to the plot of the play, to the character’s interests, and to anything that is of value in understanding the character better. Allow students to be creative in their questioning and in their responses, as this can help them to develop both their creativity and their evidence-based reasoning. For example, asking a character what their favourite meal is, though not relevant to the plot, allows students to find clues from what they know about the character, to be imaginative and to consider something symbolic.
  • When you hot seat in the classroom, we recommend that you start by reminding students of the classroom contract and that the expectations regarding respectful interaction still apply. It is also important to stress to students that it is okay to imagine and invent information, as long as it fits with the personality of the character and the context in which they exist.

Act One Review

Use these slides to help students  consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of a character for a piece of writing.

Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson.

The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

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Lesson Plans

Activities

Part I

  • Explain to students that today they will be reflecting on Act One of the play, focusing their reflections on the lessons that we can learn from the characters – their interactions, choices, and decisions. 
  • Ask students to choose one of the following five options to explore in their journals:  
    • What does Act One of An Inspector Calls teach us about:
      • Identity?
      • Choices?
      • Power?
      • Relationships?
      • Social Responsibility?
  • Have students share their ideas with a partner, in small groups, or you can ask for students to volunteer to share with the class.
  • Explain to the students that for this next activity they will be collecting evidence that they can use to support a claim about the lessons that we can learn from Act One of the play. They will be using this evidence to support their claims in a structured discussion activity, known as Fishbowl, later in the lesson. 
  • Divide students into small groups of three or four and ask them to complete the sentence starter: Act One of An Inspector Calls teaches us. . . on the top of a piece of A3 paper. Let them know that their ideas can be based on what they wrote down in the journal activity or it can contain something completely new. 
  • Then, give the groups 10–15 minutes to find at least three pieces of evidence to support their claim from Act One. They will need to skim-read the play by dividing it up between them (there are twenty-six pages, so groups of three could review nine pages each and groups of four could review seven pages each).
  • Once groups have selected their three pieces of evidence, they must briefly sketch out how and why their selected evidence supports their claim on their A3 paper.
  • Next, give students the opportunity to share their ideas with the class using the Fishbowl teaching strategy. Let them know that they will be discussing the question: What lessons can we learn from Act One of An Inspector Calls
  • Ensure that one student from each group is represented in the fishbowl circle, and that the remaining students are sitting around them, listening to the discussion. Explain that those students who are listening will be joining the discussion, so it is important that they listen carefully so they don’t repeat what has already been said. You can have them change over after a set amount of time, or students can ‘tap out’ someone in the circle to take their place.
  • If your students in the ‘fishbowl’ need structured guidance to help them get started, you might invite the students to first take it in turns to share their group’s claim and research.
  • Then, after all the students have shared their claims, invite students to ask each other questions. 
  • To debrief the activity, as a class, brainstorm all of the different claims made about the lessons that can be learnt from Act One of An Inspector Calls on the board.
  • Finally, ask students to respond to the following prompt in their journals, reflecting on what they covered in the class, what they learnt from their peers and their own ideas: The most valuable lesson in Act One of An Inspector Calls is ________ because. . . 
  • Invite the class to share their ideas in a wraparound.

Activities

Part II

  • Explain to students that they will be exploring a character’s perspective, thinking about a character’s identity, position of power in society, and decision-making process before writing from the point of view of a character.
  • Project the following prompts and ask students to explore them in a journal reflection:
    • Which of the following factors influence the characters’ actions, choices, and behaviour in the play? Explain your view. 
      • Conformity 
      • Obedience
      • Societal expectations
  • Lead a class discussion to allow students to share their ideas with each other.
  • Explain to students that they will now adopt the perspective of different characters in preparation for a creative writing task. 
  • First, ask the students to write at least one question that they would like to ask each character they have met thus far: Mr Birling, Mrs Birling, Sheila, Eric, Edna, Gerald, and the Inspector. These questions could connect to their actions in the first Act, their interests, their values, their relationship to one another, or their identities.
  • Next, have students select one character from the list to adopt the perspective of and lead them through a Rapid-Fire Writing task in which they imagine they are the character and are writing about their thoughts and feelings. For the students who need more support, give them the choice of writing a text or letter to a friend, or a diary entry, outlining what has happened in Act One and how they are feeling. They should write from the first-person perspective, using ‘I’.
  • Invite one student up to the front of the class to pretend to be their character (you may wish to give them their prop for this) to model hot seating to the class.
  • The rest of the class can ask questions to which the student must respond in character.
  • Divide students into pairs, and give each student five minutes to hot seat their character and then switch.

Ask students to choose three of the following questions for a journal reflection:

  • How did you find adopting a character’s perspective? What makes you say that?
  • Has your perspective on the character which you were writing about changed? If so, how?
  • What are the benefits of writing from another’s perspective?
  • Is there someone in your life who you would like to understand your perspective better? Explain your answer.
  • Is there someone in your life who you think it would be useful to adopt the perspective of? Explain your answer.
  • Give students the Character Perspective Task Sheet handout and inform them that they can choose which task most appeals to them and which character perspective they would like to adopt. Give them a set amount of time to work independently in silence and circulate to see what they produce. As it will be difficult for them to finish the task in the time available, inform them that it can be finished for homework. 
  • If there is time, you could invite students to share their favourite lines to the class once the time is up.

Extension Activities

Give students the opportunity to consider the following questions regarding whether or not any of the characters should have their props changed after the first Act:

  • Should any of the characters have their prop changed? If so, who and why?
  • What would you change their prop to? Why?

Invite students to share their ideas in pairs or with the rest of the class.

Homework Suggestion

Have students complete or revise the Character Perspective Task Sheet activity for homework. If they didn’t have a chance to share their favourite lines during the class period, you might have them do so at the beginning of the next lesson. 

Once students hand back their work, it is important to review it and give them feedback if necessary to ensure that they do not develop inaccurate writing habits. You could consider using the Marking Criteria Codes teaching strategy to give in-depth feedback and to encourage student engagement with marking.

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Materials and Downloads

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These are the handouts that students use throughout the Act One Review lesson plan.

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