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Lesson

Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Students begin Act Two of the play, reflecting on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and considering how conflict can arise from such differences.

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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

One 50-min class period
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

Overview

About this Lesson

In the previous lesson, students discussed what lessons can be learnt from the first Act of An Inspector Calls, selecting evidence from the text to justify their claims. This activity not only boosted their knowledge of the opening Act, it also began the process of addressing the essential question of the unit: What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others? Students then engaged in empathy-building exercises in which they adopted a character’s perspective in order to better understand their motivations and points of view. Both activities gave students the opportunity to engage with the content on a personal level, and build links between the play and their own identities and experiences.

In this lesson, students will begin reading the second Act of the play and will be encouraged to consider how conflict can emerge from differing perspectives. In the second Act, there is a clear difference between how the characters relate to each other when compared with the start of the play. These differences manifest themselves as conflict: the characters are increasingly revealed to have differing views of the world and a different understanding of one’s personal responsibility to others, be they family members, employees, or strangers. Students will reflect on these differences in perception, and will have the opportunity to make links with the world beyond school, thinking about how such differences can have both negative and positive consequences. They will also consider how we can overcome conflict born of such differences.

The activities in this lesson refer to pages 27–33 of the Heinemann edition of An Inspector Calls.

  • Critical Reading (Lit-AO1/AO3, Lang-AO1/AO4)
  • Critical Thinking (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Reading Comprehension (Lit-AO1, Lang-AO1)

Spoken Language Skills (Lang-AO8, Lang-AO9)Students are given a range of quotations from throughout Act Two and must use these to predict what will occur, thus deploying critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning. Students then perform the first scene of the second Act, focusing on how conflict is appearing between the characters and how this conflict is linked to their perspectives. The use of drama boosts their spoken language skills, whilst the reading focus boosts their comprehension and critical reading 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 differences in perspective amongst the characters are starting to appear? 
  • How can different perspectives become a source of conflict?
  • Students will identify the conflicting perspectives that are starting to emerge in the play, thinking about their origins and causes.
  • Students will work in groups to act out a scene from the play.

This lesson is designed to fit into one 50-min class period and includes:

  • 5 activities
  • 3 teaching strategies
  • 1 PowerPoint
  • 1 handout
  • 1 extension activity

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

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

A Tea Party is an activity that introduces students to key plot points and themes that they are going to encounter as a means of building schema and encouraging them to engage with the text in an interactive manner. This lesson’s Tea Party involves students circulating around the room and sharing quotations from Act Two with the other students they encounter. Students then discuss the quotations, thinking about how they might connect to each other and to what they have read thus far. Students can also try and predict what they think will happen in the second Act of the play. You will need to prepare in advance for this activity by cutting up the phrases on the Act Two Tea Party Quotations handout or selecting your own phrases to give to students for this activity. There are fifteen phrases on the handout, so depending on your class size, some students may have the same one.

Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Use these slides to help students reflect on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and consider how conflict can arise from such differences.

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

 

  • Explain to students that before they make predictions and start reading Act Two, they will reflect on the idea of perception. Have a few volunteers define perception (without using the word ‘perceive’). 
  • Then ask them to respond to the following questions in their journal:
    • Have you ever noticed a difference between how you view something and how someone else does? What was it? What do you think prompted these differences? 
    • Why do you think people view the world in different ways?
    • What can be the positive and negative consequences of these different perceptions? 
  • Facilitate a short class discussion based on the journal questions.
  • Explain to the students that they will be participating in an activity called a Tea Party. They will each be given a quotation from the play and will circulate around the room, having discussions with students they encounter about their quotations. You might play music from the early 1900s while students are circulating and pause the music to indicate that students need to pair up. 
  • Give each student one quotation from the Act Two Tea Party Quotations handout.
  • Ask students to read the quotation on their strip of paper and imagine what the phrase might refer to and what it might suggest about what happens in the second Act of the play.
  • Ask students to circulate and share what is on their strip of paper with another student. Give students one minute on a timer to have a short discussion about what is on their card, who may have said it, how it might connect to Act Two of the play, and what their predictions are for the second Act.
  • Next, ask students to swap strips with their partner and to move on and have another one-minute chat with another student about their new quotations.
  • Repeat this process two or three times, having students swap strips with their partner at the end of each round so they are not talking about the same quotation every round, and to encourage active listening when they are learning about their partner’s quotations.
  • When students return to their seats, ask them to write three predictions about what will happen in Act Two. 
  • If there is time, give some students the opportunity to share their ideas with the rest of the class, perhaps using a strategy like wraparound.
  • Before reading the next section of the play, consider starting with a range of warm-up drama activities. 
  • Explain to students that they will be acting out a section of the play in groups. If possible, it is worth moving the tables out of the way so students have space to act out the scene.
  • Divide students into groups of five and ask them to read the section from the start of Act Two (p. 27) to Mrs Birling: ‘Over-excited. And she refuses to go’ (mid p. 33). They will read the roles of Inspector, Sheila, Gerald, Mrs Birling, and Mr Birling. Encourage students not to skip over the stage directions and to incorporate Priestley’s instructions for how characters deliver their lines into their readings. You could also have a student read aloud the stage directions.
  • After the groups have read, ask them to review pages 27–33 and to annotate or mark using sticky notes places in the play where the characters view the world in different ways. 
  • Then, ask the groups to discuss the following questions: 
    • What differences in perspective are starting to appear between the characters? 
    • How are these differences in perspective a source of conflict?
  • Come back together as a class, and ask some of the groups to share their annotations and key ideas from their discussions about the differences in perspective that they noticed. 
  • Facilitate a class discussion on the following questions: 
    • What differences in perspective are starting to appear between the characters? How are they a source of conflict? 
    • What factors may be prompting these differences in perspectives? (if students need assistance here, encourage them to consider identity and power) 
  • What are the negative and the positive consequences of these differences in perspective?

Ask students to discuss the following questions in pairs using the Think, Pair, Share strategy:

  • How do you feel when you encounter someone who views the world in a different way to you? Why? 
  • What can happen if we only mix with people who view the world in the same way we do? 
  • How can we overcome the conflict that can occur because of differences in perspective?

Extension Activity 

Have students reflect further on differences in perspective and the ways in which these differences can create conflict and impact how we treat others. Start by showing students the video of Jonathan Lykes performing his poem ‘Perception’. Then ask students to complete the handout Connect, Extend, Challenge Chart and guide them through the Connect, Extend, Challenge task, comparing perspectives in An Inspector Calls and the poem.

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Materials and Downloads

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These are the handouts that students use throughout the Differing Perspectives and Conflict lesson plan.

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